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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E29: The Obsolete Man

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E29: The Obsolete Man

Burgess Meredith returns for another wonderful performance in yet another Rod Serling script that drips with his ironic method of weeding out those that have a lust for power and greed and become corrupted by them, and taking care of them in his own wordsmith way.

Our protagonist Wordsworth is declared as ‘obsolete’ in the New World as he is a librarian, and the word is now what the State tells you it is. He chooses to be executed on live television, but outsmarts the Chancellor by luring him to his room prior to his execution, thus sealing his fate as well as his own.

What follows is an example of some of Serling’s best writing, excellently provoking argument and answer from within such works as the Bible in the words of Meredith’s character, who has accepted his fate, while the Chancellor desperately tries to find his way out of his predicament.

This is another example of how Serling’s writing was ahead of his time, and manages to find a way to prod at those who gain and use power for their own advantage rather than for the betterment of all. Aided by the marvellous performances of Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver, this is an excellent episode with a serious message throughout.

Rating: When ‘in the name of God’ is a bit rich coming from an unbeliever. 4.5/5
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Monday, May 23, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 28: Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 28: Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

The old closed room detective story of trying to work out who the murderer is takes on a distinctly Twilight Zone feel in this episode, where a bus load of people are stranded by snow in a diner. The problem is, the bus driver insists there was only six people on the bus, but there are seven people in the diner.

Joined by only the owner behind the counter and two state troopers, the episode revolves around the usual plotline of moving around each of the people in the room, and trying to establish who they are and what they were doing on the bus. The troopers had been investigating a possible sighting of a downed flying saucer, and it is believed that one of the people in the diner is in fact the pilot of that vehicle. While it is mildly effective at throwing the suspicion at many of the occupants, it is the strange goings on just before they all re-board the bus to continue their journey that causes the most alarm.

The conclusion and the twist at the end of the episode folds neatly into the story as told, and the fact that a detective story has been enveloped by a science fiction tale makes for a satisfactory finale.

Rating: Who will blink first? 4.5/5
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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E27: The Mind and the Matter

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E27: The Mind and the Matter

An interesting concept that unfortunately comes across as a boring episode due mainly to the fact that there isn’t much to see, and the resultant story has nowhere to go.

The fact that our protagonist Archie Beechcroft finds a way to concentrate so hard that he can make every person in the world (or at least in his world) disappear is a trifle difficult to take on board. That he then becomes bored and eventually returns the world to its normal state is even more unconvincing. That he abandons any further use of his new-found power in order to improve his lot makes the least amount of sense at all. Sure it seems to be an okay idea, but it seems that it is left with too much to do and none of it achieved.

Rating: Just get rid of the idiots then! 3/5

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E26: Shadow Play

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E26: Shadow Play

This is the kind of episode that makes you think all the way through, trying to work out exactly who is right and who is wrong and what exactly is happening. Is the protagonist right in his assumptions, or is he insane and in need of help? You can hedge you bets all the way through, but it comes across as a journey to the Twilight Zone should.

From early on you can take either side in the argument. A man is convicted to death, and yet his reactions tell of a man who doesn’t seem totally concerned with the verdict, just that he wants his own nightmare to end. His interactions with other people in this drama only serve to confuse them more, and as we progress we can see that they have reservations not only about what is going on but their own sanity as well. By the time we reach the conclusion of the episode it is easy to believe everyone is a bit mad, but surely there is little to support the claims of our convicted felon?

While the idea works well and the story is easy to watch and follow, for some reason it just doesn’t quite sit right. But then again, do these kind of stories ever feel right?

Rating: In dreams, I think of you. 3.5/5
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E25: The Silence

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E25: The Silence

Although this also ranks as an episode that doesn’t technically fit in with the whole Twilight Zone theme and integration, it is an enjoyable one despite the lack of science fiction or supernatural goings-on.

The story is a simple one, with a loud and rambunctious gentleman in a Gentleman’s Club being bet by another man within this establishment that he cannot go a whole year without talking. The wager set for this is $500,000, a great deal of money and something the younger man needs to pay off his wife’s debts, and as such he agrees, and is housed in a glass room within the Club so that all can see him and ensure he meets his end of the bargain. As the year progresses, and not a word escapes his lips, his suitor becomes nervous and looks for ways to have him stop his foolishness and take a lesser amount to end the bet, all of which is refused of course.

The end of the episode comes with a double whammy of twists, which while not technically from a shelf in the Twilight Zone, are still pleasantly memorable after the event.

Rating: If only my kids would take that bet. 4.5/5
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E24: The Rip Van Winkle Caper

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E24: The Rip Van Winkle Caper

Continuing on with the travelling through time theme that has been prevalent a lot in Series 2, this time we have four crooks who have pulled off a train heist of gold that was being shipped. However, their escape route is different from most criminals. Their scientist leader has designed four suspended animation chambers for them all to hide out in until they can be sure they won’t be caught, and that the gold will no longer be too hot to sell. And so they lay in wait, for 100 years.

On their awakening, they discover one of their number is dead from having his chamber crushed during their sleep, and another is soon killed by the greediest member. What progresses from this point is a trudge along the highway to survival, and hopefully riches. But will the two remaining members make it?

The idea is sound and workable, but by the end of the episode, and with the resulting twist, it becomes somewhat unsatisfying. For all, no doubt.

Rating: The man with the golden touch. 3/5.
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Friday, May 13, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E23: A Hundred Yards Over the Rim

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E23: A Hundred Yards Over the Rim

Another of those time-travel mythologies that come thick and fast throughout this series, but here is one with a slight twist which works in favour of the enjoyment of the episode.

I enjoy how the story starts back in 1847, with a sick child who cannot be cured, and whose father goes off in search of food and water – and finds himself in the present (1961 of course) and faced with the noise and differences you could imagine.

I really can’t say how I expected this story to pan out when I first watched it. I guess it was always about finding some sort of medicine and getting back to save his son and the others, but the information offered to him outweighed that. The couple at the rest stop inadvertently give him the location of a nearby water hole where wildlife is also sure to flock to. He also discovers a book with the name of his son in it, offering him a vision of his future as well, and more incentive to go back and help him.

The episode moves along well, certainly after our protagonist Chris Horn makes it into the future, and everything pieces together nicely without undue effect on the space-time continuum.

Rating: If only the gun hadn’t disintegrated. 4/5
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E22: Long Distance Call

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E22: Long Distance Call

Making a call from the Twilight Zone are we? Well at least making one that passes through the Zone at least. Though really, this episode is a little too morbid and a little too sketchy to be rated one of the better ones.

The idea of a toy telephone being used as a link between a boy and his recently deceased grandmother is an interesting and reasonable one. However, the idea of the grandmother using it to coax her live grandson to bump himself off so he can join her… wherever she is… is a bit much surely. And the boy going along with it? Surely not. And then we come to the end of the episode, where the boy has tried to drown himself, and the paramedics say his chances are not good. So the father suddenly jumps on the toy phone and tries to convince his dead mother to let his son live. But how is his dead mother going to do that? Surely she can’t suddenly make him live? Yeah, that bit gets me a little bit.

Rating: Just a little bit too convenient one thinks. 3/5
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Monday, May 9, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E21: The Prime Mover

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E21: The Prime Mover

You can’t help but like Buddy Ebsen in this episode of The Twilight Zone, even if the story feels a bit convenient and even a bit easy in the long run.

It’s all about another of those convenient daydreams, about what you would do if you had a special power available to you. Ace Larsen mightn’t have the power himself, but his buddy (no pun intended) Jimbo Cobb certainly does, as he discovers when he is able to move a car with his mind. Establishing that he has this telekinetic power, what would you do? Of course! You head off to Las Vegas to win big at all the gambling tables available! But what happens if the power of your friend causes him pain, and it all begins to run a bit askew?

Despite the obviousness of the tale, all of the ends get tied up at the end with the usual moral thrown in to make everyone feel happy, as well as the twist that everyone saw coming adding to the niceness about the ending.

Rating: Snake eyes. 3.5/5
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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E20: Static

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E20: Static

The notion of this episode is a good one, once again utilising those magical effects of the Zone to create a situation where a person who pines for another era can access it via a medium, which in this case takes to form of an old radio.

The protagonist of the episode doesn’t appear to be a particularly social man. He comes across gruff and disinterested, which is somewhat surprising given the way the episode progresses and it becomes obvious what he wants. To me it feels like Ed Lindsay is played a little too off hand, especially when his back story comes to full view.

The idea of the radio that is picking up transmissions from the past, and from a radio station that has closed down years before works fine in the same way that this idea is used in different ways through the entire series. What I don’t cotton onto as much is the abruptness of the ending and the conclusion of the tale. It appears to come so quick that the build-up hadn’t really gotten to that point yet, but the episode had run out of time and/or steam and it needed to be resolved. It’s interesting enough, but maybe not perfectly well finished off.

Rating: All we hear is radio ga-ga. 3.5/5
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"Scream For Me Sydney!!!"

Last night I took Josh to his first gig, to see the mighty Iron Maiden. It is impossible to describe how good they still are. Professional, energetic, ridiculously talented. There is no band to compare to their excellence. I'm glad Josh got to see them live, he hasn't stopped talking about it since. Only 8 years old, but he'll remember it forever.
I sat listening to the final song, Wasted Years, and thought about the fact that the album Somewhere In Time was released 30 years ago this year. I remember especially walking to double Games in Year 11 with my tape player, as we all sang this at the top of our lungs, our whole futures ahead of us.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that I could be sitting at an Iron Maiden concert thirty years later, singing that same song with my son. Perhaps life is almost complete after all.
\m/ \m/

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E19: Mr. Dingle, the Strong

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E19: Mr. Dingle, the Strong

Burgess Meredith played a number of roles in a number of episodes of the Twilight Zone during its run, and every one of them was just brilliant. In each he perfectly captured the essence of the character he was playing and made you believe in them.

It’s no different here as he plays the lead character of the episode Mr. Dingle, who is constantly bullied by a regular patron of the bar he frequents, and often finds himself punched out for not agreeing with his point of view. Enter an invisible two-headed alien (a normal everyday event) who is experimenting with aspects of human existence. It confers upon Dingle super strength in order to see what he will achieve with this new ability. Of course, the episode then revolves around Dingle discovering what he can now do, and he becomes somewhat of a celebrity. Once the Martian realises he is only using his ability for show, it decides to take it off him, at the exact wrong moment for his own purposes.

While the episode is more or less predictable. Burgess Meredith is just wonderful. When, having been conferred with enormous intellect by an arriving Venusian at the end of the episode, he walks away sprouting formulas for saving the world, it tops off his performance nicely.

Rating: When Mr. Dingle appears a little too close to home. 4/5
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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E18: The Odyssey of Flight 33

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Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E18: The Odyssey of Flight 33

Another of the many stories that I first read in a Twilight Zone omnibus before I ever saw the episode itself, and another that I particularly enjoy, most probably because of its use of time travel as the story device.

The idea is excellent. Firstly that there is a plane that is in trouble, or at least in a situation that the flight crew find extraordinary. They fight their way out of that, and then creep below the cloud line to begin their approach to their landing airport, and yet they have no contact with anyone. And is it any wonder, given that they eventually find that they recognise the landscape, but there are no buildings and no people. In fact, what they see is hard to comprehend, because they see dinosaurs grazing and patrolling the earth.

This is played out excellently, as the flight crew not only envisage what has happened, but then logically deduce what must be done to solve their problem, and head back up to find the jet stream they have just fought their way through. It all comes across as the legitimate way pilots must face any unusual things that must occur in their work lives – given that this scenario is way out of unusual.

The realistic way this is played out makes the episode what it is. Given that most of the episode focuses on those in the cockpit, it is their reactions and the way they play it out that makes the story work. The ending also allows you to either feel hope or doom for the passengers of Flight 33.

Rating: I’m leaving on a jet plane. 5/5
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E17: Twenty Two

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E17: Twenty Two

While the conclusion of the episode finally reveals the answer to the slow build that occurs throughout this story, and when it does come you sit there and think ‘oh right, yes, that does work well’, it just doesn’t bring any real excitement to me about the whole thing.

By this I mean that as with an episode like “The Trouble With Templeton” which has a similarly obscure theme throughout, I found that the whole story became alive with the conclusion once we knew what the whole build up was coming to. I enjoy watching it again because of it. Yet here with “Twenty Two”, I find that the conclusion, as well written and executed as it is in a similar way, doesn’t make the episode any more enjoyable to watch again. Perhaps it is the way that it is set in a hospital and deals with an anguished mind on the verge of cracking that hinders that enjoyment. I’m not sure, but while the end justifies the way the story is laid out, I am not enamoured enough to recommend watching it more than others.

Rating: Get me to the morgue on time. 3/5
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