Thursday, February 26, 2009

Going to the zone. The Twilight Zone.

I really enjoy the hour long episodes of The Twilight Zone. Certainly they are slow: they lack the punch of the better half hour episodes. But the longer format allows for deeper exploration of theme.

"He's Alive" features Dennis Hopper playing a would-be fascist with convincing emotional vulnerability. It ends with a haunting and eloquent image: a moving shadow of Adolf Hitler, as Rod Serling talks about the spirit of Hitler being kept alive wherever there is prejudice, hatred and bigotry. He is alive, Serling tells us, because we keep him alive.

"Valley of the Shadow" is really interesting. A reporter stumbles upon a ubiquitous creepy small town to find they have the power to manipulate matter, a power that could end disease and hunger. They must keep it a secret, however, until the world is ready to live in peace. Great scientific discoveries, the mayor tells the reporter, have been used for violence and destruction--this scientific knowledge too could destroy the world. The reporter and the mayor are able to have intriguing conversations about ends and means. If the townspeople would justify killing the reporter as an evil means to a good end, are they any better than the warmongering world outside Peaceful Valley? The town withholds the scientific knowledge that could be used for evil, but withholding the science also means letting people in the world suffer and die--are the townspeople, too, weighing means and ends? The episode features explicit and implicit exploration of peace and of freedom.

Many of the half-hour episodes feature rather ham-fisted theme; the longer format allows for deeper reflection, and even for something The Twilight Zone isn't known for: subtlety.


  1. Anonymous6:20 PM

    I hope you enjoy exploring theme further as you watch the 79 episodes that are taking up memory on the DVR right now... :)

  2. Anonymous5:25 PM

    I've been watching Alfred Hitcock Presents on Netflix. I don't know if that's relevant to this post about the Twilight Zone, but it's something.