“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”
The fifth and final season of this iconic series gave us 36 episodes spread across five discs. The first disc is the best. With most television series, the final season is the weakest season. The Twilight Zone is no exception. While not a normal series with weekly characters involved in a continuing story arc, the quality dropped.
This season had far more painful to watch episodes. Not that the other four seasons didn’t have their share. This season lacked the presence of “the average episode.” An episode that was easy to watch with a nice story. Not great or classic, but not a chore to finish. Season five was all or nothing, with nothing being more prevalent in the latter half of the season.
The good episodes were great. I think the quality of the top rated episodes and their stories can compete alongside the best from any of the previous seasons. It surprised me in the number of episodes I gave a top ranking, nine. That left one spot open in the “Best of” list and four episodes to fill it. That makes 13 out of a possible 36 episodes. I’m not sure the percentage compared to the other seasons, but this seems a low number of episodes to compete. I haven’t done the math, or compared the numbers, that will have to wait for the complete series recap.
In the later half of the season, there are a few things to note. The first is the lack of episodes from mainstay contributing writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. Rod Serling’s stories are become much more hit and miss, with the misses becoming more frequent. As Serling himself said, “I was writing so much, I felt I had begun to lose my perspective on what was good and what was bad.” There are still a few gems from Serling, but the strain of writing 92 episodes over five years caught up with him. I wouldn’t call the efforts uninspired, but due to the mental strain and overworked state the final outcome was not of the quality they once were. Earl Hamner, Jr. makes more contributions this season. However, with an exception or two, his stories feel forced and written to fit the series. Hamner, Jr. is the creator of The Waltons, and seems out of his natural element in The Twilight Zone.
More problems adding to the decline in quality had to do with producers. Bert Granet produced 13 episodes before leaving the series. His replacement, William Froug, made the decision not to produce several scripts Granet purchased for the series. Among these was Richard Matheson’s “The Doll,” nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award in 1986 when Amazing Stories finally produced it. The episode “Ninety Years Without Slumbering,” and originally called Tick of Time written by George Clayton Johnson. Froug hired another writer to rewrite the entire script, with Johnson credited under a pseudonym. It was Johnson’s final voyage into The Twilight Zone.
In January 1964 CBS announced the official series cancellation. Serling said in a Daily Variety interview he “canceled the network.” ABC had interest in the series, but wanted to rename it Witches, Warlocks, and Werewolves. Serling declined as he disagreed with the new direction and didn’t want to stick to a specific genre. He sold CBS his 40% share of the series and left the show. He walked away from all subject matter related to The Twilight Zone until 1969’s Night Gallery.
As always, I’d love to get feedback. Do you agree with my “Best of” list? What episode was your favorite? Which episodes would you recommend to someone?
#121 – In Praise of Pip Written by Rod Serling 3/5
#122 – Steel Written by Richard Matheson 4/5
#123 – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet Written by Richard Matheson 5/5
#124 – A Kind of Stopwatch Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Michael D. Rosenthal 4/5
#125 – The Last Night of a Jockey Written by Rod Serling 1/5
#126 – Living Doll Written by Charles Beaumont 2/5
#127 – The Old Man in the Cave Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a short story “The Old Man” by Henry Slesar 5/5
#128 – Uncle Simon Written by Rod Serling 3/5
#129 – Probe 7, Over and Out Written by Rod Serling 4/5
#130 – The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms Written by Rod Serling 2/5
#131 – A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a story by Lou Holtz 1/5
#132 – Ninety Years without Slumbering Teleplay by Richard De Roy. Story by Johnson Smith. 2/5
#133 – Ring-a-Ding Girl Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. 0.5/5
#134 – You Drive Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. 0.5/5
#135 – The Long Morrow Written by Rod Serling 0.5/5
#136 – The Self Improvement of Salvadore Ross Teleplay by Jerry McNeely, based on a sort story by Henry Slesar 5/5
#137 – Number 12 Looks Just Like You Written by Charles Beaumont & John Tomerlin 5/5
#138 – Black Leather Jackets Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. 0.5/5
#139 – Night Call Written by Richard Matheson 1/5
#140 – From Agnes – with Love Written by Bernard C. Schoenfeld 0.5/5
#141 – Spur of the Moment Written by Richard Matheson 3/5
#142 – An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge From a story by Ambrose Bierce 3/5
#143 – Queen of the Nile Written by Charle Beaumont 5/5
#144 – What’s in the Box Written by Martin M. Goldsmith 3/5
#145 – The Masks Written by Rod Serling 5/5
#146 – I Am the Night – Color Me Black Written by Rod Serling 5/5
#147 – Sounds and Silences Written by Rod Serling 2/5
#148 – Caesar and Me Written by Adele T. Strassfield 2/5
#149 – The Jeopardy Room Written by Rod Serling 5/5
#150 – Stopover in a Quiet Town Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. 5/5
#151 – The Encounter Written by Martin M. Goldsmith 1/5
#152 – Mr. Garrity and the Graves Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a story by Mike Korologos 5/5
#153 – The Brain Center at Whipple’s Written by Rod Serling 2/5
#154 – Come Wander with Me Written by Anthony Wilson 4/5
#155 – The Fear Written by Rod Serling 0.5/5
#156 – The Bewitchin’ Pool Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. 0.5/5
The Best Episodes of Season 5
10. Come Wander with Me
9. Stopover in a Quiet Town
8. Queen of the Nile
7. The Self Improvement of Salvadore Ross
6. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
5. The Old Man in the Cave
4. Mr. Garrity and the Graves
3. The Jeopardy Room
2. Number 12 Looks Just Like You
1. The Masks
Copyright © Drew Martin 2016