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2017-06-05 04:11 pm

[June 5, 1962] Into the Sunset (the End of The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Lorelei Marcus

You hear that? That's the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe its also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I'd like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.



The first ones I would like to honor, of course, were the two recent five star rated episodes, Little Girl Lost and The Fugitive. Truly spectacular works that were the perfect balance of peculiar, creepy, and heartwarming. Next I would like to honor The Mirror in its complete awfulness. It was really terrible, in a "so bad it's good" kind of way. Finally, I would like to say something about Time Enough at Last and It's a Good Life, because I know people are going to be asking about them. Time Enough had an interesting setup and conflict, however I didn't like the ending at all. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for happy endings, but just having his glasses break seemed like a cheap cop-out rather than an actual twist. It's a Good Life also had an interesting setup, however from there it just went downhill for me. There wasn't really a message I got out of it other than "don't spoil your kids," which I assume was not the intended theme. At least I don't have to babysit the kid. If you'd like to see full reviews of all the episodes I just mentioned, and more, just peruse past articles of Galactic Journey with The Twilight Zone in the title.

Alright, enough talk about episodes I've already reviewed; let's talk about the last four episodes. Which just so happen to be the literal last four episodes of The Twilight Zone:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-07 03:12 pm

[May 7, 1962] Escape (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 30-33)


by Gideon Marcus

It's a scary world outside, between Berlin, Cuba, and Laos (not to mention prejudice and hunger right here at home). That's why we turn to fantasy – to distract ourselves. Of course, sometimes the stories we turn to are scarier than our real-world problems. The truly macabre, the horrifying, take some of the edge off our everyday woes.

Since its inception almost three years ago, anthology show The Twilight Zone has been a stunner. Filled with literary merit and some whiz-bang ideas, one could always count on CBS to deliver far out chills every Friday evening. This Third Season of the show hasn't been as good, overall, as the prior two seasons; its creator, Rod Serling, seems to be written out. Nevertheless, even at its worst, The Twilight Zone generally has something to recommend itself. Perhaps after this season is done, Serling will take a well-deserved rejuvenating sabbatical. But then, who will take us from our woes?




(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-04-07 09:04 pm

[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)

[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)


by Gideon Marcus

I have maligned the show that Rod built over the course of this, the third season. Serling has seemed tired, borrowing cliches from himself. Thus, I was delightedly surprised to find some of the best quality of the series appearing more than half-way through this latest stretch. Read all the way through because, in keeping with the show, there's a bit of a twist around the mid-article mark. You won't want to miss it:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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2017-03-12 02:43 pm

[March 12, 1962] Must come down... (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 21-24)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

[I'll let the Young Traveler lead this time. She's put her finger on what we enjoy and don't about The Twilight Zone]



Guess who's back with another The Twilight Zone review! Well, I personally prefer Rocky and Bullwinkle, but I'm afraid you came here for a The Twilight Zone review, so I suppose I'll have to comply. As usual, me and my father watched four episodes of Sterling's show over these past four weeks.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-02-12 08:57 am

[February 12, 1962] Out of the Wasteland (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 17-20)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

Reading a recent Radio Television Daily, I see that Rod Serling is once again up for an award. I'm not surprised. While his latest achievement, The Twilight Zone has flagged a bit in quality this season, it has still been (for the most part) worthy TV. In fact, the last four episodes do a lot toward watering the "vast wasteland" that has chagrined our new FCC Chairman of late. Check these out:

ONE MORE PALLBEARER, by Rod Serling



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-01-16 08:21 am

[January 16, 1962] Accidents (un)happen (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 13-16)


by Gideon Marcus

It is common practice in statistics to average out data over time in a rolling fashion. This gives you smoother lines, free of the jagged spikes of noisy data. For the last several months, The Twilight Zone has shown a definite tendency toward the lower end of the quality scale, at least in comparison with its brilliant earlier seasons.

But, I'm happy to report that the last month (ending January 5, anyway) showed a distinct and sustained improvement. I'll let the Young Traveler do most of the talking this time around since I find I don't have much to improve upon her insights!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-12-08 05:53 pm

[December 8, 1961] Fore! (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 9-12)


by Gideon Marcus

I feel badly, I really do. Earlier this year, I was given an award by Rod Serling's people. It's an honor I treasure tremendously. After all, Mr. Serling has given us some of the greatest television since the medium was invented.

But now the wheels are coming off The Twilight Zone, and I can't help but be candid about it. This half hour show that used to be the highlight of Fridays is now something of a chore, an event I might well skip if I hadn't committed to covering it in its entirety.



Serling himself confessed last Spring, "I've never felt quite so drained of ideas as I do at this moment. Stories used to bubble out of me so fast I couldn't set them down on paper quick enough – but in the last two years I've written forty-seven of the sixy-eight Twilight Zone scripts, and I've done thirteen of the first twenty-six for the next season. I've written so much I'm woozy. It's just more than you really should do. You can't retain quality. You start borrowing from yourself, making your own cliches. I notice that more and more."



The fact is, of this latest batch of four episodes, none of them are particularly worth watching.
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2016-11-05 06:47 pm

[Nov. 5, 1961] Settling in (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 5-8)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

The house that Rod built was showing signs of decay, but, as happened last season, The Twilight Zone has gotten a little better a few episodes in. It's not perfect, mind you, but I'm still tuning in on Friday. In fact, Serling's show, Andy Griffith, and Route 66 are my strongest bulwark against the "vast wasteland" lying behind the screen of the one-eyed monster (sadly, Route 66 wasn't on this week, more's the pity).

Anyway, submitted for your approval are the next four episodes of the Third Season (descriptions followed by commentary by the Traveler and then the Young Traveler):



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-10-15 05:49 pm

[Oct. 15, 1961] Top of the Third (The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

Two years ago, CBS aired the first episode of a new television anthology, one destined for the history books. It was called The Twilight Zone, and it featured science fiction and fantasy themed stories in a most sophisticated fashion. Twilight Zone garnered its creator, Rod Serling, a much deserved Emmy, and if Serling be remembered for nothing else, it's certain he will leave a lasting legacy.



The new season began last month, and though I had high hopes, Serling's creation is starting to feel a little tired. Word through the grapevine is he's a bit storied out, and the episodes that used to flow like water from his pen come a lot more sluggishly. That said, a half hour of Twilight Zone is still better than most hours of other television -- and two hours have already been aired this year. Let's take a look, shall we?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-02-26 12:11 pm

[February 26, 1961] A Choice to Make (The Odyssey of Flight 33)

Friday night is The Twilight Zone night. It's true that the second season has not been as consistent in terms of quality as the show's first season, but it has had enough good episodes to remain regular watching.

Normally, I wait until I have a month's worth of episodes before I summarize, but this week's episode, The Odyssey of Flight 33 impacted me such that I wanted to talk about it with my readers.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-01-09 08:27 am

[January 9, 1961] Looking up? (The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Episodes 9-12)

What goes down sometimes comes up! The sensational new sci-fi/surreal anthology, The Twilight Zone, started its sophomore season with a sharp decline in quality from its debut run of episodes. I'm happy to say that the quality of last month's batch was pretty good.



(see what aired at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-12-08 01:07 pm

[Dec. 5, 1960] Improved Batch (The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Eps: 5-8)

We are now deep into the second year of Rod Serling's horror/fantasy anthology, The Twilight Zone. I expressed my dissatisfaction with this sophomore season during my review of the first four episodes. Has the show, justly nominated for a Hugo this year, gotten any better?



(find out at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-10-25 02:47 pm

[Oct. 25, 1960] Great Expectations (the second season of The Twilight Zone

When does the New Year start?

Your first instinct might be to say "January 1, of course!" But that's simply the beginning of the calendar year. Think of all the other days that kick off the next 365-year cycle. For Jews, New Year is in September. If you run a company, your fiscal year has a good chance of not matching the calendar.

And if you're a student, a football fan...or a television viewer, you know viscerally that the New Year starts right after Labor Day.



Last TV year, writer/producer Rod Serling stunned his audiences with the exciting new anthology show The Twilight Zone. Featuring half-hour episodes with science fiction/fantasy/horror themes, it was some of the best material the small screen had to offer.

It's no surprise that Twilight Zone was renewed for 1960-61, but can the new season match the expectations set by the first?

(find out at Galactic Journey)!
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2015-07-02 07:26 pm

[July 2, 1960] Bottom of the Cup (Twilight Zone 1st Season wrap-up)


Gabrielle and Chelsea--dig that futuristic dress the latter has on!

Greetings from Westercon San Diego!

Now, with an opening like that, I expect you're expecting a convention report. Well, this is just day one of a four day extravaganza, so not quite yet. Just know that I'm having a lovely time, and I've already swept up many fellow travelers.

No, instead I want to talk about the end of an era. After a successful run of 36 episodes, The Twilight Zone has come to a finish. Well, for this season, anyway. I can't imagine that it won't be renewed in Fall 1960.

(See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-06-22 11:01 am

[June 22, 1960] Here comes Summer! (Twilight Zone wrap-up)



Summer is here, and that means the television season is wrapping up, freeing time for a slew of blockbusters. But the small screen hasn't quite finished with all it has to show us--between Maverick, Bonanza, and The Twilight Zone, there's still plenty to enjoy. I must confess a guilty affection for What's My Line, too. I like to close my eyes when they display the guests' professions so I can play along with the contestants in guessing.

Twilight Zone, in particular, continues to impress. The latest three episodes (there was another gap in the schedule for some reason) are all interesting, and they break from the early season mold of featuring a fellow descending into madness and screaming through the second act.

In fact, it's rather hard to pick a favorite from this bunch. Perhaps you can help:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-05-18 08:50 am

[May 18, 1960] Good and bad news (Twilight Zone and the Summit)



What makes quality television? No, that's not an oxymoron, despite what anyone might tell you. Sure, there are plenty of vapid game shows, variety shows, soap operas, situation comedies. The techniques and technology are primitive--sometimes, it feels as if I'm watching a local junior high troupe in their multi-purpose room.

But there are those occasional gems that stand out, the shows that bridge the gap between the small and large screens. They feature top notch storytelling, acting, cinematography, and scoring.

I'm talking, of course, about I Love Lucy.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey)!
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2015-04-11 11:33 am

[April 11, 1960] A Steady Flame (Twilight Zone wrap-up)

Some shows start with a bang and quickly lose their spark; some are a slow burn, taking a while to find their stride; The Twilight Zone has remained a class act from the beginning.

As of Friday, April 8, 1960, there have been 27 episodes. They have ranged in quality from fair to outstanding, and the current crop of four (I like to review them in monthly batches) comprises superior installments.

I think the success of the show can be attributed in large part to the high bar that creator and writer, Rod Serling, has set for its production. This is a person who clearly knows his craft and seeks out like talents (Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, etc.) to draft screenplays. Much of the credit must be doled out to the directors, cinematographers, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, to say nothing of the frequently excellent acting talent that CBS has managed to contract.

So much for the general praise. On to the reviews!



Long Live Walter Jameson sets the standard for this batch. The eponymous Professor Jameson is a brilliant history teacher with a knack for vivid anecdotes. It's almost as if Jameson has lived through each of the periods and settings he describes, which is, of course, the case.

This is a thoughtful, fascinating piece that describes the blessing and curse that is immortality. It's hardly the first, of course. The one I remember most vividly is The Gnarly Man, by L. Sprague de Camp, but it is always a worthy topic. In a piece I wrote many years ago, I once put these words into the mouth of a 5000 year old man:

"Imagine being in library with every book you ever want to read, and all the time in the world in which to do so. And you read them... and you still have all the time in the world."



The following week, People Are Alike All Over. Two astronauts, a rock-chinned type and a frightened intellectual, go to Mars where they find a remarkably human populace. But why does the fine house crafted for the scientist (the hero-type having died soon after landing) have no windows or doors?

I'll spoil it for you. Roddy McDowell (the panicky scientist's actor) has been turned into a zoo specimen, relegated to live out the rest of his life as an exhibit in his "native habitat." I get the message, but I still think it was a weak story idea.



Execution is another time travel fish-out-of-water story, but unlike The Last Flight, the voyager is a thoroughly unlikable chap. Snatched from the hangman's noose in 1880, the murderous viewpoint character finds himself in 1960, the guest of a dapper chronologist (is that what you call a time travel expert?) The criminal remains true to type, killing and looting, being driven close to madness by the ever-present 20th century cacophony. The ending comes as a surprise, for the most part.

An interesting point—time travelers often are inordinately worried about changing the past, but no one gives a thought to changing the future. After all, the present is really just someone else's past, and any gross modification of the present (say, sending one of its inhabitants permanently into the past) must to a resident of the future, make a severe alteration to the timeline. Food for thought.



Finally, we have The Big Tall Wish, the first episode to date that features a black protagonist (and several black supporting actors). An over-the-hill boxer tries to win a come-back fight with the help of the wishes of a little boy.

The episode doesn't feature the madness or the weirdness of its predecessors. Rather, it is a slow, wordy piece. My daughter particularly enjoyed the heart-warming relationship between the boxer and his child friend. That said, the twist (there's always a twist on this show) is very effective, and we are left with this conundrum: is a fight won with magic preferable to one honestly lost?

That's the wrap-up for this month. I'll be back in two days with this month's F&SF!

---










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2015-03-16 06:02 pm

[March 16, 1960] Four More! (Twilight Zone Wrap-up)

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.

It's a stirring intro, no doubt, and it never fails to put me in the mood for a half-hour of suspense and surreality. Since its debut in October of last year, The Twilight Zone has consistently delivered a superior television experience (though even this fine show occasionally misfires: if I have any complaint, it is how frequently the protagonist degenerates into screaming madness about 15 minutes in.)

Continuing my tradition of recapitulating episodes in batches of four, here are episodes 20 through 24:

By far the weakest of the bunch, at least to me, is the first: Elegy. A three man crew of a deep space mission crash land on an "asteroid" (you've got to love those entirely Earth-like asteroids on this show.) They appear to have traveled back in time some two centuries to mid-20th Century America—except that all of the inhabitants of the area seem to be frozen in time. Rather than coming to the logical conclusion that the place is an exhibit in a museum, they instead become increasingly hysterical and spend much wasted time trying to get the dummies to respond to shouts. It turns out that the asteroid is actually a cemetery with myriad themed plots for the wealthy deceased. In the end, the crew are duped by the cemetery's caretaker into becoming permanent residents. It's all rather silly.



Mirror Image, in which a sensible young woman discovers that there is another her attempting to take over her life, is better. For one thing, it is one of the few episodes starring a woman. For another, rather than going insane, she quite reasonably comes to the right conclusion as to what's happening. Also, the obligatory helpful young man is far less creepy than the one we saw in The Hitchhiker. The only flaw comes in the second act, when our heroine spends several minutes retelling the events that the audience has just seen happen to her: Twilight Zone often suffers from passing in the second act. Disregarding that, it's an interesting premise, and the best stories are the ones that keep you pondering after they have finished.



There was a lot of buzz around the water cooler regarding the third episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. After a strange meteor causes a local power outage, the inhabitants of a suburban neighborhood quickly become suspicious of each other and soon degenerate into violent anarchy. It's a pretty clear metaphor for The Red Scare. I'd dismiss it as hackneyed, but McCarthyism is too recent a memory. Mistrust is a cheap commodity, easily traded.



That brings us to last week's episode, A World of Difference, which I quite liked. A corporate businessman sits down to make a call to his wife. When the phone doesn't work, he hears a director call, "Cut!" and discovers that he's really on a soundstage, and everyone believes him to be an actor. He is then confronted by an angry ex-wife and a much put-upon agent, who corroborate his new identity. There is a fine ending that leaves one questioning which is the true reality? And in the end, what does reality even mean?



Coming up next, the April 1960 Astounding!

---

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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2015-02-16 05:12 pm

[Feb. 16, 1960] 1 in 4 (February Twilight Zone round-up)

Unless you're watching the rather dull Men Into Space, the putatively "realistic" tales of astronaut Colonel MacCauley and his lunar mission crew, there isn't a lot of science fiction or fantasy on television. Thank goodness we have Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone to tune into every Friday night. This is a mature show for adults, and while the scripts have not been as cutting edge conceptually as the stories you can read in the digests, they evince a sophistication you won't find much of...well, anywhere, on television.

It has been a month since the last Twilight Zone round-up, so here's a summary of the last four episodes so you're ready come rerun time:

I'd had high hopes for The Hitch-Hiker after seeing its star, Inger Stevens in The World, The Flesh, and the Devil. Ms. Stevens drives cross-country with a spectral hitcher constantly on her tail. The story is let down by a couple of points. The story is largely told in narration—Ms. Stevens mostly tells rather than shows her plight. This strikes me as lazy storytelling. I also find the section where she picks up a sailor to keep her company (and maintain her sanity) particulary off-putting; the fellow who accompanies her is far creepier than any shabby hitching bum. I can't figure out if this was intentional or not. I suspect not.



The Fever is more of a public service warning against the dangers of gambling in which a normally sober husband is seduced by a demonic slot machine who calls the man's name with an eerie tinkling, silver dollar-laden voice. It is highly overwrought, and the ending is ridiculous. Moreover, one can't help feeling glad that the domineering wretch gets his comeuppance; he really is inexcusably rude to his wife, and his initial sanctimony, rather than pointing up the tragedy, is just annoying.



That puts us at two for two episodes involving someone going raving mad by the second act!

But then you get The Last Flight, which makes up for a lot of prior sins. Yet another Richard Matheson teleplay (and far better than Third from the Sun), it's the story of a Royal Air Corps aviator who takes off from a French airfield in 1917 and lands at a French airfield in 1959. There is some delightful paradox looping and a very pretty Nieuport plane, and it's all a lot of fun. My daughter, who is just old enough to appreciate such things, noted that the pilot's British accent was "so cute!"



Finally, we have The Purple Testament, another war-themed episode, involving a young Lieutenant in the Pacific Theater who can see death in his soldiers' faces several hours before their last breaths. Unremarkable, unambitious, at every turn predictable.



The show started so promisingly that it's frustrating when one gets several mediocre turns in a batch. Still, even the worst episodes generally have something to recommend them, there's no slighting the production values, and the stand-outs keep my daughter and I watching every Friday night.

As you all know, my editor loves to publish reader commentary in this column, so please feel free to tell me your thoughts on this show. Do you agree with my rather curmudgeonly appraisals? Do you wish to set me straight? Sharpen those quills!

---

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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2015-01-12 05:35 pm

[Jan. 12, 1960] Twilight of the 60's (Twilight Zone monthly wrap-up

I was asked by a dear reader if I had stopped watching The Twilight Zone on Fridays, it having been a month since I last discussed that delightful science fiction/fantasy/horror anthology. Well, fear not. I just like to let four episodes get into the queue before describing them.

In fact, if anything the show has only gotten better. It helps that creator Rod Serling has been joined by a myriad of other established writers, which broadens the themes and tones we get to see.

Four weeks ago, Episode 12, What You Need debuted. A kindly old sidewalk peddler seems to know exactly what items a given person can use at any given moment to achieve success. At first, one expects the episode to have a cynical sting in it—perhaps it's a deal-with-the-Devil sort of thing. But it's not. In fact, as my daughter and I guessed early on, it turns out that the salesman has a limited sense of precognition.. and a big heart. But what happens when this fellow runs across an unscrupulous man whose heart is as dark as the peddler's is light? Has the criminal found a golden goose? Or a tiger by the tail?



It's really good stuff, though the salesman has a plot-summarizing line at the end that is wholly superfluous, I suppose to drive the point home for the slower folks at home.

The Four of Us are Dying, the following week's episode, involves a man who can change his face to match that of any person he can see, in life or photo. It just takes a little time to concentrate. He hatches a scheme to win the heart of a beautiful woman and to bilk a criminal of ill-gotten gains. But when he puts on the wrong face at the wrong time, he suffers the consequences. A solid, surreal show that is very effective despite the complete lack of special effects.



I was a little disappointed with Richard Matheson's Third from the Sun, in which two families attempt to flee impending Armageddon by departing their doomed planet in a spaceship. The kicker, obvious from the title, is that the refugees aren't going from, but rather fleeing to Earth. It suffers from overlongitis in the middle act, as earlier episodes did, and the constantly crooked camera angles look more silly than atmospheric.



Just the other day, we saw I Shot an Arrow, about the first manned spaceflight. The ship goes off course during take-off and crashes on a remarkable Earth-like "asteroid." The next twenty minutes involved the crew dealing with thirst, hopelessness, and most significantly, a selfish crewmember gone mad and murderous with the desire to survive. Both my daughter and I knew how it would end almost from the beginning—in fact, the expedition had crashed on Earth, and the actions of the crazy crewman were wholly unecessary.

I suspected the ending since the "asteroid" had an terrestrial atmosphere, was the same distance from the Sun, and all the other incidentals (including gravity and geology) were identical. Of course, this sticks in the craw a couple of ways. On the one hand, to buy that the crew had landed on an "asteroid," you have to believe that the writer has no idea what the surface of an asteroid would really be like. After all, asteroids have so little mass, relative to a planet, that they have no atmosphere and virtually no gravitational pull. Moreover, no asteroid routinely comes very close to the Moon.



On the other hand, since it was so manifestly obvious to the audience that the crew had actually crashed on Earth, one has to wonder how the crew was so thick-headed as to miss the fact.

My daughter noted that space stories have been a common topic on this show, which makes sense given the current mania for the Space Race. I just wish The Twilight Zone had the budget to really pull off stories set off-planet. I feel the show is more successful when it sticks to intimate, moody, Earth-bound stories.

P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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