Imagine yourself as a child in a world without computers, home invasions, carbon emissions or home delivery food. A world with quality TV programs, where nudity and swearing are banned from TV shows and where people stand up for the playing of “God Save the Queen” at the beginning of each movie session at the local theatre. Imagine yourself in… The Twilight Zone.
Actually, you’re not in the Twilight Zone, you’re in Australia between 1959 and 1964 when the original series of The Twilight Zone was broadcast.
(Creator of the show and scriptwriter Rod Serling thought he had come up with the term "Twilight Zone" on his own and liked the sound of it, but after the show aired he found out that it is an actual term used by Air Force pilots when crossing the day / night sides above the world).
During its life, The Twilight Zone used several introductions, all spoken by Rod Serling:
Season 1 (1959-1960):
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call "The Twilight Zone".
Season 2 (1960-1961):
You're travelling through another dimension , a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Twilight Zone!
Season 3 (1961-1962):
You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination — next stop: the Twilight Zone.
Seasons 4 & 5 (1963-1964):
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... the Twilight Zone.
Quite a few people know the Twilight Zone music and the opening narrations, either because they are of my vintage and saw it on the telly back in the 60’s, or because they have seen it on cable. So many recollections, snippets of remembered episodes, quirky endings and themes of alienation, loss, loneliness, sadness and the dashing of hopes and dreams.
Submitted for your approval, a journey back in time, my list of the Top Ten Twilight Zone episodes:
12. The Hitchhiker
Her name is Nan Adams. She’s twenty-seven years old. Her occupation: buyer at a New York Department store, at present on vacation, driving cross-country to Los Angeles, California, from Manhattan . . . . Minor incident on Highway 11 in Pennsylvania, perhaps to be filed away under accidents you walk away from. But from this moment on, Nan Adams’s companion on a trip to California will be terror; her route – fear; her destination – quite unknown.
A woman on a cross country journey repeatedly sees the same ominous hitchhiker beckoning to her after a car blowout. No one else is able to see him. Ringing home, she finds that her mother has had a nervous breakdown after the death of her daughter in a car accident 6 days earlier. Devoid of emotion and now knowing the identity and purpose of the hitchhiker, she returns to her car where the hitchhiker awaits.
Nan Adams, age twenty seven. She was driving to California, to Los Angeles. She didn’t make it. There was a detour – through the Twilight Zone.
11. On Thursday We Leave for Home
This is William Benteen, who officiates on a disintegrating outpost in space. The people are a remnant society who left the Earth looking for a Millenium, a place without war, without jeopardy, without fear – and what they found was a lonely barren place whose only industry was survival. And this is what they’ve done for three decades: survive, until the memory of the Earth they came from has become an indistinct and shadowed recollection of another time and another place. One month ago a signal from Earth announced that a ship would be coming to pick them up and take them home. In just a moment we’ll hear more of that ship, more of that home, and what it takes out of mind and body to reach it. This is the Twilight Zone.
187 survivors of an original colony live on a desolate planet with two suns and neverending day. Those who remain owe their survival to the iron leadership of William Benteen, who tells them of the beauty of Earth and that a rescue ship will eventually come. They receive word that a rescue ship is in fact coming. Benteen has become accustomed to absolute control so much that he becomes irrational when he sees his control slipping, even to the extent of denouncing Earth to the survivors and seeking to make them stay on the planet. Eventually the captain of the rescue ship puts everyone to a vote and all except Benteen choose to leave. He attacks the ship and is pulled away. Declaring that he will remain, he leaves the area. As the ship readies and prepares to leave, he ignores the calls to join them and hides from the searchers. Remembering the beauty of Earth, he realises that he too wants to leave. Frantically he runs for the ship, pleading “Please . . . I want to go home” but it is too late. The ship has gone and Benteen is alone on the planet. The camera pulls back and shows him a tiny, solitary figure, alone in a desolate landscape.
William Benteen, who had prerogatives: he could lead, he could direct, dictate, judge, legislate. It became a habit, then a pattern and finally a necessity. William Benteen, once a god – now a population of one.
Summarised for your enjoyment, Numbers 12 and 11 of the Top Ten episodes, so structured because the compiler couldn't work out which two to drop out. Part Two of the post will appear next week, when you revisit. . . the Twilight Zone.