Twilight Zone (1985)
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Twilight Zone (1985)

There’s an old adage; "you can’t go home again". Fundamentally, the sentiment that is impossible to ever recapture the joys and excitement built in your youth. As with any sweeping generalization matter how axiomatic it may seem, are always the proverbial exception to the rule. The 50s and 60s was a golden age for science-fiction. With physicists exploring the sequence held within the atom and mankind’s first steps in our advancement to outer space, many topics that were once purely science-fiction rapidly becoming reality. Many shows on television tapped into the rich pool of talented authors in order to bring their stories into our homes. There are two from this period that stand out; ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘the Twilight Zone’. The exerted such incredible influence on an entire generation that you can readily see the result of the inspiration with the most popular filmmakers of the genre today. Both were also subject to revivals and incredibly both stood out as worthy heirs to the original series. Defining the context of this consideration is the resurrection of the ‘Twilight Zone’ which ran for three seasons beginning in 1985. Having grown up watching the original series guided by the list of groundbreaking authors that would guide my escalating my love for science-fiction much of my life. By the time the new series had come about long after my childhood infatuation with Rod Serling’s classic original. What these new episodes unfold my own apartment, next to my wife of 10 years, enjoying it on a color television. I had braced myself for disappointment because of the role except the propensity revivals such as this to crash and burn. To my delight I found myself being pulled back to the same feeling of freshness and excitement I had decades ago. When a combined set of all three seasons became available for review I jumped at the opportunity. Considering the Blu-ray release of the original series reignited the childhood memories of many like me, this was icing on the cake to have this set to help complete the experience.

A couple of years before, in 1983, a group of some of the best directors around got together to bring ‘The Twilight Zone’ to the cinema. These men admitted to their great influence the series had that only on their filmmaking style but also how it guided the development of their talent and artistry. With such a List directors as Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and John Landis the premade fan base of original fans forward to the release of this film. Unfortunately, a terrible death onset during production and lackluster reception by the critics and the box office had been. That be the seminal science-fiction/fantasy franchise has been poisoned beyond repair. Fortunately, Mr. Serling remained undaunted in his quest to bring his anthology series to a new generation of fans. The key to the success of the revival is that it’s created did not try to overly update the underlying driving force in methodology that made the original a cornerstone of popular culture. The model used so successfully was the base the series on something all fans science-fiction cut their literary teeth on; the paperback collection of short stories. This was a convenient way to be exposed to a wide variety of different writing styles and thematic conceptualizations of our past, present and future. The Twilight Zone built its reputation by utilizing stories some of the best genre authors ever in bringing their stories to life the talents of incredible directors, many of whom would go on to dominate the field. This same formula was applied to this new incarnation combining the work of classic office pioneers science-fiction/fantasy in the generation that followed them representing the future of the genre.

The premiere of the first season began with a powerhouse episode written by one of the powerhouses of the genre, Harlan Ellison, directed by Wes Craven and featuring Bruce Willis. Mr. Craven would dominate that first season directing a number of its best episodes. There is an exciting new element that was used to spark a novel shine on several episodes. An episode in the first season, ‘Gramma’ partnered partnering a pair of literary giants to co-author the script; Stephen King and Harlan Ellison. Later episodes would combine the talents of other such influential people; David Gerrold, known for his work throughout the entire Star Trek franchise with one of the most recognizable names in the field, Theodore Sturgeon. Some of these teams would wind up as having a pronounced effect on the future of this category of entertainment. The creator of the novels that serve as the basis for the phenomenon known as HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’, George R.R. Martin, was responsible for a significant number of episodes throughout the series. One occurrence with his longtime friend and one of the many Hugo Award winners represented here, Phyllis Eisenstein. She is credited with convincing Mr. Martin to include dragons in this series of novels. The third book in the franchise was dedicated to her. All the combination found authors having their work presented by directors of extraordinary merit. One of the more notable examples of this occurred in the second season with the episode, ‘The Road Less Traveled’. The teleplay by George R.R. Martin was directed by one of the indisputable Masters of Horror, Wes Craven. The incredible popularity and demand for these men now salary demands and scheduling issues would make it almost impossible to attend collaboration such as this.

One of the most frequently seen credits throughout the series belongs to a man so incredibly well known within this community that he can be identified simply by his initials; ’JMS’, J. Michael Straczynski. I cannot think of any individual as successfully prolific as this man. The sheer amount of work he is responsible for his awe-inspiring but it is not just quantity that will remain his legacy is the unrivaled quality of his oeuvre that is unparalleled. ’JMS’ has conquered every creative outlet possible for his genius; television, animation and both DC and Marvel comic books. One of his most memorable credits is as creative and show runner of the groundbreaking television series ‘Babylon 5’, thankfully the network had enough faith in his talent and was impressed by the legion of loyal followers that they allowed this series to run for a full five seasons. This committed a contiguous epic to unfold from beginning to end. Once you open up this set of disks try spending a weekend exclusively watching his episodes. It is impossible for you not to be impressed by the sheer diversity of his stories. His imagination and ingenuity helped ensure that this revival could not be considered a faint shadow of the original but stand on its own considerable merits. With such talent and ingenuity dedicated to the series it should have continued on our past three seasons. As all too often happens something of quality, imagination and brilliance was mismanaged by the studio executives. They kept tinkering with the format and the timeslot and failed to provide adequate support and publicly for the series it was considered embarrassing that the show was beaten in the ratings by sitcoms such as ‘Webster’ but in no fashion was this attributable to the creative people behind the show. It was relegated to the list of ‘Brilliant but Canceled’, executed by myopic executives who cannot see past a ledger page of numbers to the contribution the series made science-fiction, fantasy and our culture. The combined set contains all three seasons; six discs the season one, three for season two and four for the third and final season. Unlike the original series where the original 35mm film stock was well-preserved, the series was edited on video and the original masters lost. It is unlikely to ever be a high definition release of these episodes. For the most part the DVD as audio and video of acceptable standards and is certainly better than most of us watched on television.

Posted 05/25/2005

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