The Twilight Zone Hall of Fame

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Season 1 Episode 2: Wordplay/Dreams For Sale/Chameleon

(SPOILER WARNING)

Wordplay:

This was a solid episode. What it lacks in the way of a big reveal it more than makes up for with its themes. I've seen some people interpret the conflict in the episode as an allegory for language barriers, but while those interpretations are interesting, this episode reminded me of all the times my friends discussed topics I was ignorant of. One of my friend groups was heavily into rap and another was heavily into anime (two things I don't know a lot about). When they discussed those topics, I sometimes felt unengaged during the conversations or left out. Since Bill is stuck in a world where everyone talks the same way though, he has to adapt to those changes, especially when his son grows deathly ill. Overall, this was a fairly low-key episode and some people used to the twist endings of the original show might be disappointed with the ambiguity of this one, but I enjoyed my time with it quite a bit. It's my favorite of the three episodes.

Dreams For Sale:

This was a fairly short episode and I think some more breathing room and polish would've improved a couple aspects of it. However, I did enjoy the questions it raised on whether you can still enjoy a paradise if you know it's artificial. Given the ending, I think this episode is arguing yes, but since the woman forgot about the picnic being a simulation in the ending, this muddled that theme since her impression was that the picnic was real and that the futuristic environment was a dream. If the episode ended with her being happy to live in the picnic with the knowledge it wasn't real, this might've made for a more impactful ending. As an aside, since entering a dream supposedly erases your memory of the futuristic environment, how would she have returned to work after her remaining minutes in the dream expired? I imagine that would be pretty hard. Overall, while I enjoyed some of the themes in this episode, I didn't connect to it as much as I could've.

Chameleon:

This was initially my favorite of the three episodes, but after mulling over the themes of Wordplay, I would rank this episode in the middle. With the obvious and unnecessary stock footage of the space shuttle in the opening and the cheesy acting, you can definitely feel this episode's low budget, but fortunately, it makes up for these flaws by bringing a fair share of suspense to the table. I enjoyed how the alien kept shape shifting into different people to ask to be left out. Though this broke any ambiguity over whether the alien actually did shape shift into the scientist or if he was simply "spit back out" of whatever abducted him, I liked how this made the alien's requests ridiculous. I also found the scene where the alien shapeshifted into a bomb quite suspenseful. Finally, the ending stuck with me for quite a bit due to the parallels it established between Lockridge and the alien since both of them are driven by curiosity. Thematically speaking, this episode didn't leave as much of an impression on me as some other Twilight Zone episodes have, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.





An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

The Twilight Zone always felt like it was trying to be a darker version of Playhouse 90. This is a Oscar winning short film and having seen a bunch of shorts in my life this definitely ranks highly. A man who I guess is a southern spy is set for execution, as he's set for a hanging the rope breaks and he goes on the run from the union soldiers.

It's a simple story executed very well but it doesn't really lead for much discussion. Really the twist is pretty much the point the episode is about tone and emotion and build and then you get snapped back into reality. An enjoyable worthy pick for the hall.





Would the Real Martian please stand up

The tonal shift is one of those things that TZ does very well. This is one of those episodes that feels light almost humorous at points. A group of travelers are stuck in a remote diner and one of them might be an alien. While I had some issues with continuity, I'm not sure how the Aliens idea of earth matches with the big mistake it makes I still love this episode.

This is one of the darker episodes if you really think about, when the end comes along pretty much everyone is dead and they died in a horific fashion. This is undercut by the reveal...oh we've got two martians in the diner. The makeup is really good, I love the third arm effect it's very spooky; My only criticism is that one of the diners really hams it up...clearly as a misdirect but other than that this was a solid well made episode and a favorite of mine.





The Invaders

There's something to be said for a simple story told well. In the Invaders TZ gives us a silent episode of a little robot tormenting an old woman in a shack. It's one scene, basically a fight scene played out for 20 minutes like a wrestling match with spots set up to illicit empathy and then we get the twist.

What I like about the twist is that I don't know its enough to switch your empathy to the aliens. I mean they are only set in this shack to kill and hurt...do they really deserve to live just because of the reveal. Is a monster even really a monster just because they aren't us?

I think that TZ succeeds with makeup more than anything else, the blisters are so visceral and Moorehead is done up in a way that feels human but also somewhat age-less. This is definitely a favorite episode of mine.





The Encounter

This was the episode that killed the TZ, one that was so dark that it was pulled for decades. I love the final season of the show because they went in different directions. This was like a playhouse 90 episodes that tackles the notions of race, PTSD, and has a little supernatural element to it.

Here we have an episode that touches on micro-aggression's fifty years in the past. I love that the main guy isn't a massive racist or a terrible drunk just a slightly bad guy. It's a powerful performance to mix with George Takai's Arthur.

This is almost a twist less episode because it's more about the build and the ratching of tension. I think a lot of what happens in this episode is open to interpretation as the honesty and motivations of each character are put into question from the start.





The Encounter

This was the episode that killed the TZ, one that was so dark that it was pulled for decades. I love the final season of the show because they went in different directions. This was like a playhouse 90 episodes that tackles the notions of race, PTSD, and has a little supernatural element to it.

Here we have an episode that touches on micro-aggression's fifty years in the past. I love that the main guy isn't a massive racist or a terrible drunk just a slightly bad guy. It's a powerful performance to mix with George Takai's Arthur.

This is almost a twist less episode because it's more about the build and the ratching of tension. I think a lot of what happens in this episode is open to interpretation as the honesty and motivations of each character are put into question from the start.

I have never even heard of this episode.


I should make a point of seeing it sometime



I have never even heard of this episode.


I should make a point of seeing it sometime
Strong first half, muddled second half. It's not so much that it's dark or bleak, but rather that it contains a plot point that can be read as evoking anti-Asian bias.





A Passage for a Trumpet

Well they all can't be winners, this is one of my least favorite episodes. In a passage for a trumpet a failing drunk sells his trumpet and walks into traffic. Afterwords he experiences what death is like while being followed by a mysterious man. The big twist is the man is the angel Gabriel and if it sounds like a cheap version of It's A Wonderful Life that's what it felt like.

It's an uninspired idea executed poorly I understand if one has a Klugman fetish but for me this stunk.







A Game of Pool

Well this is likely Klugman's best episode it tells the story of a pool shark who is living in the shadow of a more famous death pool shark (Jonathan Winters). Visually it's one of those episodes that's nothing special...likely it's biggest detractor although we get one good final set piece it's still a dull looking episode. What makes it not terrible is the writers clearly had something to say and they executed what they wanted to say well.


Much like The Encounter this is a tension boiling story that's building to a climax...unlike the Encounter it's fairly well telegraphed and somewhat of a becareful what you wish for. The standout performance isn't Klugman but Winters who plays Fat's very well and gets to the root of the character and plot.





The After Hours

A woman in a department store becomes trapped in a nightmare. This is one of those episodes where production values go a long way. Anne Francis was a fading a star who was slumming in TV for this episode but she still nailed it. It's crazy to see how well aged herself for this role compared to her more famous and childlike one in Forbidden Planet. She's great in this and as a female lead she stands out from other performances from this era.

They do a good job confusing your sensibilities between the characters which is a strong point. They don't go over the top with the mannequins and treat the humans similarly it's a balance and a good one. The big payoff doesn't nescesary work as creepy as it should but it was still pretty good.



11 Foreign Language movies to go
There are SPOILERS within...

Season 3 - Episode 10 : The Midnight Sun - This Christmas, where I am, the temperature rose to 109F - Boxing day was 108, the day after 113 and the day after that 107. (From around 42 to 45 degrees C) - I know how the people in The Midnight Sun feel. In this episode we have Lois Nettleton as Norma, a painter living in an apartment where the temperature keeps rising - it's rising all over the world because the Earth is being silly and not sticking to it's proper orbit. She's painting the painfully glowing sun, much larger in the sky than it should be. Norma has a neighbour - well, she used to have more, they they're packing up and probably heading to the North Pole. Her neighbour, Mrs. Bronson (Betty Garde) is one of those ditzy characters that does silly things, like unlock the door just moments after an intruder tries to break in - allowing said intruder to just walk in and steal precious water. Thankfully this isn't The Hills Have Eyes, so instead of something more ghastly, he kind of apologetically leaves. It's the kind of doomsday episode where we hear reporters on the radio broadcasting about the end of the world and how everyone is going to just sizzle up. It would be unpleasant. Thankfully though, it was all a dream! The reality? It's in all actuality getting colder and colder instead of hotter - so when Norma remarks "Isn't it wonderful to have darkness? The coolness?" there's a bitter irony to her words. "Yes dear. It's wonderful," Mrs. Bronson says, with a look on her face like she's just bitten into a 6 month old musty mouldy sandwich.


End of the world episodes always make me feel uncomfortable, my imagination putting myself in place of the characters. What would I do? Suicide? Attempt to flee? What would it be like, dying of extreme heat like that? Would dying of cold be any worse or better? Like in The Invaders, the real crux of this episode comes in it's main body instead of the twist - which really felt like they were just grabbing at something 'twisty' to end the episode with ("Hey. How about she wakes up and it's really getting colder?") I appreciate the performance from Lois Nettleton and rate this as an 'okay', 'good' or 'middle of the road' episode.

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A Passage for a Trumpet

Well they all can't be winners, this is one of my least favorite episodes. In a passage for a trumpet a failing drunk sells his trumpet and walks into traffic. Afterwords he experiences what death is like while being followed by a mysterious man. The big twist is the man is the angel Gabriel and if it sounds like a cheap version of It's A Wonderful Life that's what it felt like.

It's an uninspired idea executed poorly I understand if one has a Klugman fetish but for me this stunk.

I watched this episode twice, and I thought it was much better the second time. Once you know the twist, there are a bunch of clues that you realized you missed the first time. Some of them seemed so obvious that I couldn't believe that I missed them.

You might want to give this episode a second chance, and try to watch it as its own story, not as a version of It's A Wonderful Life.
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