Television Report: The Twilight Zone Volume 19

Book coverThis is the second volume of this collection that I’ve watched this month (the first was Volume 6). I’m clearly not watching them in order–well, it will become obvious when I finish the next volume and its number is not higher than 19–but this set of DVDs does not really have the episodes in any order, either, skipping through the seasons–and seemingly focusing on later seasons.

This disc contains:

  • “A Most Unusual Camera” wherein a couple of two-bit thieves knock over an antique store only to come up with cheap knock-offs, but they do discover something–a camera that takes photos a few minutes into the future. They figure out a way to monetize it–take it to the horse racing track and take a picture of the winner board before the race is run. They make a pile of money, but end up getting–their just desserts? In a totally tacked on twist.
  • “The Jungle”, wherein a project engineer who has been to Africa to scope out a hydroelectric project finds that his wife has become very superstitious, and they fear the magick of the shamans in a tribe opposed to the project. After a night at a bar, he has to walk home after car trouble and finds New York City turning into a jungle around him.
  • “The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms” wherein a National Guard tank crew finds itself on the path to the Battle of Little Bighorn with past events occurring to them in the present–or have they gone back to the past? This one ends with them cocking their modern weapons and charging down a hill into the battle. Which seems like a tactically poor decision. I mean, they abandon the tank and then do not use cover or concealment to approach but run down the hill close together. Maybe they taught things differently in the National Guard in the 1960s.
  • “Uncle Simon”, where a shrewish niece takes care of her wealthy but abusive uncle but is prohibited from entering his lab. When she accidentally kills him, she discovers that the will says she must take care of her uncle’s creation: a robot that comes more and more to resemble her uncle in its abusive behavior toward her.

So it’s a little better than Volume 6 in that it’s not both formulaic and sharing very similar topics, but by the end of the original series, Serling’s well must have been running dry and the stories were but a single quick DUN DUN DUH! at the end away from things you’d have seen on other programs in other genres.

I guess that’s the real story arc of most open-ended television series: they start out with imagination and promise, and after a couple of seasons the grind of producing a weekly show and probably network penny-pinching leads to weakened episodes and related viewer disappointment, ratings drops, and cancellation. I guess with modern television, they have a story arc to carry through a series, but the related knock is that they pad that story arc out with insignifica to fill a whole season.

At any rate, these programs are 60 years old at this point and can still hold my interest, although they don’t necessarily inspire me to speculative fiction as much as reading about them did.

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