Thursday, 18 August 2011
The Twilight Zone Revisited
Over the next few weeks and months I'll be (re)visiting Rod Serling's classic series to coincide with the remastered release of all 5 seasons of The Twilight Zone on DVD half a century since the seminal show first aired. Its legacy is unmistakeable. A theme tune younger generations recognise decades after the programme ended and associate with horror, science fiction, the mysterious and unexplained. The trademark clipped delivery of Rod Serling's opening caveat at the start of every episode. And some of the most memorable moments, and (oft imitated) twists in television history.
For its time, The Twilight Zone was a groundbreaking series, critically acclaimed, and earned Serling multiple Emmys for his consistently superb writing. But it was much more than a science fiction television programme, weaving contemporary political and social issues, morality and philosophy into the fabric of many of its episodes. As a genre, science fiction is extremely fertile as a vehicle for allegory, and The Twilight Zone exploited the possiblities of the supernatural, super-scientific and hypothetical to invert the way we look at the world. After some episodes we are left even wondering whether the real world is, actually, the Twilight Zone.
The famous opening describes the Twilight Zone as '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'. It is a ground of moral grey areas, double edged situations and paradoxes which forces us to examine whether people are as moral as they believe they are. In the postwar, ideologically conformist America of the 1950s and 60s, the Twilight Zone was a bold programme which used its science fiction form to subtly challenge contemporary politics and social prejudices. It interrogated the human condition and examined its hypocrisies, ironies and superficialities, and didn't shy away from politics in its critique of the state as a vehicle for totalitarianism.
I'll be reviewing my favourite episodes as well as those held in high esteem by fans and critics, so stay tuned while I navigate you all on a trip, through the Twilight Zone ...