Twilight Zone: Season 5 (Blu-ray)
In 1963 a lot was happening in the world. Communism was seen as a clear and present danger to the American way of life, the Vietnam War was dividing the country along generational line and the youngest man to ever hold the post of President of the United States was assonated. All of the events trickled down into the conciseness of ten year old boys such as me but that was part of the grown up world our parents insulated us from. With all the technological changes going on and the space program making strides to bring a man to the moon many of us looked to science fiction and fantasy as a respite from bomb shelter drills. One of our favorites ended that year after a five year run on television that would greatly influence our taste In entertainment throughout the rest of our lives; "The Twilight Zone’. Sure, the last season of a TV is insignificant in the grand scheme of things but of those of us that were loyal fans we regretted its loss. It introduced us to a generation of authors that would become the foundation of our literary pretences like Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, authors we would continue to faithfully follow.
Even after we grew to pour maturity and look back ‘The Twilight Zone’ remain one of our most beloved and influential series ever. Long before we watched Captain James T. Kirk take the starship Enterprise too far off star systems we watched him trying to save a little terrestrial commercial airliner most a deadly menace. Not only did ’The Twilight Zone’ introduce us to Sci-fi and its most exceptional writers but it gave us a glimpse of a generation of actors that would come to dominate TV and films. By this fifth year of broadcasting the series was beginning to wind down; not in its quality but in the enthusiasm of the creative force behind it, Rod Serling As a creative man of amazing ingenuity 92 scripts in five years was taking its toll. Still, some of the most memorable and icon episodes were presented at this time. The ‘Original Outer Limits‘began this same season which did lessen the withdrawal symptoms of its legion of loyal fans. After experimenting with an hour long format during the previous season the executives over at CBS decided to return to the half hour presentation. This did work out for the best as ‘The Twilight Zone’ embodied the staple of science fiction literature, the short story. In many ways this is a more difficult format to master; relating an entire story, creating a consistent world, in the most efficient way possible. This season seized the resumption of the half hour time slot and went out with style and dignity.
The story that was chosen to kick off this fifth season reflected the somber mood that pervaded the nation. ‘In Praise of Pip’ written by Rod Serling and staring Jack Klugman as Max Phillips, a low level bookie. The only spark of brightness to Max’s retched existence is the pride he has in his only son, Pip, serving in Vietnam. What happens to the young man in that far off jungle echoes with Max so that when a young man gets over his head betting embezzled money Max lets him slide, something that does not bring joy to Max’s superiors. This episode didn’t overly focus on the wart but it did resonate with the pervading disposition of the nation. The next episode returns to a pure form of Sci-Fi with ‘Steel’ authored by Richard Matheson. In the future boxing has been outlawed for humans in favor of specialized, full size robots. Lee Marvin manages a broken down machine and has to pretend to be a robot to earn a desperately needed purse. This episode provided the basis for the Hugh Jackman film, ‘Real Steal’. Richard Matheson is at bat again with one of the most popular and iconic episode ever, ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’ with William Shatner playing a man barely recovered from a nervous breakdown who peers out his airplane window to see some creature tampering with the engine.
Many of the episodes presented in this season are among the most memorable. Instead of just letting the clock run out on the season it retained its commitment to excellence to the end. It also continued to keep an eclectic assortment of styles that kept this final season lively and interesting. Charles Beaumont’s script ‘Number 12 Looks Just like You, ‘made a memorable statement about the pressure in society to fit in and conform. This upheld the tradition of biting social commentary cloak in the guise of light entertainment, a theme at the very heart of Sci-Fi. This is reinforced by another episode ‘The Old Man in the Cave’ that added the growing reliance on technology as s theme. Computerization, in a pre PC context, gets a lighter treatment in the lovelorn comedy ‘From Agnes - with Love’. ‘The Brain Center at Whipple's’ takes on a growing concern of the people, being replaced by technology. The super natural is well represented in this final season with episodes like ‘Living Doll’ that pits Telly Savalas against the talking doll from hell. This featured the vocal talents of June Foray of Bullwinkle and Rocky to bear as the voice of the sinister ‘Talking Tina’.
"The Twilight Zone’ flourished in the difficult field of anthology based
television. It managed to provide the perfect blend of futuristic Sci-Fi,
heartwarming human interest e seasoned with the ideal infuse of wry, dark
comedy. There were a couple of tries to resurrect the series that archived a
modicum of success but the original remains at the apex of the genre. One thing
all fans of this series can be grateful for is the nearly unprecedented schedule
20 New Audio Commentaries