The Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling: As Timeless As Infinity by Rod Serling, Tony Albarella
and Roger Anker (eds)
Gauntlet HCVR: ISBN 188736871X PubDate: 04/01/04
Review by Drew Bittner
448 pgs. List price $66
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“…there’s the signpost up ahead. Your next stop: The Twilight Zone.”
Those words open a world of possibilities. Like Pandora’s Box, you never knew what you were going to get when you saw an episode of
The Twilight Zone, that seminal anthology series of the early ‘60s. The creator of the series was also its most prolific screenwriter. Rod Serling, who doubled as host and narrator for the show, created something that has been twice replicated but never equaled.
In this volume, readers get a look at Serling’s words firsthand, sans interpretation by director, actors and costume. What emerges is the raw passion and artistry of that singular talent, driven to explore questions of humanity poised on the verge of its own Cold War destruction. We were starting to reach out from our own world, though we had troubles and miseries untold still unresolved here at home. In the midst of these unsettled, changing times, Serling asked that most dangerous question: “What if?”
What if everyone in the world was simply… gone?
What if all you wanted was not to be ugly?
What if a downtrodden boxer needed a miracle but couldn’t bring himself to believe?
Serling’s early scripts for these stories—“Where is Everybody?” “Eye of the Beholder” and “The Big, Tall Wish”—are among nine in this volume, not including an alternate version of “A Most Unusual Camera.” However, the scripts are not alone here. Albarella has included commentary from Carol Serling, Richard Matheson (one of the few surviving original TZ writers) and Rockne S. O’Bannon, creator of
Farscape and screenwriter for the show’s first resurrection in the 1980s.
Albarella also has a compilation of tributes, many of them from actors who got their start (or a graceful end to their careers) in the
Twilight Zone. Buck Houghton, series producer, recalls the ratings peril in which the show always found itself, only to be saved partly through Serling’s genius as a writer. There are also abundant photos and keepsakes, including many shots of Serling on the set and publicity stills of individual episodes. (There’s even a shot of the beautiful Donna Douglas, who later gained fame as Ellie Mae Clampett of
The Beverly Hillbillies, in “Eye of the Beholder.”)
Best of all, there’s even a prologue of sorts by Serling himself, describing the show and how he saw it.
What if the world was full of people exactly like you? (“The Mind and the Matter.”)
What if you were in battle alongside a soldier who knew when you were going to die? (“The Purple Testament.”)
What if you got into a battle of wills with your ventriloquist dummy… and only one of you was going to win? (“The Dummy.”)
Serling, an optimistic believer in the potential of mankind, didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions. His protagonists were often sadder but wiser after their experiences… much like the viewing audience, which, to this day, reveres the show as a hallmark, an early and unmatched triumph of that infant art form television. Nobody who went through the Twilight Zone came out the same—epiphany in thirty minutes, guaranteed.
This is one book that no fan of The Twilight Zone should miss. It’s just that good.