Monday, July 29, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 14

In which we take a closer look at each issue of the magazine. For our capsule history of the magazine, go here.

Volume 2, number 2 (May, 1982)

Cover art: William Stoneham

TZ Publications, Inc.

President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher/Contributing Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Assistant Editors: Steven Schwartz, Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Thomas M. Disch
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Doreen Carrigan
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Janice Graham
Eastern Circulation Manager: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.

Contents:

--In the Twilight Zone: Happily ever after . . . by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--TZ Interview: Terry Gilliam by James Verniere
--“The General’s Wife” by Peter Straub
--“Frontiers” by Kit Reed
--Front-Row Seats at the Creepshow by Ed Naha
--TZ Screen Preview: Dark Crystal by James Verniere
--“The Other One” by Rick Norwood
--“The Father of the Bride” by Connie Willis
--“Turn Down for Richmond” by G.J.A. O’Toole
--“Weigh Station” by Robert Crais
--“J.C. in the Springtime” by I. Daniel Roth
--“A Lover’s Alibi” by Chet Williamson
--The Doomsday Poems by Richard L. Tierney
--“All of Us Are Dying” by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Four of Us Are Dying” by Rod Serling
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Fourteen
--Looking Ahead: In June’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “Happily ever after . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-Klein’s usual editorial space used to introduce the contributors to the issue, marking the first appearance of Thomas M. Disch as books reviewer, the novella by Peter Straub, and the interview with American expatriate film director Terry Gilliam, whose 1981 film Time Bandits had recently found success in America.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
-This is the first books review column from Disch (1940-2008), the celebrated poet, essayist, and science fiction writer. Disch will continue to provide book reviews for the magazine until the Jan-Feb, 1985 issue. Disch also provided book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Omni during this time and wrote several literary essays which appeared in non-genre periodicals. Some of this work was collected in On SF (2005). Disch also contributed three lists to The Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf series in the May-June, and July-Aug, 1983 issues of Twilight Zone. Disch first came to the attention of science fiction readers as one of the more talented New Wave writers. His novels The Genocides (1965) and Camp Concentration (1968) and the collection 334 (1972) are widely considered modern classics of the form.

-Disch takes a look at three works for his first column. Here’s a sampling of his thoughts.

On The Sword of the Lictor (volume three of The Book of the New Sun) by Gene Wolfe:

“Wolfe’s special effects are only apprehensible to those who will read his prose with a precision proportional to his precision as a writer. Most science fantasy – and most sf, for that matter – is written in a gassy, approximative prose from which it is possible to construct, at best, figured landscapes as sketchily drawn and crudely colored as comic book illustrations. What Wolfe offers is a much higher degree of image resolution; not photo-realism but something like an animated version of a Botticelli painting. But to have the benefit of Wolfe’s verbal cinematography you must give every word its true weight and inflection.”

-On GOSH! WOW! (Sense of Wonder) Science Fiction ed. Forrest J. Ackerman:

“Ejjay is definitely getting my vote for the Big Heart Award at the next con. He must have spent weeks in the dust of the copyright office finding out which stories he could use strictly for the sake of nostalgia without the corrupting taint of commerce.”

-On The Abyss by Jere Cunningham:

“It’s always a mistake for a fantasy writer to multiply his hypotheses too wantonly, especially if he means at the same time to observe the decorums of psychological verisimilitude. Cunningham piles on the grue (as Straub did in Ghost Story) without rhyme or reason, and the novel that results has the esthetic integrity and emotional impact of the Tunnel of Terrors at a county fair.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson does not look at any single film in this column but rather pens a freewheeling, satirical rumination on the future of the movies, particularly where the ever-evolving special effects may take the medium next. He begins this way: “Although I’ve always been a total patsy for films, this business of viewing them in a sort of official capacity for Twilight Zone (together with getting involved with them directly in another incarnation) has caused me to look at them, yes, indeed, more critically. What are the damned things, anyhow? And how big a chunk of the society and its members do they represent? What do you suppose is the accumulation of their effect? And – more and more intriguing to me – where in God’s name are they going?”

-Wilson provides satirical speculations on where the movies will go next in terms of special effects and the ways in which we view movies, going so far as to suggest a Westworld type of fully immersive experience while taking the obligatory shot at the litany of Jaws sequels. The column reads as though intended to be humorous but contains an edge of pessimism which largely spoils the effect. Wilson’s view is prescient, however, as films begin more and more to bear a resemblance to a technical exercise than a creative one. Special effects are often used to mask inefficiencies in storytelling on the part of the filmmakers but audiences hardly seem to care, or recognize the difference. In a way, Wilson is addressing the old argument of whether it is better to leave some things to the imagination or to show it all without allowing the audience to color anything in with their own imaginings. It is an interesting topic of discussion though Wilson does not attempt a serious examination of the issue but merely uses the influx of special effects-heavy productions to lament the days when story came first in films and the movie-going experience was more intimate.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan

-Sullivan, the American genre historian best known for his 1978 study Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood, the 1983 anthology Lost Souls: A Collection of English Ghost Stories, and as editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), returns with another installment in his history on macabre classical music, looking this time at postwar composers. Here’s the rundown of what Sullivan covers:

Bernard Herrmann’s Symphony (1941) by Bernard Herrmann
First Symphony of William Walton
Second Symphony of William Walton
Sinfonia Antarctica (1952) by Ralph Vaughn Williams
Harpsicord Concerto, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto by Frank Martin
Symphonie Concertante by Frank Martin
“Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance” by Samuel Barber
Piano Sonata by Samuel Barber


--TZ Interview: Terry Gilliam: Finding comedy on ‘the dark side of the coin.’
Interview by James Verniere 

-At the time of this interview (and perhaps still) Gilliam was best known as the lone American in the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Gilliam provided animated sequences for the troupe’s first film, And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and co-wrote Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). He co-wrote and directed the 1977 British fantasy film Jabberwocky, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, and was fresh off the success of Time Bandits (1981), a film whose success belied the difficulty of its funding and distribution.

-Gilliam speaks candidly about aging (“I hate it. I find my brain addling a bit”) and the theme of childhood in Time Bandits. Gilliam speaks of the differences between America and England, particularly where children are concerned. Gilliam was appalled by what he felt was declining literacy in American children and the neutering of children’s fairy tales to remove anything frightening or challenging. Gilliam, a bibliophile, speaks on the importance of reading and books.  Gilliam examines his own childhood influences which he has carried with him into adulthood to inspire his creative career. Gilliam began in animation, working with the late Harvey Kurtzman on Help! When this periodical folded, Gilliam headed for England. Gilliam also speaks on what it was like working in Monty Python and discusses his next project, then unnamed and now known to be the satirical dystopian film Brazil (1985). Gilliam has gone on to direct such films as The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and The Brothers Grimm (2005).

-This one will be a treat for Monty Python fans and those who enjoy Gilliam’s films. It is interesting to read of Gilliam leaving America for the better shores of England but also bringing along many formative aspects of American culture such as Mad magazine and American cartoons. A final note: Gahan Wilson reviewed Time Bandits in his movie review column in the March, 1982 issue.

--“The General’s Wife” by Peter Straub
Illustrated by José Reyes 

“The English were a shifty race, her husband warned; but Andrea never realized how right he was until she met the General – and learned just what it meant to be . . .”

-Andy (Andrea) Rivers is an American living in England and enjoying the change of culture even though her abusive and oppressive husband Phil hates England and its people. To occupy herself, Andy finds a job assisting a WWII hero, General Alexander Leck, with his memoirs. Andy’s work is performed in a rat-infested, rundown home in Kensington Park Gardens, an outward symbol for the turmoil of the General’s inner life. Andy soon begins an affair with the General’s grandson Tony only to find herself pulled ever deeper into the psychosexual horrors of the General’s haunted past.

-“The General’s Wife” is an excised sequence from Straub’s 1983 novel Floating Dragon, which won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1984. The novella was published in a standalone volume in November, 1982 by Donald M. Grant with illustrations by Thomas Canty. It was issued in a limited edition of 1200 copies, signed by author and artist. The story was inspired by Straub’s time living in England, a decade in which he wrote the novels which sparked his long and successful career as a leading novelist of horror and suspense, including Julia (1975), If You Could See Me Now (1976), and Ghost Story (1979). The story of Straub’s return to America and the ironic culture shock which, in part, inspired Floating Dragon can be found in Straub’s introduction to the 2003 edition of the novel published by Berkley. “The General’s Wife” has a deliberate buildup wherein Straub highlights the English culture and the geography of London before moving into the more intimate setting of the General’s rundown home. Here the story takes off and begins to display its bouquet of dark revelations, structured like a Matryoshka doll in which each subsequent layer of story is more disturbing than the last, culminating in a crescendo of erotic horror which will linger long in the reader’s memory.

-Straub is particularly good when working with the long story, much like Henry James, an author Straub has spoken of as a strong literary influence. Straub combines James’ literate style and depth of characterization with the excesses of ‘80s horror fiction for a potent combination. Although Straub largely abandoned this type of horror after Floating Dragon, “The General’s Wife” remains a reminder of how good Straub was in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. This one is far and away the best piece in the issue and a strong contender for best fiction yet published in the magazine.  

--“Frontiers” by Kit Reed 
Illustrated by Brad Hamann 

“It was just like the Old West: The Prairie, the Settlers, and the Homestead. The only things missing were the Savages.”

-The patriarch of a family that lives in a contained home in a vast area of contaminated land leaves to find supplies at the nearest outpost. When he returns he finds his family (wife and two daughters) gone. Despair settles over him as weeks of searching turn up nothing. Then early one morning his family returns to him, transformed by the wilds beyond their home.

-Beyond the obvious parallels of this futuristic story to tales of the Old West, it is difficult to determine if the narrative held any other ambition than as a narrative exercise in symbolism, using the old, recognizable images from the western and pasting them upon a futuristic setting with a background of ecological disaster. As such it is a suitably evocative tale which effectively uses not only the recognizable symbols of the western but also many of the standard tropes of “after the end” tales: the unbreathable air, the lack of supplies, the dangers of isolation, etc. The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry and collected in Reed’s 1986 collection The Revenge of the Senior Citizens ** Plus.

-Kit Reed (1932-2017), born Lillian Hyde Craig, was a prolific California writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror who also wrote psychological thrillers as Kit Craig. Her first science fiction novel, Armed Camps, appeared in 1969. The New York Times Book Review (Jan 1, 2006) characterized Reed’s work (a review of Dogs of Truth) as “dystopian stories that specialize in bitterness and dislocation,” an apt description for “Frontiers.” She was nominated for the World Fantasy, Hugo, Tiptree, Shirley Jackson, and Locus Awards, among others. A career retrospective of Reed’s short fiction, The Story Until Now, appeared in 2013.

--Front-Row Seats at the Creepshow by Ed Naha 

-A set report by Naha from Pittsburgh where George Romero is filming Creepshow, written by Stephen King. This film, released in November, 1982, is now widely considered by horror film fans as one of the great horror anthology films. At the time, however, the film was no sure thing. Romero was working with his first big budget and a distribution deal with Warner Brothers, and Stephen King was watching the filming of his first screenplay, a splatter film homage to the great EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear). The production had a few aces in the hole, however. The first was makeup effects artist Tom Savini whose work on Creepshow is revered to this day and formed a large portion of Savini’s 1983 book Grande Illusions. The production also had special effects supervisor and production designer Cletus Anderson, who was also a professor at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. Finally, the production was graced with an outstanding collection of performers, including Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Viveca Lindfors, Ted Danson, appearances from Twilight Zone alumni Fritz Weaver, Jon Lormer, and Don Keefer, and memorable appearances from Stephen King and his son Joe Hill.

-Naha gets the scoop on filming Creepshow from Romero and King, including how the project came to be, as well as Cletus Anderson on the challenges of production design. Naha talks to the performers who describe a fun and lively filming process. George Romero was fresh off the success of Dawn of the Dead and was coveted in Hollywood circles but continued to work independently, which attracted top performers and confounded big studios. This method was not without consequence, however, as Romero’s non-union crew attracted union protesters who picketed the sets, forcing Romero and company to keep the locations secret. The article concludes with a number of perspectives on what is hoped for with the movie. Creepshow went on to become a critical and commercial success, spawning a 1987 sequel, a tie-in comic book illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, and a current revival by the streaming service Shudder with showrunner Greg Nictero, who visited the Creepshow set as a seventeen-year-old and contributed makeup effects to Creepshow 2. 

--TZ Screen Preview: Dark Crystal by James Verniere 

-This is a full-color preview of The Dark Crystal, the Jim Henson production four years in the making, with a sizable $25 million budget, which was released on December 17, 1982. The article examines the genesis of the film in the works of British fantasy artist Brian Froud, who designed the production, and the challenges for Jim Henson and puppeteer Frank Oz in bringing Henson’s puppet creations to life. Verniere also provides a rundown of the many and various types of fantasy creatures which feature in the film. 

--“The Other One” by Rick Norwood
Illustrated by Robert Morello 

“You don’t know what terror is until you’ve come face to face with . . .”

-An ironic short-short about a man on the run from a Man in Black who he believes is Death. There is a humorous snap ending. The story was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984). Norwood is a mathematician and comic book historian who edits the Comics Revue. He is also a short story specialist and occasional essayist who has been published in Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. 

--“The Father of the Bride” by Connie Willis
Illustrated by Marty Blake 

“The fairy tale had ended; the kingdom was awake once more. But not everyone lived happily ever after.”

-In this take on the legend of Sleeping Beauty, the King finds the old ways of his Kingdom crumbling around him as the ruthless wheels of progress march across his lands.

-Connie Willis (born Constance Elaine Trimmer) is one of the most honored SF writers in history, which a shelfful of Hugos and Nebulas to honor her long career as a novelist and short story writer. Still in her early career here, she returns to the pages of the magazine with this poignant short tale examining the ways in which industrialization and the rise of Christianity destroyed the magic and mystery of the old kingdoms of fairy tales. This sort of retelling of fairy tales came into vogue some years later with Ellen Datlow’s and Terry Windling’s fairy tale anthologies which began with Snow White, Blood Red (1993). Willis was ahead of the curve here and this short tale captures many of the tropes which will come to define this sort of fairy tale deconstruction. A contemporary work on a larger scale which approached the subject in the same manner was The Enchanted World series from Time-Life Books (1984-1988), a 21-volume collection of illustrated books on folklore whose overarching theme was the decline of magic with the rise of monotheistic beliefs. “The Father of the Bride” was reprinted in the magazine’s only annual volume, Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982), and included in Willis’ collection Firewatch (1985). 

--“Turn Down for Richmond” by G.J.A. O’Toole
Illustrated by Dennis Meehan 

“It was a simple four-word message – yet on it hung the future of a nation.”

-This is a ghost in the machine tale about a junk collector who chances upon an old telegraph sounder which emits a Morse code message at the same time each night. That message, “turn down for Richmond,” is instruction to ease the tension on the armature spring in order to receive the remainder of the message. That message, once received, reveals information which may have saved Abraham Lincoln’s life, over one hundred years too late. Its ghostly message sent, the sounder falls silent. This nifty little ghost story appears to be the only work of speculative fiction G.J.A. O’Toole published. It was reprinted some years later in the anthology Eastern Ghosts (1990). 

--“Weigh Station” by Robert Crais
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“The road to Hell was a six-lane highway, and the damned all drove big rigs.”


-When his sports car breaks down on a desolate stretch of highway, David hitches a ride with an 18-wheeler to a weigh station which serves as a portal to hell.

-This story is largely a mood piece and the setting is expertly handled. Crais perfectly illustrates the loneliness of traveling on a deserted stretch of California highway during the dead of night. The supernatural aspect of the tale is largely ambiguous but the weigh station of the title serves to transform travelers into a sort of mindless entity, damned to drive the roads for eternity. There is also a nod to Richard Mathson’s famous tale of road terror, “Duel.” The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry.

-Robert Crais published some SF early in his career but is best-known for his crime and detective fiction, particularly the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels which began with The Monkey's Raincoat in 1987. The latest entry in the series is A Dangerous Man, released in June, 2019. For a time Crais was also a prolific television writer. His earliest credits for television date back to 1977 and episodes of Baretta. Crais has also written for such shows as Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and L.A. Law, among others. He contributed the original teleplay “Monsters!” for the fifteenth episode of the first season of The Twilight Zone revival series. 

--“J.C. in the Springtime” by I. Daniel Roth
Illustrated by E.T. Steadman 

“A park bench, a sunny April afternoon, and a wino with a paper bag. What better setting for a miracle?”

-The J.C. of the title may clue the reader in on the theme of this short-short as it concerns a homeless man who bestows a blessing on a distraught businessman. It is an interesting, if somewhat standard, take on the wandering savior theme. The story has not been reprinted since its publication here and it appears to be the only SF story from I. Daniel Roth.

--“A Lover’s Alibi” by Chet Williamson
Uncredited illustration; signature indeterminate
“There was only one thing wrong with the murderer’s story. It was getting too believable.”


-Chet Williamson returns to the pages of the magazine with this clever and disturbing tale. It concerns a man who murders his cloying wife to be with his lover and finds his flimsy alibi transformed into an airtight one by a series of inexplicable circumstances. The murderer soon discovers that his wife loved him so much that her ghost has been changing events to protect him. There is a satisfyingly nasty twist in the tale, however. The story was collected in Williamson’s 2002 collection Figures in Rain.

-Williamson is one of the leading writers of dark fantasy from this era. He wrote a series of novels during the ‘80s horror boom which are now prized by collectors, such as Soulstorm (1986), Ash Wednesday (1987), Lowland Rider (1988), and Dreamthorp (1989). He has written several in-universe novels as well, including a sequel to Robert Bloch’s Psycho titled Psycho: Sanitarium (2016). 

--The Doomsday Poems by Richard L. Tierney
Illustrated by Marty Blake 
-Seven dark poems: “The Pilgrimage,” “Hope,” “The Madness of the Oracle,” “To Great Cthulhu,” “Optimism,” “This Great City,” “To the Hydrogen Bomb,” reprinted from Tierney’s Collected Poems: Nightmares and Visions, published earlier in the year by Arkham House. Some of the poems were first published in small press periodicals such as The Arkham Collector and Myrddin. The poems are ironic and tinged with the macabre. An apt example is this, from “Hope”:


The world’s a dead harlot – a corpse of a slut
Where Death-vultures settle to rend and to glut
            While man flounders blind in the gloom –
And Hope’s a mirage on a desert of sand
Where horrors go ravening over the land,
And life’s but the road to doom.

-Richard L. Tierney is a prolific poet, short story writer, and Lovecraft scholar who is perhaps best-known for a series of novels written with David C. Smith about Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja. He was a frequent contributor to Robert M. Price’s Crypt of Cthulhu fanzine. 

--“All of Us Are Dying” by George Clayton Johnson
Illustrated by Gregory Cannone 

“This fiendishly original tale – about a most unusual talent – became the basis of a now-classic Twilight Zone episode, ‘The Four of Us Are Dying.’”

-The unnamed protagonist uses a unique talent, the ability to resemble any person according to the desires of others, to con others out of money and sexual favors until he happens upon a man who sees the one he most wants to kill.

-George Clayton Johnson sold this story to Rod Serling and Cayuga Productions in 1959 where Serling adapted it as “The Four of Us Are Dying” for the first season of The Twilight Zone. The story was later published in the October, 1961 issue of Rogue. Clayton Johnson chose the story for his entry in SF: Authors’ Choice 4, ed. Harry Harrison (1974), which includes a preface from Clayton Johnson explaining the genesis of the tale. The story was also included in Twilight Zone: Scripts & Stories (1996) and was the title story of Clayton Johnson’s career retrospective All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999). See my post on “The Four of Us Are Dying” to read about the differences between the story and Rod Serling’s script, plus the way in which the story influenced Clayton Johnson’s later Star Trek script “The Man Trap.” 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Four of Us Are Dying” by Rod Serling 

-Rod Serling’s complete teleplay for the first season episode adapted from George Clayton Johnson’s story. The teleplay is illustrated with some interesting production photographs of the four actors who feature in the episode. The episode was the thirteenth episode of the first season. It was directed by John Brahm, starring Harry Townes, Ross Martin, Phillip Pine, Don Gordon, and Beverly Garland. The episode highlights the cinematography of George T. Clemens, some innovative production design, and a great, jazzy score from Jerry Goldsmith. Read our review here.

--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Fourteen by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree, author of the essential guide to the series, The Twilight Zone Companion, continues this early guide from the magazine. In this installment he covers the following fourth season episodes: “Printer’s Devil,” “No Time Like the Past,” “The Parallel,” and “I Dream of Genie,” providing cast and crew information, Rod Serling’s narrations, and a summary of each episode. Zicree has caught up with us here in the Vortex as we have just recently covered these episodes with the exception of “I Dream of Genie,” which is next on the agenda.

--Looking Ahead: In June’s TZ
-Next month’s issue is highlighted by the first publication of Richard Matheson’s never-produced Twilight Zone script “The Doll,” along with an essay by Marc Scott Zicree. Also, there are stories from Richard Christian Matheson and Pamela Sargent, Philip K. Dick’s final interview, and a screen preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. See you then.

-JP

Monday, July 15, 2019

"The Parallel"

Major Robert Gaines (Steve Forrest) in a parallel world

“The Parallel”
Season Four, Episode 113
Original Air Date: March 14, 1963

Cast:
Robert Gaines: Steve Forrest
Helen Gaines: Jacqueline Scott
Bill Connacher: Frank Aletter
Psychiatrist: Paul Comi
Maggie Gaines: Shari Lee Bernath
Captain: Morgan Jones
Project Manager: William Sargent
General Eaton: Philip Abbott

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Alan Crosland, Jr.
Producer: Bert Granet
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Assistant to Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis & Paul Groesse
Film Editor: Al Clark
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Frank R. McKelvy
Assistant Director: Ray de Camp
Sound: Franklin Milton & Joe Edmondson
Music: stock
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling: 

“Next on Twilight Zone we take a page out of a book on the Space Age and we project as to a couple of degrees as to what conceivably might happen to an astronaut if suddenly and inexplicably, in the middle of an orbit, he disappears. Our story tells you how, why and where. It stars Steve Forrest. It’s called ‘The Parallel.’”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“In the vernacular of space, this is T-minus one hour. Sixty minutes before a human being named Major Robert Gaines is lifted off from the Mother Earth and rocketed into the sky, farther and longer than any man ahead of him. Call this one of the first faltering steps of man to sever the umbilical cord of gravity and stretch out a fingertip toward an unknown. Shortly, we’ll join this astronaut named Gaines and embark on an adventure, because the environs overhead – the stars, the sky, the infinite space – are all part of a vast question mark known as The Twilight Zone.”

Summary: 

            Major Robert Gaines is an astronaut preparing for launch. He will be rocketed into the sky for multiple orbits of Earth. His wife, Helen, and young daughter, Maggie, anxiously await the televised launch. The launch proceeds as expected until Gaines loses contact with mission control and is assaulted by a blinding light. He shields his eyes and blacks out.
            Gaines awakens in a hospital bed. He is examined by a doctor and questioned by his colleagues. They inform Gaines that he was lost on radio and radar. What happened in the interval? How did Gaines manage to land 46 miles from the launch point without damaging the spacecraft? Gaines remembers nothing except feeling an odd sensation, then the light, and then waking up in a hospital bed. Gaines’ colleagues are clearly disturbed by the mystery of his strange experience.
            Gaines is given leave to return home where he notices something which disturbs him. There is a picket fence in front of the house which he doesn’t remember. Helen tells him it was there when they bought the house.
            Gaines also discovers that he has somehow received a promotion he doesn’t remember. He was a Major before the launch but is now a Colonel. Helen also begins to notice something different about Gaines which she can’t put into words. Gaines’ daughter, too, rejects him because of the horrible feeling that he is not her father. Seeing how much he has disturbed his family, Gaines consents to see a psychiatrist.
            His psychological evaluation comes back normal. There is one issue which disturbs the psychiatrist. Gaines mentions President John Kennedy. No one has heard of such a man. Back at home, Gaines consults a set of encyclopedias and discovers that historical events he remembers never happened or happened a different way. Helen and Maggie have grown colder toward him, clearly disturbed by the difference they sense in him.
Meanwhile, Gaines’ colleagues have discovered something disturbing of their own. The spacecraft in which Gaines landed is not the same from which he launched. It is different in several superficial ways. Gaines is brought to the spacecraft and begins to hear radio control voices from his mission. He runs toward the spacecraft and is catapulted back to the moment he is assaulted by a blinding light. His vision clears and he regains communication with mission control.
He lands and is brought to a hospital for examination. Who is the president? Gaines asks. He is told President Kennedy. Gaines relates his strange experience in the parallel world. Though control lost contact with Gaines for six hours, he was in the parallel world for nearly a week. When Gaines is finished, his colleagues ask the obvious question. If Gaines was in a parallel world, where was his double during that time?
Some moments later they receive word that mission control intercepted a strange communication from someone claiming to be Colonel Robert Gaines. Soon after the signal was lost.   

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Major Robert Gaines, a latter-day voyager just returned from an adventure. Submitted to you without any recommendations as to belief or disbelief. You can accept or reject; you pays your money and you takes your choice. But credulous or incredulous, don’t bother to ask anyone for proof that it could happen. The obligation is a reverse challenge: prove that it couldn’t. This happens to be The Twilight Zone.” 

Commentary:
            Rod Serling began work on the teleplay for “The Parallel” in 1961 from which it would subsequently go through a number of drafts before making it to the screen two years later. Serling first submitted a draft of “The Parallel” to the fourth season’s first producer, Herbert Hirschman, who disliked the script. This feeling was shared by Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson. It was felt that the script was not only missing some key quality but that it was a less interesting rehash of many elements from previous episodes. Serling was taken aback by these initial reactions but not discouraged, believing it to be a good idea. He put the script through further rewrites, updating it with references to astronauts Gus Grissom, John Glenn, and Wally Schirra to add verisimilitude, and presented it again once producer Bert Granet took over for Hirschman. Whether Serling’s rewrites satisfactorily improved the story or Granet was more sympathetic to the script, it was greenlit for production on the fourth season.
            Like the previous episode, “No Time Like the Past,” “The Parallel” is largely a restaging of elements from prior episodes. The series typically explored alternate dimensions through a secondary lens such as time travel, dreams, existential crisis, or a mechanism of supernatural suspense, such as the doppelganger motif in Serling’s first season episode “Mirror Image,” in which Millicent Barnes (Vera Miles), a young woman harassed by her interdimensional double, states: “I’ve been thinking about something. It’s very odd but I’ve been remembering . . . about something I read or heard about a long time ago. About different planes of existence. About two parallel worlds that exist side by side. And each of us has a counterpart in this world. And sometimes, through some freak, through something unexplainable, this counterpart, after the two worlds converge, comes into our world, and in order to survive it has to take over.” These last few words illustrate the way in which “Mirror Image” becomes a memorably tense thriller while “The Parallel” remains an exercise in a well-worn theme.
            “The Parallel” lacks that element of suspense, shock, or awe which characterize similar, more successful episodes such as Richard Matheson’s “A World of Difference,” Charles Beaumont’s “Person or Persons Unknown,” or Serling’s “And When the Sky Was Opened” (from Matheson’s story). No character actually feels threatened in “The Parallel.” There is a need to get Gaines back to his rightful place but hardly a panic to do so. Gaines may be an interloper but he remains among family and friends who ultimately mean him no harm. The episode suffers under the weight of its subtlety.
            Since “The Parallel” lacks this added dimension of suspense, the narrative is forced into a repetitive pattern to propel itself forward. The episode quickly glosses over scenes which may have been compelling in order to restage the same scenes over and again. For instance, the launch sequence is quickly gotten behind (and peppered with hideous stock footage) yet we are given two lengthy hospital scenes which are nearly mirrors of one another. We are not given the scene of Gaines under examination by Paul Comi’s psychiatrist (a powerful scene when staged in the aforementioned “Person or Persons Unknown” and Beaumont’s earlier “Perchance to Dream”) but we are given two separate scenes in which Gaines’ daughter rejects him as an imposter. Perhaps this was an attempt to underlie the mirror theme of the story though it’s more likely an effort to fill fifty minutes of television with a story lacking much inherent narrative length. Another troublesome element is that although Gaines’ family becomes increasingly repelled by his presence, Gaines does not seem to notice any difference in them. He notices external differences such as a picket fence or the entries in an encyclopedia but appears to lack the intuition which clues his family in on aberrations of his character and physicality.
            “The Parallel” is also an episode dealing with space exploration, a theme which Rod Serling always greatly desired to explore on the series considering the importance of the subject in the American imagination at the time. The space exploration episodes generally dealt with the factors of traveling to and landing upon a strange, unknown planet far out in the cosmos, often with dire consequences for the astronauts. Examples include Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy” and Serling’s “People Are Alike All Over” (from the Paul W. Fairman story) and “The Little People.” Less often the series used space exploration to tackle existential crisis, the prime example of the fourth season being Richard Matheson’s “Death Ship.” Still, these related episodes all possess an element of horror or suspense which is noticeably lacking in “The Parallel,” thus sapping the propulsive energy from the narrative.
            As “The Parallel” was preparing to be shown for its first rerun on July 12, 1963, that persistent call of plagiarism was sounded again in the form of litigation introduced by the lawyer for a writer named Stephen Masino. Masino had previously submitted an unpublished story titled “Carbon Copy” which was thrice rejected by Cayuga Productions. Masino claimed that elements of his story were used for “The Parallel” without credit and compensation. Rod Serling never laid eyes on Masino’s story. Still, Cayuga found itself in a bind when a copy of Masino’s story was uncovered in the production office files. The rerun of the episode was canceled, substituted for another episode, and Cayuga eventually settled out of court with Masino for the tune of $6,500 and the agreement that Cayuga was free to use “The Parallel” in any manner it wished moving forward. This issue with “The Parallel” was mentioned in the first book length biography of Serling, Rod Serling: The Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight Zone by Joel Engel (1989) and revealed in detail by Martin Grams, Jr. in his book, The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (2008).
            Calls of plagiarism plagued the production almost from the beginning of the series. Some of it stemmed from Rod Serling’s well-meaning yet disastrous call for open submissions during the production of the first season. None of the scripts submitted were suitable for filming and Serling quickly closed the doors to unpublished writers. However, this did not stop the flood of story submissions which came into the Cayuga offices at a steady rate throughout the course of the series. Some of the calls of plagiarism were from fellow professional writers, such as Frank Gruber’s gripe with Serling’s “The After Hours” or Ray Bradbury taking umbrage with similarities between his works and Serling’s “Walking Distance.” Yet, this sparring with other professionals never affected the airing of episodes in the way legal entanglements with non-professionals did. This particularly affected the series in the final two seasons. Episodes such as Charles Beaumont’s “Miniature” and Serling’s “Sounds and Silences” and “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain” were for many years unseen in syndication due to legal issues over charges of plagiarism.
 
Steve Forrest
            The cast of “The Parallel” is a solid group of performers who collectively bring out the inherent richness of Rod Serling’s writing. There are some familiar faces and some newcomers to the series. Among the newcomers is Steve Forrest as Major Robert Gaines. Forrest (1925-2013) was born William Forrest Andrews. He was the younger brother of actor Dana Andrews, who appeared in the previous episode, “No Time Like the Past.” Born in Huntsville, Texas, Forrest served in WWII before relocating to Los Angeles to connect with his brother and attend classes at UCLA. He was discovered by Gregory Peck while working as a set builder for the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. A screen test at MGM followed which led to small roles in a handful of films before a role in director Robert Wise’s So Big (1953) garnered Forrest a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male. Forrest moved into a prolific career on the small screen in the late 1950s, appearing in dozens of mystery, western, and anthology series. He worked with his “The Parallel” co-performers Jacqueline Scott and Morgan Jones, as well as director Alan Crosland, Jr., in the pilot episode of the short-lived rodeo-themed western Wide Country, appearing alongside Twilight Zone actors Earl Holliman, Bill Mumy, Sandy Kenyon, and Barbara Stuart. Genre fare included appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Climax!, Kraft Mystery Theater, Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Sixth Sense, Circle of Fear, and two segments of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
Forrest’s most recognizable work came in the role of John Mannering on the British spy series The Baron and as Lt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson on S.W.A.T. In the 1980s Forrest appeared as the lover of Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) in Mommie Dearest (1981) and found recurring roles on Dallas and Murder, She Wrote. His last screen appearance was a cameo in the feature film remake of S.W.A.T. (2003). He passed away on May 18, 2013 at age 87.
Jacqueline Scott

Prolific television actress Jacqueline Scott (1932 – ) began her career on anthology programs before moving into mystery and western series, appearing in nearly every important series during that golden age of the western. An early film appearance was in William Castle’s Macabre (1958). Scott appeared on The Outer Limits in the pilot episode “The Galaxy Being” and in “Counterweight,” based on a story by Jerry Sohl. Other genre fare includes episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Planet of the Apes as well as an appearance in the 1971 television film Duel, written by Richard Matheson and directed by Steven Spielberg.
The other newcomers to the series are Frank Aletter as Bill Connacher and young actress Shari Lee Bernath as Maggie Gaines. Aletter (1926-2009) was a hugely prolific television performer with over a hundred small screen credits. Aletter was seemingly everywhere on television between the 1960s and the 1990s but did little SF genre work outside episodes of Planet of the Apes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and the short-lived The Invisible Man series starring David McCallum. Aletter passed away in 2009 at age 83.
Shari Lee Bernath (1952 – ) was a prolific child actress and a Los Angeles native who appeared on such television series as Mister Ed, Perry Mason, and Burke’s Law, among others. She appeared in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “See the Monkey Dance” alongside Roddy McDowall. Bernath appears to have retired from acting while still a young woman, her last credited role coming in 1973 for an episode of Insight.
The rest of the cast for “The Parallel” should look familiar to regular Zone viewers. The serious face of Paul Comi, the psychiatrist, was also seen in “People Are Alike All Over” and “The Odyssey of Flight 33.” Morgan Jones was one of the state troopers looking for an alien in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” Philip Abbott fought the ghost of his dead mother for the life of his son in “Long Distance Call.” William Sargent showed up again on the series in George Clayton Johnson’s “Ninety Years Without Slumbering.”
   
Frank Aletter and Philip Abbott
        
            “The Parallel” is not an episode which suffers from ineptitude in production or performance. It is not a black eye on the series in the way of “Mr. Bevis” or “Cavender Is Coming.” It is simply an unremarkable story which reexamines themes better presented in earlier episodes and does so without eliciting the show’s trademark suspense. “The Parallel” may be the one Twilight Zone episode which is not strange enough for the series. It is, after all, about an astronaut who crosses over into a parallel dimension which looks almost exactly like the one he left behind. This one can be recommended to the curious and the completists. 

Grade: D

Grateful acknowledgement:
-The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR, 2008)
-A Critical History of Television’s The Twilight Zone, 1959-1964 by Don Presnell & Marty McGee (McFarland, 1998)
-The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)
-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org)


Notes:
--Alan Crosland, Jr. also directed the fifth season episodes “The Old Man in the Cave,” “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms,” and “Ring-A-Ding Girl.”
--Steve Forrest also appeared in the Night Gallery segments “The Waiting Room” and “Hatred Unto Death.”
--Paul Comi also appeared in “People Are Alike All Over” and “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”
--Morgan Jones also appeared in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
--William Sargent also appeared in “Ninety Years Without Slumbering.”
--Philip Abbott also appeared in “Long Distance Call.”
--Crew members doing their first work for the series (presumably brought in with producer Bert Granet) include film editor Al Clark, Art Co-Director Paul Groesse, and set decorator Frank McKelvy, all of whom would further contribute to the series in the fourth and fifth seasons.
--“The Parallel” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Lou Diamond Phillips.
--In the episode Steve Forrest relates a bit of dialogue which calls to mind another classic science fiction series which premiered in 1963, The Outer Limits. This occurs when Connacher asks Gaines if he is feeling alright. Gaines responds: “Depends on just what are the current standards for sanity, the acceptable outer limits.”
--The thematic motif of parallel or alternate dimensions is an old device of fantasy, science fiction, and horror literature but is most commonly seen these days in the “multiverse” of superhero comics and in contemporary fantasy series such as Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.
--The exterior house set featured in “The Parallel” also featured in “Mute” and “Stopover in a Quiet Town.” It was famously used in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and subsequently made several appearances in MGM films and television productions.

-JP