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

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

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.”


            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.” 

            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 (
-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

--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.



  1. This one sounds like a real dud. I got excited when I saw the air date, since it's the day I was born, but other than that it doesn't look memorable.

  2. A dud is about right. Just an unremarkable episode whose themes were better staged in other episodes. Still, it's cool to have your birthday coincide with a Zone episode broadcast.

  3. And Jacqueline Scott is also known for her several appearances over the years as Dr. Richard Kimble's sister in The Fugitive.