Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

First issue, April, 1981. Image copyright TZ Publications
                Though Rod Serling sold syndication rights for The Twilight Zone to CBS for a lump sum at the end of the show's original run, the Serling estate retained marketing and merchandising rights to the show's namesake. In the early 1980s, Carol Serling was approached with an offer to begin a magazine bearing the name of her late husband's most famous creation. At the editorial helm would be T.E.D. Klein, a noted authority on science fiction and horror as well as a strong up-and-coming fiction writer. Impressed by Klein's vision for the publication, Carol Serling agreed to allow The Twilight Zone to appear on the magazine's cover with the stipulation that her husband's name precede the title. Thus, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was created.
             Backed financially by Montcalm Publishing and retaining copyright under the banner TZ Publications, the first issue arrived mid-spring, cover dated April, 1981. The magazine lasted another eight years, spawned a digest-sized sister publication (Night Cry), went through multiple schedule changes and three additional editors, and finally closed out with the June 1989 issue. In the years between, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine set the standard for genre magazine publishing and offered the most dependable market for established and aspiring writers of horror and dark fantasy fiction, publishing new work by the giants of the genre as well as work by up-and-coming writers, many of whom would go on to highly successful careers. The magazine also published classics of the genre by writers having since fallen into obscurity, and featured editorials on virtually every subject and within every medium encompassed in the classic and contemporary fields of science fiction and fantasy.
                Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine published virtually every important speculative fiction writer of its era. Some of the writers to see their fiction published between the pages of the magazine include: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, Spider Robinson, Robert Sheckley, Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, Fritz Leiber, Steve Rasnic Tem, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Joe Haldeman, Tanith Lee, George R.R. Martin, David J. Schow, Dean Koontz, and Lisa Tuttle. The magazine also published several treatments and short stories written by Rod Serling, as well as the work of past masters such as M.R. James, J. Sheridan LeFanu, and William Hope Hodgson.
                The editorial work for the magazine was superb. Contributions included essays on literary history by Mike Ashley, op-ed essays and artwork by Gahan Wilson, film reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, book reviews by Robert Silverberg, interviews conducted by Stanley Wiater, and anthology television episode guides written by Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone), David J. Schow (The Outer Limits), and J. Michael Straczynski (Rod Serling's Night Gallery). The success of the magazine in its early years was a strong factor when CBS decided to revive the show in 1985. The magazine offered the perfect platform for promoting the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone. Each issue also typically featured one or more interviews with leading writers and filmmakers that included: Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, John Saul, Oliver Stone, Dean Koontz, and Harlan Ellison.

June, 1982 issue, containing Matheson's "The Doll." Copyright TZ Publications
Perhaps the most significant contribution to the magazine was the lost or forgotten ephemora from the original series of The Twilight Zone.  Each issue printed a complete teleplay for an episode of the original series, the first two years being devoted almost exclusively to the teleplays of Rod Serling. In later issues, the magazine would print story treatments and teleplays that were initially rejected or left unused, many by the original series's infamous final producer, William Froug, the man that rejected original teleplays from the show's most accomplished creators, including Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson. Among the most interesting items to first see print in the pages of the magazine was George Clayton Johnson's short story "Sea Change" about a sailor whose hand is cut off in an accident and from whose amputated hand grows a malevolent doppleganger intent on destroying its mirror image. Johnson originally offered the story treatment as a potential episode but the treatment was rejected on the grounds that its subject matter, especially the cutting off of the hand, was beyond the acceptable grounds for the show's subject matter. Another interesting item was Richard Matheson's original teleplay "The Doll." Initially rejected for production by William Froug, Matheson's teleplay was published in the June, 1982 issue of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine and was later dramatized on Steven Spielberg's anthology television series Amazing Stories. Actor John Lithgow won an Emmy Award for his performance in the episode.
                T.E.D. Klein relinquished editorial duties of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine with the July/August, 1985 issue, leaving to pursue a career as a full-time ficiton writer. Michael Blaine stepped in as editor, concluding his run on the magazine with the August, 1986 issue. Robin Bromley edited a single issue, October, 1986, before Tappan King assumed the editor role for the remainder of the magazine's run.

Subscription form for TZ Magazine

First issue of Night Cry. Copyright TZ Publications
          In 1984, a new digest sized magazine hit newsstands. TZ Special #1 appeared as a heading,  below that: Night Cry: 20 Tales of Heartstopping Terror from Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine. This special publication consisted of editor T.E.D. Klein's selection of the best short stories to appear in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine over the previous three years. The magazine would shorten its title to Night Cry and continue as a quarterly periodical that published new fiction from some of the most recognizable names in dark fantasy. Whereas the fiction in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine encompassed horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction, Night Cry devoted itself exclusively to horror fiction. Beginning  with the Summer, 1985 issue, Night Cry saw an additional ten issues published, concluding with the Fall, 1987 issue.  The magazine was edited by T.E.D. Klein until the Winter, 1985 issue when Alan Rodgers took over editorial duties until the magazine's end. "From the editors of Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine" appeared as a heading on every issue of Night Cry. 
Here is a quick checklist for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine and Night Cry.
Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine:
1981- April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec
1982- Jan, Feb, March, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec
1983- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec
1984- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec
1985- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec
1986- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec
1987- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec
1988- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec
1989- Feb, Apr, Jun
Night Cry:
1984- Night Cry/ Twilight Zone Special
1985- Summer, Fall, Winter
1986- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
1987- Spring, Summer, Fall
                Additional information about Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine, including full contents list for each issue and cover artist credits, can be found at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database with the following link: Internet Speculative Fiction Database
                A full cover gallery of both Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine and Night Cry can be accessed with the following link: TZ Magazine & Night Cry Cover Gallery
                For those interested in going beyond Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine and exploring what other genre periodicals have offered in the way of coverage of the original series, here is a quick rundown of those magazines worth picking up:
-Starlog, issue #15, August, 1978:
Copyright O'Quinn Studios, Inc.

copyright O'Quinn Studios, Inc.
                The first excellent coverage of the original series in a major genre periodical occurred in this issue. An 18-page special was devoted to The Twilight Zone with most of the coverage being a condensed biography of Rod Serling and the show's impact on science fiction in general. A very basic but complete episode guide to the original series was provided, the first time an episode guide for the show was to see print. The major bonus of the issue is a full-color pull out painting of Rod Serling against a celestial background with the printed transcript of the most famous opening for The Twilight Zone. Click here to buy Starlog
  -Filmfax, issue # 75-76, Oct./Jan. 2000
                Featuring evocative cover art by Harley Brown, this 40th anniversay celebration of the original series is the single best issue of a genre periodical ever devoted to The Twilight Zone. It comes highly recommended. Highlights include interviews conducted by Matthew R. Bradley with original series writers Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, and Jerry Sohl, Christopher Conlon's seminal essay "Southern California Sorcerers," which later inspired a collection of short stories, and a reprint of Charles Beaumont's essay "The Seeing I," written for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as a firsthand preview of the original series prior to the airing of the first episode.  Click here for FilmFax Magazine
-Rue Morgue Magazine, issue # 35, October, 2003
                This issue of the excellent Canadian magazine is one of the annual Halloween issues with a feature story on The Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson, the bulk of which is devoted to an examination of his contribution to the seminal science fiction anthology series. Click here for Rue Morgue Magazine
-Filmfax Plus, issue # 119, Winter, 2008
                This issue is notable for another excellent cover painting by artist Harley Brown inspired by the original series episodes "Eye of the Beholder" (a.ka. "A Private World of Darkness"), "Nick of Time," and "The Invaders." This issue also features a lengthy interview with Del Reisman, associate producer for the original series.  Click here for FilmFax Magazine

Copyright The Brooklyn Co., Inc.
-Fangoria, issue # 301, March, 2011
                With a wonderful cover painting of the Mystic Seer from the original series episode "Nick of Time," the feature story of this issue of the seminal horror entertainment magazine is devoted to stalwart Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson. Though the feature covers the entirety of Matheson's career, a great amount of the editorial is, of course, devoted to the author's work on The Twilight Zone. Click here for Fangoria
Copyright Imagine Publishing
-The Greatest Sci-Fi Films & TV of All Time, Volume One, 2011
SciFi Now Magazine and its parent company, Imagine Publishing, released this special edition one-off magazine in late 2011. Half of its contents are devoted to science fiction film and the other half to science fiction television. The first television show covered is The Twilight Zone in an eight page feature titled "The Complete Guide to The Twilight Zone." Though the feature is far from a complete guide to the show, it does offer an interesting, if basic, examination of the show. The article gives a brief history of the original series and a brief biography of its creator, Rod Serling. It goes on to provide a top-ten episode list, a list of Twilight Zone spoofs, a brief examination of the two revival series and the feature film, and concludes with a look at some of the actors and actresses that have appeared in Twilight Zone episodes and gone on from there to much more prominent careers.
Copyright Movieland Classics, LLC
-Famous Monsters of Filmland, issue # 259, Jan/Feb 2012
                Featuring an outstanding alternate cover depicting the most famous images from The Twilight Zone, this issue of the first ever magazine for monster fans is an impressive tribute to the original series. Highlights include interviews with Carol Serling, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, and Earl Hamner, Jr., an article on Charles Beaumont and his influence, an examination  of Twilight Zone: The Movie, and the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas. This issue also comes highly recommended.  Click here for Famous Monsters!
--Jordan Prejean

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Elegy"

Don Dubbins, Kevin Hagen and Kurt Mayers take their first look at Happy Glades Mortuary
"Elegy"
Season One, Episode 20
Original air date: February 19, 1960
                                                
Cast:
Jeremy Wickwire: Cecil Kellaway
Captain James Webber: Kevin Hagen
Peter Kirby: Don Dubbins
Kurt Meyers: Jeff Morrow

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (adapted from his short story).
Director: Douglas Heyes
Producer: Buck Houghton
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Music: Van Cleave

And now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on the Twilight Zone we offer you the unbelievable along with an explanation.  Three men visit a strange new world with people, cars, houses—the works.  But something is wrong on the scene. Something very abnormal amidst the normal.  You’ll see what I mean when next week we bring you ‘Elegy’ by Charles Beaumont.  It stars Cecil Kellaway.  Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s opening narration:
“The time is the day after tomorrow.  The place: a far off corner of the universe.  The cast of characters: three men lost among the stars, three men sharing the common urgency of all men lost…they’re looking for home.  And in a moment they’ll find home, not a home that is a place to be seen but a strange, unexplainable experience to be felt.”

Summary:
            Two hundred years into the future, three astronauts land on a strange asteroid because their spacecraft is out of fuel.   The atmosphere of the asteroid is identical to that of Earth.  With no alternative, the men decide to search their new home for supplies.
                They immediately notice that the asteroid seems to be inhabited.  They see buildings and power sources and all the other signs of life that would accompany any advanced civilization.  But they notice that the architecture of the buildings is strikingly similar to the buildings on Earth during the twentieth century.  For a brief moment they think that they might have slipped through some kind of time portal and arrived on Earth two hundred years in the past.  But their hypothesis is shattered when they discover that their asteroid has two suns.  They stumble upon a farm house and see a man taking a break from the day’s work.  They approach the man but find that he stares back at them catatonically, almost as if he is in some sort of trance.  They leave the man and continue to search the asteroid.  They enter a town and find, to their astonishment, more of the same.  A group of gamblers sit motionless around a poker table.  Contestants at a beauty pageant stand frozen upon the stage, staring back at a silent, lifeless audience.  The sounds of a marching band echo through the town square, yet the band stands immobilized in the lobby of the town hall, prerecorded melodies pouring out of a hidden speaker.  The three men toss forward an entire stockpile of ideas but can’t seem to conjure up a rational reason for why these people, for they all agree that these are warm blooded human beings just like themselves, are frozen in time.  Even more alarming is their realization that this strange place is now their home; they are going to have to live here.
                They walk along, looking at more of the buildings and constructing more theories, when they come to a house with an elderly, white-haired gentleman sitting on the front porch reading a newspaper in a rocking chair.  They assume of course that like everything else here, he is a sort of living statue.  To their absolute amazement they find that he can speak and move quite efficiently and he tells them that his name is Jeremy Wickwire and politely invites them inside.  There he pours them a drink and explains the mystery.  They have arrived at Happy Glades, a high end mortuary built on a drifting asteroid near the end of the twentieth century.  It’s a place where people can posthumously live out their dreams for all eternity.  Using an “Eternifying Fluid” which prevents the body from decaying, people can customize how they want to spend eternity.  The men ask Wickwire how he has survived over two hundred years and he informs them that he is not a man but a android, designed specifically to be the caretaker of Happy Glades. 
                Wickwire asks the men where they would most like to be precisely at that moment.  They all agree that they greatly desire to be on their ship headed home.  It’s at this time that they begin to feel the effects of the Eternifying Fluid that is now coursing through their veins.  They drop to the floor in agony and stare up at Wickwire in absolute horror, asking him why he would want to kill them.  He tells them that Shady Glades is a quiet place, peaceful.  A place free from war and destruction and all of the atrocities created by man out of his own ignorance, and as long as there are men there will be war.
                Cut to a scene of Jeremy Wickwire inside a spaceship.  He is busy feather-dusting and keeping things tidy.  Seated at the control boards are our three heroes, staring quietly into forever on their way home.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Kirby, Webber and Meyers, three men lost.  They shared a common wish, a simple one—they wanted to be aboard their ship, headed for home.  And fate, a laughing fate, a practical jokester with a smile that stretched across the stars, saw to it that they got their wish, with just one reservation: the wish came true, but only in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:
            “Elegy” marks the second contribution from Twilight Zone heavyweight Charles Beaumont, and it is an episode that only he could have written.  A story swimming with imagination that is constantly fluctuating between sparkling humor and anxiety-laced dread.  I’ll preface this commentary by saying that “Elegy” was, as far as I can remember, the first episode of The Twilight Zone that I ever saw.  I watched it in a high school English class under the guidance of a teacher who seemed to be utterly obsessed with popular culture and who subjected us to everything from The Twilight Zone and old Roger Corman movies to episodes of Judge Judy and Oprah.  I remember that I wrote a paper on it, the premise of which was forgotten probably as soon as I handed it in.  It must have left some sort of impression on me.  I do remember thinking that this was the most aesthetically enjoyable type of fantasy program that I had ever seen, one that managed to grab my attention immediately by placing the fantasy in a familiar situation.
Like many episodes of The Twilight Zone, the reason “Elegy” is so vivid is that it’s a reflection of reality, a slideshow of images that are at once familiar as parts of the cultural fabric of the twentieth century.  It’s genuine, shine-polished Norman Rockwell Americana at its absolute finest--marching bands, beauty pageants and all.  Only it’s horribly flawed.  It isn’t the America it appears to be.  Beaumont was a very socially aware writer that seemed to be deeply interested and concerned with the unspoken weaknesses of the world in which he lived.  He was a regular contributor of social commentary to Playboy and several other magazines and he often used his fiction as a platform for social critique.  His stories are often quite colorful in their delivery with witty dialogue and absurd characters and situations but this only cloaks an otherwise biting cynicism.  Taken at face value, “Elegy” is a cautionary tale about nuclear annihilation and the inevitable self-destruction of the human race, not dissimilar from hundreds of post- apocalyptic science fiction stories from around the same time.  But Beaumont’s cynicism stings more personally than this.  There is an underlying current of unbridled satire in this story, and apparently its target is our own narcissism.  I think Beaumont is attempting to show us how we view ourselves and how we want others to view us as well.  The entire premise of this episode, the idea that people would build a sprawling customized cemetery on a drifting asteroid in the middle of outer space, is absurd, as one of the astronauts quickly points out.  But the absurdity exists for a reason. Beaumont’s trying to draw the viewer’s attention to the fact that most people value their own self-image enough that even after they die they want to be put on display for others to see, like a piece of art in a museum.
            One thing I find that I enjoy about this episode is Jeremy Wickwire, played by the great Cecil Kellaway.  I think it was a smart choice for Beaumont to leave Wickwire as a very ambiguous sort of character.  He is shrouded in mystery for the entire episode.  Even by the end of it we are still not sure who he is exactly or what purpose he serves at this strange place, or if this is in fact an actual mortuary.  The audience witnesses Wickwire explaining to the three befuddled astronauts that he’s an android serving as a caretaker in this bizarre, wax museum of a mortuary.  But this is Wickwire’s explanation, not Beaumont’s.  And the audience is unable to depend on Wickwire’s explanation because he proves himself to be an unreliable character when he invites these three astronauts into his home, assuring them that everything is alright and that they have no cause to worry, and then proceeds to murder them without provocation, his tone abruptly changing from whimsical, elderly gentleman to someone else entirely, someone much more mysterious.  And in the final scene he is back to his normal, smiling, genteel self, going on about his business in an increasingly unsettling manner.  So the audience is mostly left to form their own opinion about Jeremy Wickwire.  He could be a refined, morally conscious, two hundred year-old android faithfully trying to protect this very sacred place or he could be an utterly insane kind of unregulated taxidermist, running wild through his own personal museum of collectable human beings. 
Unlike Richard Matheson, whose adapted Twilight Zone scripts usually stuck very closely to his original short stories, Beaumont often took many liberties with his own source material.  It’s curious that Beaumont would choose “Elegy” as his second script for the series.   It had not appeared in any of his three original short story collections and for the most part hasn’t had an extensive publishing history.  It was originally published in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination but according to William F. Nolan in his anthology A Sea of Space it was written several years earlier under the guidance and influence of Beaumont’s literary mentor, Ray Bradbury.  The original story, while still quite enjoyable, is really more of a sketch than a fully imagined story and is probably not more than about a thousand words long.  In the original story there is an entire crew of Astronauts instead of just three, and the tableaux they witness seem grimmer and more unsettling than the ones that end up on screen.  For instance, one of the men walks into a butcher shop but it’s pitch dark inside and he has to feel his way around the store, eventually running into cuts of raw meat, mistaking it for human flesh.  Another walks into an operating room in which a woman lies naked on a table with motionless doctors and nurses stationed all around her holding scalpels and needles and saws in their hands.  These scenes were no doubt changed because the producers felt they were too suggestively morbid for primetime television.  In Beaumont’s original script there was a scene where one of the astronauts wandered by a tableau of a race track, probably inspired by Beaumont’s interest in auto racing.  But, as Marc Scott Zicree points out in The Twilight Zone Companion, director Douglas Heyes wanted to scrap this scene because he knew that the cars would not appear to be frozen in motion, they would simply look like parked cars.  Beaumont was reportedly irritated at this suggestion and reluctantly wrote the beauty pageant scene in its place.
It’s in the direction of this episode that it tends to fall short, not vastly so, but to a noticeable degree.  The biggest problem was the fact that real actors were hired to portray the human statues in the mortuary.  To shoot the tableau scenes Heyes knew that he would have to keep the camera moving at all times so that the viewer would not be able to see the actors moving.  For the most part this is done successfully, but there are several scenes where the actors movements are quite noticeable (check out the scene where the couple is slow dancing to a violin quartet, both of them holding glasses of champagne; the actors are quite still but the champagne is clearly not.  There is also the lengthy scene in the crowded town hall where several of the actors can be seen blinking profusely).  Again, this isn’t a major blunder and only works against the episode conceptually.  Over time I have found that these nuances are part of the episode’s charm as they give the impression that Happy Glades is all a fa├žade, which makes it even more frightening, the same way that no attempt was made to mask the fact that these men are clearly not in any kind of town at all but on a Hollywood backlot.  Everything in this place seems quite obviously phony.  There is also another interesting shot where two of the men are seen standing on a bridge. It's quite obvious to the viewer that this is not a filmed shot but a still photograph and was probably a technical oversight never intended to make the final cut. 
                Though it has its shortcomings and may not be an episode which will suit everyone’s tastes, “Elegy” is a highly atmospheric episode with its own kind of charm and is one of my personal favorites from the first season.

Grade: B

Notes:
February, 1953 issue of Imagination
--“Elegy" was originally published in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination.  It was also published in William F. Nolan’s science fiction anthology A Sea of Space (Bantam, 1970).  You can also find it in The Twilight Zone: the Original Stories (Greenberg, Matheson, Waugh, eds.  Avon, 1985; MJF, 1997).
--Cecil Kellaway appears in another episode written by Charles Beaumont, season four’s “Passage On the Lady Anne." 
--"Elegy" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Blair Underwood (Falcon Picture Group, 2002).

--Brian Durant

Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Purple Testament"

William Reynolds as the doomed Lt. Fitzgerald sees death in his own reflection.
"The Purple Testament"
Season One, Episode 19
Original Air Date: February 12, 1960

Cast:
Lt. Fitzgerald: William Reynolds
Capt. Riker: Dick York
Capt. Gunther: Barney Phillips
Colonel: S. John Launer
Smitty: Michael Vandever
Driver of Jeep: Warren Oates

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Richard L. Bare
Producer: Buck Houghton
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Music: Lucien Morawack (composer) & Lud Gluskin (conductor)

And now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week we show you the face of war, but the kind of portrait we venture to say you've never seen before. Dick York and William Reynolds star in 'The Purple Testament,' the story of a man who can forecast death. That's next week on The Twilight Zone, 'The Purple Testament.' We hope you'll join us. Thank you and goodnight."

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"Infantry platoon, U.S. Army, Philippine Islands, 1945. These are the faces of the young men who fight; as if some omniscient painter had mixed a tube of oils that were at one time earth brown, dust gray, blood red, beard black, and fear yellow-white. And these men were the models. For this is the province of combat and these are the faces of war."

Summary:
                Lt. Fitzgerald returns with an American platoon to base camp with a list of those soldiers injured and those dead after a mission. Capt. Riker, Fitzgerald's direct superior and close friend, notices that "Fitz," as Lt. Fitzgerald is known, has taken the casualties of the latest mission much harder than he'd taken those from previous missions. When pressed about the issue, Fitz reveals a scrap of paper upon which are written four names, the exact four names of the soldiers lost in the current mission. When pressed further, Fitz reveals that he'd written those names down a day before the mission, that he'd had the foresight of who would die the following day. Riker initially scoffs at the idea that Fitz has inexplicably developed the hellish talent to foretell an individual's death. Fitz is unable to explain where the ability came from or what exactly it entails (though he generally describes it as a telling light on the face of man marked for death), seems to be in torment both at his newfound curse and Riker's disbelief. He dreads looking into the faces of the men in the platoon.
                Fearing that his lieutenant and close friend may be cracking under the strain of the war, Riker confides the situation to the chief medical officer, Captain Gunther. Gunther is as skeptical as Riker about the true nature of Fitz's ability but believes that Fitz should be taken off active duty to undergo observation.
                While Riker and Gunther talk, Fitz is in the same hospital visiting an injured member of the platoon named Smitty. Before leaving the young man's bedside, Fitz sees the telling light in the Smitty's face. This causes Fitz to temporarily black out. When he is awakened by an orderly, both men discover that Smitty has died.
                A confrontation ensues when Fitz goes downstairs and meets Riker and Gunther. Fitz, now obviously under terrible strain, tells the men that he saw the warning of death on Smitty's face moments before the young soldier died. He implores the two skeptical men to believe him and storms off after sarcastically suggesting that his eyes be taped closed or plucked from his skull so that he won't have to look into any more faces.
                Fitz is allowed to remain on command for the following mission. Moments before departing a meeting with Riker, Fitz sees the death light on his superior's face. Though he tries to warn his friend, Riker won't hear any of it and insist that when they return from the mission Fitz will see that it has all been a coincidence. Fitz departs hastily. Riker, in a moment of doubt about his own future, takes a moment to leave behind his wedding band along with pictures of his wife and children before departing. In a tense seen outside, Fitz is nervously watched by the members of the platoon while he looks into their faces. One soldier can't bear it and begs Fitz to tell who will make it and who won't. Riker intervenes and attempts to dispel all rumors of Fitz's ability to foretell death. He puts it to Fitz to dispell the rumors and, after a moment of contemplation, Fitz goes along with Riker and says that it's all a misunderstanding.
                The platoon returns a couple of hours later with only one casualty, Captain Riker. Fitz is notified that he has been granted a medical leave of stay and is to pack his bags to report to headquarters. A Jeep has been sent to drive him the four hours away from base camp. While gathering his gear, Fitz peers into a shaving mirror and sees the death light on his own face. At first terrified, Fitz accepts his fate and climbs into the Jeep with a young soldier. They are warned that the road is booby-trapped with mines. When the young driver tells Fitz that they have a four hour trip ahead of them, Fitz tells him that he doesn't think it will be that long.
                A short time later, while the men of the camp are getting some much needed rest and relaxation, they hear a thunderous explosion in the distance. Knowing it to be an explosion, such as the detonation of a mine, the men instead convince themselves that it is only thunder and go back to what they were doing.

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"From William Shakespeare, Richard the Third, a small excerpt. The line reads, 'He has come to open the purple testament of bleeding war.' And for Lieutenant Fitzgerald, A Company, First Platoon, the testament is closed. Lieutenant Fitzgerald has found The Twilight Zone."


The ghost light marks Smitty (Michael Vandever) for death.
Commentary:
                Rod Serling used his experience with the 11th Airborne Division serving during WWII to color much of his writings about war. This theme would be very prevalent on The Twilight Zone. Though writer Richard Matheson penned the first war episode, "The Last Flight," and other of the show's creators would provide memorable war episodes (notably Montgomery Pittman's "Two" and the Manly Wade Wellman inspired "Still Valley") most of the war and war-related episodes would be penned by Serling. Serling would use war as a backdrop upon which to drop in an element of fantasy to bring across the general point that war is hell and if it doesn't outright take a character's life, it will certainly damage it drastically. Serling's war episodes, therefore, were always character driven and not action driven. The battleground was simply a stage upon which the characters could act out the particular aspects of human drama that Serling wanted to convey. Though it is a somewhat plodding and certainly a predictable episode, "The Purple Testament" would be the first of many war episodes in which Serling would display some of his strongest writing.
                William Reynolds gives a suitably manic performance in the lead as the tortured and doomed Lieutenant Fitzgerald. Twilight Zone repeat performers Dick York and Barney Phillips give serviceable acting support, though, it must be said, York's innate quirkiness feels out of place in a military setting. The episode suffers from too thin a premise and the script appears to have been one of Serling's rush jobs as it is mostly a collection of circular dialogue leading to an inevitable climax. Still, the dialogue, always the strongest aspect of Serling's scripts, is solidly evocative of character. Serling's dialogue elicts a strongly emotional performance from his actors and, fortunately, the cast for this episode have the skill to bring it off. The simplicity of the premise actually works, to some degree, in the episode's favor as The Twilight Zone was more interested in the effects of a fantasy catalyst rather than bothering with overwrought explanations of the existence of that fantasy element. It is one of the charms of the show that the viewer is not burdened with the stricture of reality but is rather given the illusion of reality and the unraveling of it in an interesting, and often terrifying, way.
                Despite the occasional use of stock footage for the brief battle sequences, Rirchard L. Bare's direction is spiced with some superb camera shots, notably a 360 degree moving shot of Fitzgerald's point of view as he looks over the members of his platoon, and another of Fitzgerald gazing down at the broken remnants of his shaving mirror, each jagged shard reflecting his terrified reflection after seeing the signs of his own impending doom.
                Though Serling would go on to impove with his scripts for other WWII themed episodes, "Death's-Head Revisited" and "A Quality of Mercy" to name two, he would also tackle the Civil War, "The Passersby," and several times explore the drama of man-made doomsday, "Time Enough At Last" and "The Shelter." It is interesting to note here that actor Dean Stockwell was originally cast to star as Lieutenant Fitzgerald but pulled out of the episode, leaving William Reynolds to fill in. Stockwell would return to the show to put in a great performance in the third season episode "A Quality of Mercy," another WWII themed character study scripted by Serling.
                Both Marc Scott Zicree and Martin Grams recount, in their respective books The Twilight Zone Companion and The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, the story of actor William Reynolds and director Richard L. Bare being involved in a plane crash on February 12, 1960, the original air date of "The Purple Testament." Flying back to Miami after filming the pilot The Islander for MGM, the engines failed on the plane carrying five passengers. One passenger was killed while Bare, with two broken legs, and Reynolds, with a broken ankle and several broken ribs, swam on their backs four miles to safety. Though Reynolds recounts that Cayuga Productions agreed to not air the episode upon hearing of the plane crash, out of respect for Reynolds and Bare as there was no word on survivors at that point, the episode aired as scheduled. The terrible irony had Reynolds not survived the crash would have been an episode in which he starred as a man who foresees his own death airing on the day of his actual death. As it happened, both Reynolds and Bare made a full recovery from their injuries.
                With "The Purple Testament" we begin to see Serling finding a niche, which I think he struggled mightily with, especially in the first season. As said before, others attempted the war-themed episode but this type of story on The Twilight Zone was truly the province of Rod Serling and even on the war episodes he didn't write his influence can be felt.

Grade: C

Notes:
-Dick York also starred in the memorable second season episode "A Penny For Your Thoughts."
-Warren Oates also starred in the forgettable fifth season episode "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms."
-Barney Phillips appeared in supporting roles for three additional episodes, the second season's "A Thing About Machines" and the exceptional "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" as well as the fantastic fourth season episode "Miniature."
-As Martin Grams points out in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, Serling erroneously attributes the Shakespeare line in his closing narration to the play Richard the Third when it is actually from Richard the Second.
-Rod Serling’s teleplay for “The Purple Testament” is adapted into prose by Walter B. Gibson for the book Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited from Grosset & Dunlap, and is reprinted in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone from Wing Books.

--Jordan Prejean