Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

Premier issue (April, 1981)
Cover art by Jim Warren
             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 a share of marketing and merchandising rights to the show's namesake. In early 1980 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, an authority on science fiction and horror as well as a noted writer of weird fiction. 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. Carol Serling remained Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor for the remainder of the magazine's run, providing an essay, "A Personal Message: An Invitation to Re-enter The Twilight Zone," for the premier issue and "A Note from the Publisher" (or "Publisher's Note") in occasional subsequent issues. Carol Serling also spearheaded the magazine's annual short story contest, which paid cash prizes for the best work of unpublished writers.

            The magazine was the brainchild of editor and literary agent Kirby McCauley (1941-2014), remembered today for editing award-winning horror anthologies such as Frights (1976) and Dark Forces (1980) as well as representing some of the biggest names in horror publishing, including Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. McCauley envisioned a fantasy/horror magazine with the branding of a well-known figure in the field, much like Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine or Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. McCauley and T.E.D. Klein developed a proposal for the potential magazine and shopped it around while Rod Serling was still alive (Serling died in 1975). This ultimately proved unsuccessful and the venture was temporarily shelved. They tried again a few years later and secured financial backing from Montcalm Publishing, the publisher of the men's magazine Gallery. Published under the Montcalm Publishing banner and retaining copyright as TZ Publications, the first issue arrived mid-spring, cover dated April, 1981.

           The magazine lasted an additional sixty issues (59 regular plus 1 annual) over eight years, spawned a digest-sized sister publication (Night Cry), went through multiple schedule changes and three additional editors, and quietly closed out with the June 1989 issue. In the years between, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine set a new 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 field as well as work by up-and-coming writers, many of whom went on to highly successful careers. The magazine also published classics of the genre by writers in danger of falling into obscurity, and featured editorials on virtually every subject encompassed by the classic and contemporary fields of horror and fantasy.

                Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine published virtually every important speculative fiction writer of its era. Some (but not nearly all) of the writers to see their fiction published in the magazine include: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, Robert Bloch, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Roald Dahl, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, Spider Robinson, Robert Sheckley, Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, Fritz Leiber, Peter Straub, Steve Rasnic Tem, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Joe Haldeman, Tanith Lee, George R.R. Martin, David J. Schow, Dean Koontz, Lisa Tuttle, Lewis Shiner, and Melissa Mia Hall. The fiction was illustrated by a talented array of artists. The magazine also published several teleplays, treatments, and short stories by Rod Serling, as well as the work of past masters such as M.R. James, J. Sheridan LeFanu, Arthur Machen, L.P. Hartley, and William Hope Hodgson.

The editorial work for the magazine was superb. Contributions included essays on literary history by Mike Ashley and T.E.D. Klein, film reviews and artwork by Gahan Wilson, film history by Bill Warren, book reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, Thomas M. Disch, Ed Bryant, and E.F. Bleiler, interviews with genre writers conducted by Douglas Winter and Stanley Wiater, and 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 was a strong factor when CBS decided to revive the show for television in 1985. The magazine offered the perfect platform for promoting the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone and inspired much of the feel of the revival series with its melding of eighties modernism with classic tastes. Each issue typically featured one or more interviews with leading writers and filmmakers including Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, John Saul, Oliver Stone, Dean Koontz, and Harlan Ellison, among many others. 
June, 1982 issue with Richard Matheson's "The Doll"
Cover art by Malcolm McNeill
A significant aspect of the magazine was the publication of lost or forgotten material from the original Twilight Zone series. Nearly every issue printed a complete teleplay from an original series episode (the first two years being devoted almost exclusively to the teleplays of Rod Serling). In later issues, the magazine printed story treatments and teleplays that were initially rejected or left unused. Among the most interesting items to first see print in the pages of the magazine is George Clayton Johnson's short story "Sea Change," about a sailor whose hand is cut off in an accident and from whose disembodied hand grows a malevolent doppelganger intent on destroying its counterpart. Johnson originally sold the story treatment to The Twilight Zone but the treatment was subsequently shelved on the grounds that its subject matter, especially the cutting off of the hand, was beyond acceptable for the show (the series sponsor, a food vendor, did not want its potential audience to be put off eating its products). Another interesting item was Richard Matheson's teleplay "The Doll." Initially rejected for production by William Froug (under the pretense that it made too many "doll" episodes between Charles Beaumont's fourth season episode "Miniature" and Jerry Sohl's fifth season episode "Living Doll"), Matheson's teleplay was published in the June, 1982 issue of the magazine which led to it later being dramatized on Steven Spielberg's anthology series Amazing Stories for May 4, 1986. Actor John Lithgow (who turned in a memorable performance in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie) 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 fiction writer (and subsequently producing the highly regarded works The Ceremonies and Dark Gods). 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 editorship for the remainder of the magazine's run. Alan Rodgers was associate editor of the magazine as well as editor of its sister publication Night Cry after the departure of Klein.

Each editor favored a slightly different style for the magazine. T.E.D. Klein tailored much of the magazine to feature coverage of the titan horror novelists of the era (King, Straub, Bloch, Saul, etc.) as well as explore the classic period of the genre (roughly the 1890's through the pulps) by including some fine essays on weird fiction authors as diverse as Arthur Machen and L.P. Hartley. Klein also kept an eye firmly on the magazine's namesake, giving author Marc Scott Zicree space to compile his episode guide (later expanded into The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), including teleplays from the series (a feature which would appear and disappear with irregularity under the other editors), and including essays such as George Clayton Johnson's "Writing for the Twilight Zone."

            Micheal Blaine maintained the show-by-show guides (Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, 'Way Out) which became a useful regular feature and continued to focus attention on editorial features such as original essays, reviews, etc., with added attention on current film and television programs. Blaine eschewed the painted covers which characterized Klein's editorship in exchange for images from films and television shows.

            Tappan King brought back painted covers but the space allotted to long-running feature articles and essays began to shrink, with focus sharpening upon original fiction (King's editorship saw perhaps the finest flowering of fiction in the magazine) and film coverage. King re-focused much of the magazine's content on the original series of The Twilight Zone, including the excellent final issue, which was a moving tribute to series writer Charles Beaumont.

             Original fiction and book and film reviews were the constant throughout the magazine's run.  
Cover art by Rosie Mackiewicz
In 1984, a new digest-sized magazine appeared on 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. It wasn't the first time Klein put out an all-fiction special issue. Klein compiled Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, a projected annual volume which only ran a single year (it was released in December, 1982 as a 1983 annual), although it did assume numbering with the magazine (volume 2, number 9) despite not being sent to subscribers. Klein's new fiction digest magazine shortened its title to simply Night Cry and continue as a quarterly periodical that published reprints from TZ Magazine as well as new fiction from some of the brightest talents in dark fantasy. Whereas the fiction in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine encompassed a broad spectrum of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Night Cry devoted itself exclusively to horror and dark fantasy 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. Artist J.K. Potter provided memorable cover and interior art for several issues.

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine: 60 issues

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 (+ Annual)

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: 11 issues

1984- TZ Special #1: Night Cry

1985- Summer, Fall, Winter

1986- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

1987- Spring, Summer, Fall

-We've begun a detailed read-through of the entire run of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, complete with story reviews, artwork, publication information, and trivia. Go here to follow along.

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

-Eating the Fantastic podcast episode 65 by Scott Edelman (an interview with T.E.D. Klein)


Sunday, January 22, 2012


A long way from home.

Season One, Episode 20
Original Air Date: February 19, 1960
Jeremy Wickwire: Cecil Kellaway
Captain James Webber: Kevin Hagen
Peter Kirby: Don Dubbins
Kurt Meyers: Jeff Morrow

Writer: Charles Beaumont (adapted from his story)
Director: Douglas Heyes
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Budd S. Friend
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Joseph Gluck
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Nathan 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.”

         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 stumble upon a farm house and see a man taking a break from the day’s work.  They approach but find that he stares back at them with a blank expression. They enter a town and find 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 a stockpile of ideas but can’t seem to conceive of a rational reason for why everyone is frozen. Even more alarming is their realization that this place is now their home.
         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 they he is frozen like everyone else. To their amazement they find that he can speak and move quite efficiently. 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 an 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 Happy Glades is a peaceful place. A place free from war and destruction and all of the atrocities created by man. And as long as there are men there will be no peace.
Cut to a scene of Jeremy Wickwire inside a spaceship. He is 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.”

       “Elegy” marks the second contribution from Twilight Zone heavyweight Charles Beaumont. 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. I remember that I wrote a paper on it, the premise of which was forgotten probably as soon as I handed it in. But it must have left an impression on me. I remember thinking that this was the most aesthetically enjoyable 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 show, the reason “Elegy” is so vivid is that it’s a reflection of reality, a slideshow of images that are as 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. 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. It seems that Beaumont is attempting to show us how we view ourselves and 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 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.
Misleading android Jeremy Wickwire is played by the great Cecil Kellaway. It was a smart choice for Beaumont to leave Wickwire’s intentions ambiguous. 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 a much darker character. And in the final scene he is back to his 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 close friend 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 no more than a thousand words. 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.
The biggest technical hang-up with this episode was the fact that real actors were hired to portray the human statues in the mortuary. No matter how skilled the actor, it is physically impossible for a person to stand totally motionless. To shoot the tableau scenes director Douglas Heyes knew that he would have to keep the camera moving at all times so that the viewer would never 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 astronauts are seen standing on a bridge. Instead of a filmed shot Heyes, or possibly film editor Joseph Gluck, inserted a noticeably grainy still photograph instead. This may have been a technical oversight never intended to make the final cut.
Although 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

--Director Douglas Heyes directed several additional episodes of the series, including the classic episodes "The After Hours," "The Howling Man," "Eye of the Beholder," and "The Invaders." Heyes wrote three episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Dead Man" (based on the story by Fritz Leiber and which Heyes also directed), "The Housekeeper," and "Brenda" (based on the story by Margaret St. Clair), the latter two being written under the pseudonym Matthew Howard.
--“Elegy" was originally published in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination: Stories of Science and Fantasy. It was also published in William F. Nolan’s science fiction anthology A Sea of Space (Bantam, 1970) as well as 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.

--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

Lt. Fitzgerald: William Reynolds
Capt. Riker: Dick York
Capt. Gunther: Barney Phillips
Colonel: S. John Launer
Smitty: Michael Vandever
Sergeant: William Phipps
Driver of Jeep: Warren Oates
Orderly: Paul Mazursky
Freeman: Marc Cavell
Harmonica Player: Ron Masak

Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Richard L. Bare
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino 
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."

                Lt. Fitzgerald returns to base camp after a mission with an American platoon. He carries with him a list of soldiers injured and soldiers dead. Capt. Riker, Fitzgerald's superior and friend, notices that "Fitz," as Lt. Fitzgerald is known, has taken the casualties on this latest mission 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 four names of the soldiers lost in combat. When pressed, Fitz reveals that he'd written those names a day before the mission, that he'd known who would die. Riker scoffs at the idea that Fitz can foretell an individual's death. Fitz is unable to explain where the ability came from but describes it as a light on the face of the man marked for death. 
                Fearing that his lieutenant and friend may be cracking under the strain of the war, Riker informs the chief medical officer, Captain Gunther, of the situation. Gunther is as skeptical as Riker about the 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 on 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 death warning on Smitty's face moments before the young soldier died. He implores the two 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 of it and insists that when they return from the mission Fitz will see that it has all been a coincidence. Riker, however, takes a moment to leave behind his wedding band along with pictures of his wife and children. 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 the rumors of Fitz's ability to foretell death. He puts it to Fitz to squash 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 and is to pack his bags to report to headquarters. 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 transport vehicle 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.
                Rod Serling used his harrowing experiences with the 11th Airborne Division during WWII to color his writings on the theme of war. Although Richard Matheson, a fellow WWII veteran and author of an exceptional novel of the war, The Beardless Warriors (1960), penned the first war episode, "The Last Flight," and other series writers provided memorable episodes on the theme, the majority of the war-related episodes were penned by Rod Serling. Serling used war as a backdrop upon which to drop an element of fantasy to bring across the general point that war is hell and if it doesn't take a character's life outright, it drastically damages it. Serling's war episodes are character driven, often without the action set-pieces common to war stories and films. The battleground was a stage upon which the characters could act out the particular aspects of human drama that Serling wished to explore. "The Purple Testament" is a powerful meditation on the inevitable relationship between war and death, and was the first of many war episodes in which Serling displayed some of his strongest, character-driven writing.
                William Reynolds (b. 1931) gives an effective, melancholy performance in the lead as the tortured and doomed Lieutenant Fitzgerald. Reynolds worked steadily in films in the 1950s, a genre highlight of which was an appearance in The Land Unknown (1957), with many roles in westerns and police dramas, which largely remained his purview with a move to television in 1957. Reynolds's final work of note was a long-running role on the series The F.B.I. 
              Twilight Zone repeat performers Dick York (1928-1992) and Barney Phillips (1913-1982) give strong acting support, with York able to largely shed his innate quirkiness with a grave, gruff countenance. York later put his talent for quirky humor to great use on the second season episode "A Penny for Your Thoughts." Barney Phillips appeared in the second season episode "A Thing About Machines" and the fourth season episode "Miniature," but is undoubtedly best-remembered for his appearance in the second season episode "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" in which Phillips portrayed a fry cook who reveals himself to be an alien with a third eye. 

             "The Purple Testament" suffers from a thin premise and is mainly a collection of circular dialogue leading to an inevitable climax. Still, the dialogue, always the strongest aspect of Serling's scripts, is certainly evocative of character and elicits a strong emotional performance from the actors who, fortunately, possess the skill to bring it off. The simplicity of the premise actually works in the episode's favor as The Twilight Zone was always more interested in the effects of a fantasy element upon the characters than with overwrought explanations or scientific explorations of the fantasy element. The Twilight Zone was far more comfortable exploring the effect of something extraordinary upon an ordinary individual. The viewer is given a character they can relate to and a convincing reality then set up to watch both unravel in a strange and often terrifying way.
                Despite the use of stock footage for the brief battle sequences, Richard L. Bare's direction contains 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 sign of his own impending doom.
                Serling's other WWII themed episodes include the second season opener, "King Nine Will Not Return," and the third season's "A Quality of Mercy." Serling also tackled the Civil War in "The Passersby" and "Still Valley," the latter an adaptation of a Manly Wade Wellman's "The Valley Was Still," the Vietnam War in "In Praise of Pip," and several times explore the drama of a man-made doomsday, in "Time Enough At Last," based on the story by Lynn Venable, "The Shelter," and "The Old Man in the Cave," based on the story by Henry Slesar. It is interesting to note that actor Dean Stockwell was originally cast as Lieutenant Fitzgerald but pulled out of the episode, leaving the role open for William Reynolds. Stockwell returned to the series and put in an excellent performance in the third season episode "A Quality of Mercy," another WWII-themed character study scripted by Serling.

               An interesting story connected with this episode is that William Reynolds and director Richard L. Bare were involved in a plane crash on February 12, 1960, the original air date of "The Purple Testament." Flying back to Miami after filming the series pilot The Islander for MGM, the engines failed on a small passenger plane carrying five people. 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. Reynolds later recounted that although Cayuga Productions agreed not to 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 airing an episode in which he featured as a man who foresees his own death 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 find a clear thematic niche for his scripts during a first season in which the series attempted virtually every type of fantasy story. As said before, others produced war-themed episodes for the series but this type of story on The Twilight Zone was truly the province of Rod Serling.

Grade: C

-Dick York also starred in the second season episode "A Penny For Your Thoughts."
-Warren Oates also appeared in the fifth season episode "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms."
-Barney Phillips appeared in three additional episodes, the second season's "A Thing About Machines" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" as well as the fourth season episode "Miniature."
-Serling erroneously attributes the line of Shakespeare in his closing narration to Richard III when it is actually taken from Richard II.
-“The Purple Testament” was adapted into a short story by Walter B. Gibson for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited (Grosset & Dunlap, 1964). 
-"The Purple Testament" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Michael Rooker. 

--Jordan Prejean