The Twilight Zone
Season 5 (B&W)

Starring: Rod Serling, William Shatner, Telly Savalas and Dame Gladys Cooper
Classic TV / 2entertain
RRP: 59.99
Certificate: 12
Available 13 November 2006

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone...

There can be few people who consider themselves as either interested in good television drama or science fiction fans who haven't heard of The Twilight Zone. Even today, some thirty odd years later, the vast majority of the stories still remain fresh and engaging. The narration and title music is usually enough to send a shiver down the back.

The anthology series was conceived, overseen and often written by the absurdly talented Rod Serling. Apart from Serling, the show utilised some of the best writing talent available at the time leading to a high level of imaginative television that few, if any, show could match, either now or then.

This six disc box set represents the last season of the show and given that it was in its fifth year (1963), when most shows are starting to flag, it's good to see that The Twilight Zone was able to keep the quality going right to the last episode - and was able to throw a few classic stories in for good measure. The general format for the show was to set up a slightly odd scenario, pull the audience down one thread and then turn the whole thing around with a twist at the end, each show ran for twenty-five minutes.

There are way too many stories to give an in-depth look at each, so we will skirt through the titles with a heads up on some of the interesting points and I'll look at the ones I most enjoyed.

Disc one starts with In Praise of Pip, which not only stars a very young, pre Lost in Space Bill Mumy, but also comes with a very nice commentary by him. Kudos to Bill, who has never had a problem in supporting the genre that paid his bills. The show starred Jack Klugman (Quincy) and Mumy as the young Pip.

Steel stars Lee Marvin as a washed up boxing manager who is trying to make a living with his beat up and decrepit robot.

Next up should be every Trekkies favourite as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet stars William Shatner as a man, recovering from a breakdown who thinks he sees gremlins tearing up the plane he's on. To be honest, Shatner's pretty good in this. As his anxiety and paranoia increases he drags the audience along with him, screaming at the flight crew that something is really really wrong. The show comes with an audio lecture by the great man (Serling) himself, though one by Shatner would also have been interesting.

Last up on the first disc is A Kind of Stopwatch, which could be seen as a progenitor of films such as Click. If, for some reason, you could get your hands on an instrument that could truly stop time what would you do with it? Well, the answer to that is pretty much anything you like. We'll skip over the problem of suffocating, as there is no air movement, for dramas sake.

Moving on to disc two we find Probe 7, Over and Out which stars Richard Basehart, better known as Admiral Nelson from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Although written by Serling the episode is a little lacklustre. Adam Cook crashes on a planet whose only other inhabitant is Eve Norda. And given those names I don't think that I have to spell out the plot.

The 7th is Made up of Phantoms picks the pace up with a modern day military unit finding themselves in the middle of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Film fans should look out for a young Warren Oates playing Richard Langsford before his inclusion in one of the most violent films ever made, The Wild Bunch (1969).

A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain and once again we discover that there is no such thing as a new idea as we pose the question, just what would you do to recover your youth? Dumplings anybody.

Last up on this disc is Ninety Years without Slumbering, starring Ed Wynn, who played the rather dotty old man in Mary Poppins who sang about his love of laughing. In this story an old man is convinced that if his grandfather clock stops he will die.

So, heads down and we plough into disc three with The Self Improvement of Salvadore Ross, which is a slice of surreal madness in which a low life attempts to win the hand of a fair maiden, but you know some things are just not meant to be.

Number 12 Looks Just Like You has a commentary by Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion - and very knowledgeable he is. The show examines the concept of uniformity.

Black Leather Jackets and ok I'll hold my hand up and say that this story is a real duffer. The idea of aliens taking over a motorcycle gang is just too absurd to be taken seriously, but to be fair; the anthology produced way more great shows than duffers.

Last up, if you have recovered from Black Leather Jacket, is Nightcall and this sucker will scare the hell out of you as an old woman keeps receiving late night creepy calls, but where are they coming from?

On the fourth disc we discover that nicking ideas continues unabated with Queen of the Nile - just watch this then watch Death Becomes Her. A young reporter wants to know what actress could play Cleopatra in both silent films and talkies, but this is The Twilight Zone so you just know that he's not going to like the answer.

What's in the Box proves that you should never annoy the TV repair man, as you just might see all your dirty secrets on the screen.

The Masks comes with a commentary by Alan Sues who plays Wilfred Harper, Jr, in the show. The story examines the idea of masks which show what the user is really like inside.

Last up is I am the Night Color me Black which shows just how much evil, people will allow to fuel their own personal desires and ambitions.

Disc five and, for any that haven't given in to Twilight Zone OD, we have a rather odd story called Stopover in a Quite Town where a young couple, a little worse for wear after a party, find themselves waking up in a deserted town.

The Encounter and its another one for the Trekkies as George Takei (Sulu) plays a Japanese gardener stuck in a loft with an American veteran of the war. After the usual accusations and recriminations they come to an understanding that the war had effected them both equally.

Mr Garrity and the Graves sees The Twilight Zone moving into comedy with the dubious premise that the dead returning from the grave isn't always what you might have wanted.

Closing this disc is The Brain Centre at Whipples which is directed by Richard Donner (Superman and Lethal Weapon) and looks at the age old question of just how far are computers going to replace us?

The last disc is essentially an extras disc as it contains interviews with Bill Mumy, Richard Matheson, June Foray, Carolyn Kearney and George Clayton Johnson. As you can imagine they, in their various ways, sing the praises of the show and why not? It was, without a doubt, the best science fiction anthology show ever produced.

Given the age of the show the print is very clear though the show remains in its original mono. Still, who needs a showy soundscapes when you have good solid story telling?

Charles Packer

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