Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"The Changing of the Guard"

Professor Ellis Fowler (Donald Pleasence) and the
students of the Vermont Rock Springs School for Boys

“The Changing of the Guard”
Season Three, Episode 102
Original Air Date: June 1, 1962

Professor Ellis Fowler: Donald Pleasence
Headmaster: Liam Sullivan
Mrs. Landers: Philippa Bevans
Artie Beachcroft: Tom Lowell
Bartlett: Russell Horton
Dickie Weiss: Buddy Hart
Graham: Bob Biheller
Butler: Kevin O’Neal
Boy: Jimmy Baird
Boy: Kevin Jones
Thompson: Darryl Richard
Rice: James Browning
Hudson: Pat Close
Whiting: Dennis Kerlee

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Robert Ellis Miller
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merril Pye
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Keogh Gleason
Make Up: William Tuttle
Assistant Director: E. Darrel Hallenbeck
Casting: Robert Walker
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: Stock
Optical Effects: Pacific Title
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagles Clothes
Filmed at M.G.M. Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling
“Next week on the Twilight Zone, Mr. Donald Pleasence, visiting us from Broadway, brings his exceptional talents to a very special program. The story of an aging schoolmaster who finds some faith, some hope, and some mending glue for a few shattered dreams. But he finds it in that strange manner unique in the shadow regions of the Twilight Zone. Next week Donald Pleasence stars in “The Changing of the Guard.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Professor Ellis Fowler, a gentle, bookish guide to the young, who is about to discover that life still has certain surprises, and that the campus of the Rock Spring School for Boys lies on a direct path to another institution, commonly referred to as the Twilight Zone.”


            Professor Ellis Fowler is an elderly English teacher at the prestigious Rock Spring School for Boys, a position he has held for over half a century. After saying goodbye to his last class of the fall semester, Professor Fowler is summoned to the headmaster’s office before leaving for the winter break. The headmaster, a young well-to-do man, reluctantly informs the professor that the school’s board of trustees have voted not to renew his contract for the Spring. They feel that someone younger may be more beneficial to the students. Fowler leaves speechless. 
At home that evening he spends his time flipping through old yearbooks and remembering the hundreds of students who have graced his classroom, some of which never made it to adulthood. He wonders how many of his students remember him. He thinks of all the years he spent repeating lines of poetry to bored and indifferent faces and feels foolish. He informs his housekeeper that he is going for a walk and wanders out into the night. After he leaves she discovers an empty gun holster in his desk drawer.
              Professor Fowler makes his way to a deserted campus and finds himself in front of a statue of Horace Mann. He remarks to the famous educator that he has won no victory for humanity. As he raises the barrel of his pistol to his temple Fowler hears class bells ringing. Curious, he walks off to investigate.
            He eventually finds himself in an empty classroom. Before he has a chance to get a hold of his senses he sees a room full of students materialize out of nothing right before his eyes. He recognizes each of them. They are former students from various classes throughout the years. And they are all dead. Each student tells him of the enormous impact that he has had on their lives. The professor is moved to tears.
            He returns home in better spirits and tells his housekeeper that he is looking forward to retirement. He has made his mark and is ready to turn the reigns over to someone else. As he settles in for the night he hears Christmas carolers outside his window. He opens the window to find his students gathered on the lawn. They wish him a Merry Christmas and continue on their way. The professor closes the window and smiles, content with the victory he has won for humanity.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Professor Ellis Fowler, teacher, who discovered rather belatedly something of his own value. A very small scholastic lesson, from the campus of the Twilight Zone.”


            To close out the third season of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling penned this incredibly warm, moving story that seems to foreshadow many of the events that were to happen in his life in the coming years. While The Twilight Zone always held a dedicated fan base it was never a strong candidate when it came to ratings due likely to the fact that it was a fantasy program. The show lived in constant fear of cancellation and at the end of its third season, after failing to attract a new sponsor after the departure of Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, it finally found itself off the air. It would cease to broadcast new episodes for the next seven months until it was brought as a mid-season replacement, unseating the very program that had replaced it. This temporary hiatus would have a lasting impact on the show and its creators. Long-time producer Buck Houghton, faced with the possibility of sudden unemployment, would reluctantly leave the show as would other important figures of the show’s production crew including film editors Bill Mosher and Jason Bernie and assistant director E. Darrel Hallenbeck. As for Serling, the constant grind of writing the bulk of the show’s scripts as well as acting as host and executive producer had taken an enormous creative toll. At the end of the 1961-62 season he accepted a teaching at his alma mater, Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, thousands of miles away from Los Angeles, leaving incoming producer Hebert Hirschman with the task of resurrecting the show largely by himself. So when CBS did bring The Twilight Zone back in January of 1963 it may have resembled its former self in many ways but it was, without question, a noticeably different show.


Rod Serling’s “The Changing of the Guard”

            When first viewing “The Changing of the Guard” the influence of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is immediately noticeable given its celebration of the common man and the promise that no one goes unnoticed or unloved in life. The fact that this episode, which aired in June, take places around Christmas is probably not a coincidence but a deliberate nod to Capra’s classic holiday film. It should come as no surprise that Serling would be influenced by a storyteller like Capra for his films possess the same brand of empathy found in much of Serling’s work. Capra believed in humanity and the overlying message found throughout his body of work is simply that every human being has value and therefore has the right to feel valuable. This maxim seems to have greatly appealed to Serling for much of his work concerns the forgotten members of society: the misunderstood alcoholic with a heart of gold, the convict who is unjustly punished, the aging man who has suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar world. Like Capra, Serling seemed to possess a genuine affection for these types of characters and often awarded them a second chance at life as he does for Professor Fowler here. The theme of moral forgiveness appears in many of his Twilight Zone scripts including “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” “The Night of the Meek” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” all Capra-esque episodes with unlikely heroes similar to Professor Fowler. But his dedication to the downtrodden of the world is found throughout his work from early teleplays like Requiem for a Heavyweight and Old MacDonald Had a Curve to episodes of his western series, The Loner, and even in several of his scripts for Night Gallery—an unapologetically macabre series—including the Emmy-nominated “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”
            Serling’s empathetic relationship with his lowly protagonists was more than just his preaching of the humanist gospel. Serling was, above anything else, an autobiographical writer. No matter the setting or premise of a story Serling’s personality was always present and many of his heroes were simply extensions of himself. It seems safe to assume that Professor Fowler represents many of Serling’s fears as a writer even though he would later claim that he felt this episode was too sentimental. These fears would only grow as he grew older. In the years after The Twilight Zone, as the counter-culture movement flourished and television began to change, Serling saw the medium that he helped create more or less move on without him. The live dramas of the previous decade were gone, The Loner was canceled after a single season, many of his series ideas went unrealized, Night Gallery turned out to be an unpleasant experience for him, and his career as a screenwriter never quite progressed the way his television career had. In later years he often told interviewers that his work would likely be forgotten and that to simply be remembered as a writer would be sufficient enough. Time has proven him wrong and the fact that he allows Fowler a second chance at happiness in an attempt to remind his fellow man to simply treat one another with dignity and respect is probably the hallmark of his career as a writer, one which earned him six Emmy Awards for writing, a record he holds to this day. Ironically, given his fame as a writer, his epitaph simply reads RODMAN E. SERLING, TEC5 U.S. ARMY, WORLD WAR II in reference to his military rank as Technician 5th Class in the United States Army.
             Poetry plays an important role in “The Changing of the Guard." But the poems Serling includes are not chosen at random nor were they poems anyone in a 1960’s television audience would necessarily recognize. The first poem mentioned, recited in-full by Donald Pleasence in the first scene of the episode, is from English poet A.E. Housman’s (1859-1936) 1896 collection A Shropshire Lad. “Poem XIII,” commonly referred to by its opening line, “When I was One and Twenty,” basically recounts a young protagonist’s encounter with a presumably older, wiser man at the age of twenty-one who tells him that falling in love has consequences that are not repaired as easily as losing money or material possessions, advice the young protagonist ignores. One year later, now a victim of a broken heart, the speaker regrets his ignorance. Fowler’s recitation of the poem to his young students reflects the old sage’s advice to the protagonist and the theme of the poem also foreshadows Fowler’s heartbreak at having the thing he loves most, teaching, be taken away from him. Serling also may have included it as many of the poems in A Shropshire Lad pay tribute to English soldiers who lost their lives at a young age as a reference to Fowler’s students who also died young. As Fowler recites this to the class the camera pans slowly across the classroom of boys, some fiddling restlessly, some starring vacantly into thin air, all naive and inexperienced much like the protagonists of the poem. Pleasence gives a fantastic rendition of the poem and this ends up being a really powerful moment in the episode.
          The two other poems Serling includes are mentioned during the second classroom scene and are recited by the ghosts of Fowler’s former students. The first is American minister Howard Arnold Walter’s (1883-1918) poem “My Creed,” commonly referred to by its opening line “I Would be True,” first published in 1906. Serling includes the first four lines which are read by Russell Horton who plays a young man who gave his life for the cause of medical research. The poem is a testament to being brave and honest in the face of adversity.
The last poem mentioned is John Donne’s (1572-1631) “No Man is an Island.” First published in 1624 in his collection of religious essays, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Donne actually wrote this as part of a much larger essay called Meditation XVII. The short passage that has become so famous is commonly referred to by either its opening phrase, “No man is an island” or its closing phrase, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” often recited as “ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” It basically suggests that every person is part of a larger fabric of humanity and therefore what effects one person’s life inadvertently effects all of humanity. The second half of the passage is recited here by actor Buddy Hart who plays Dickie Weiss, a Naval officer who was onboard the Arizona and who became the first person killed at Pearl Harbor while rescuing his crewmates—Serling’s reference here is perhaps a little over the top but the message still resonates. Audiences at the time might have recognized Hart as he had a reoccurring role on Leave It to Beaver. He later changed his name to Buddy Joe Hooker and went on to enjoy an enormously successful career as a stunt coordinator. This last poem is probably the best known of the three mentioned in the episode and one Serling likely admired.
             Much should be said about Donald Pleasence’s performance as Professor Ellis Fowler for it is as moving and honest as any the show ever produced. It should be noted that Pleasence was only forty-three at the time of this episode. He is not only given the task of convincingly portraying a man who is at least in his late seventies, but he must then affectionately charm the audience into liking this old man so that they care about what happens to him. He manages to accomplish both jobs flawlessly. In order to appear physically older, Pleasence wore aging make-up and a facial hair prosthetic designed by make-up artist William Tuttle whose work is famously featured in numerous episodes throughout the series. Even with heavy make-up Pleasence fully realizes the transformation through physical mannerisms, altered speech patterns, and improvisation with the dialogue. He captures the joy and gratification Fowler feels as a teacher and the bleakness and despair that washes over him after he is made to feel like his contributions were worthless.
            This was Donald Pleasence’s first appearance on American television. He had already enjoyed success in his native England both on the stage and on the big and small screens. While he was known for being gentle and soft-spoken, Pleasence enjoyed playing malevolent characters. When he was cast as the bookish Professor Fowler, Pleasence had just spent an entire year playing the role of Davies, an incredibly unlikable character, in Harold Pinter’s play The Caregiver, first in London and then on Broadway. The role earned him a Tony Award nomination, the first of four, and he revived the role for a film version, The Guest, in 1963. Pleasence would make a name for himself playing seedy, vicious characters and enjoy a successful and highly prolific career in a variety of mediums. His film roles include The Great Escape (1963), Dr. Crippen (1963), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Dracula (1979), and Escape from New York (1981). He was well-known among horror fans and appeared in numerous independent films, mostly anthologies, from American International Pictures, Amicus Productions and others including Circus of Horrors (1960), From Beyond the Grave (1974), The Uncanny (1977), and The Monster Club (1981). He appeared in episodes of One Step Beyond, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theatre and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Defection of Simas Kudirka in 1978. The two roles he is most known for, however, are as Bond villain Ernest Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) and as Dr. Samuel Loomis in the original Halloween film series. Before becoming an actor Pleasence served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force during World War II and was taken captive by German forces after his plane was shot down over France. He remained a prisoner of war for almost two years before being released. Pleasence died in 1995 at the age of seventy-five.
           Making his only contribution to The Twilight Zone is director Robert Ellis Miller. Miller began his career in television directing many episodes of the live drama series of the 1950’s and was a regular director for The Donna Reed Show. In the late 1960’s he made the transition to directing feature films, mostly romantic comedies, including Sweet November (1968), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and The Buttercup Chain (1970). Ellis does a fine job on “The Changing of the Guard” and he reacts to the performances of the actors really well, as in the aforementioned opening scene where Pleasence reads the Housman poem. The scene between Fowler and the headmaster is also particularly moving. His most noticeable contribution to the episode, however, is the second classroom scene featuring the ghosts of Fowler’s students. To “summon” the ghosts he has an image of the actors sitting at their desks with their head down gradually appear onscreen. Once in real time, they pick their heads up and look directly into the camera, or directly at Fowler. This is before the audience is made aware of the well-meaning intentions of the ghosts and the effect is appropriately eerie and convincing.


Rod Serling, Horace Mann, and Education

            The idea that Ellis Fowler is, at least to some degree, an extension of Serling’s personality is further solidified by the fact that Serling makes his hero an educator, at a school that prominently displays a statue of education pioneer Horace Mann, a hero of Seling’s and the founder of Serling’s alma mater Antioch College, where Serling would soon be a faculty member. Education was clearly important to Serling and he had a great admiration for teachers. He spoke fondly of the teachers who had made an impact on him particularly his public speaking teacher at West Junior High in Binghampton, Helen Foley. Foley’s encouragement had a profound impact on him and the two became life-long friends. Serling even named the main character from his season one Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare as a Child” after Foley.
            Before becoming a writer Serling thought he wanted to be a teacher himself. After returning home from World War II, Serling enrolled in Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio as a physical education major. He soon changed it to language and literature. Serling found that writing offered a therapeutic outlet which helped him process the psychological trauma of combat and allowed him to learn more about himself. Serling saw Antioch as a haven of unrestricted self-expression, a place where he was encouraged to question things he felt were wrong with the world in which he lived. Not long after he began writing Serling became the head of the Antioch Broadcasting System’s radio program where he wrote, directed, and acted in weekly productions. In 1949 he made his first professional sale to the Dr. Christian radio show where his radio play “To Live a Dream” placed second in the annual script writing contest. In many ways Antioch was the place where Rod Serling the writer was born.
While still a student Serling came to admire the life of the school’s founder, American politician and education reformer Horace Mann (1796-1859). Mann was one of the first prominent advocates of universal, tax-funded public education. Born into poverty, he went on to graduate valedictorian from Brown University and held positions in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. He was an early advocate of gender equality, state-funded mental health facilities, the separation of church and state, and an outspoken opponent of slavery. Education, however, was always his priority. “A republic,” he said, “cannot long remain ignorant and free, hence the necessity of universal popular education…such education is best provided in schools embracing children of all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds.” In 1853, Mann became the first president of Antioch College, the first non-sectarian, coeducational college in the United States. During Mann’s six years as president, Antioch became the first college to appoint a female to its faculty with the same rank and pay as her male coworkers. He also kept tuition at a rate affordable for students, something that almost caused the school to close after the Christian Connexion withdrew its funding. The college enrolled students of all races, religions, and financial backgrounds. In his 1859 commencement address Mann delivered the phrase which he would forever be associated with and which Serling includes in “The Changing of the Guard”

"Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity."

Mann collapsed not long after the ceremony and died a few months later. Today he is considered a pioneering social activist and the father of American public education.
            It should come as no surprise that Serling was an admirer of Horace Mann for their principles are very much the same. Serling mentions Mann in his lectures and in several of his teleplays. In an early teleplay for NBC’s Hallmark Hall of Fame titled “Horace Mann’s Miracle” Serling recounts Mann’s struggle to keep Antioch from closing its doors in financial ruin after losing most of its funding. The half-hour drama aired on March 8, 1953. It was directed by Albert McCleery and stars Frank M. Thomas as Mann.
            Serling told interviewers at the time that his official title at Antioch would be “writer in residence.” During his brief time at the college from September, 1962 to January, 1963 Serling taught two classes. One was an open enrollment survey course for undergraduates about the history of the Media. The other was an evening course called Writing in the Dramatic Form. Enrollment for this course was by invitation only and was intended for graduate students or individuals just beginning their careers as writers. Jeanne Marshall was an aspiring writer at the time and was a student in the evening class. She kept detailed notes of each class period, noting the films they watched, assignments they were given, and Serling’s book and film recommendations. If you are interested, all twenty-three pages of her notes are available on the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website. It is interesting that while he clearly needed a break from The Twilight Zone his choice for in-class viewing material suggested otherwise. Serling screens around half a dozen episodes of the show throughout the semester including “The Changing of the Guard.” Among the numerous books Marshall lists as recommended by Serling are Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, works by Gore Vidal and Paddy Chayefsky and The Beardless Warriors by Richard Matheson. It should be noted that several of the students who attended the course, including Marshall, went on to make a career for themselves as writers. Serling even helped future television writer Sue Clauser sell her first two teleplays to Bonanza.
            Serling’s trial run as a teacher was short-lived. Not long after he moved to Ohio CBS greenlit the fourth season of The Twilight Zone which would debut in January as a mid-season replacement. So in January of 1963 Serling and family moved back to California. This was not the last time he would don the teacher’s hat. Serling began to lecture at college campuses across the country. He held film screenings at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College in Hollywood where he would often screen episodes of The Twilight Zone. He was a founding member of the Famous School for Writers. In the late 1960’s, Serling took another teaching position this time at Ithaca College near his home in Ithaca, New York. He is said to have found this job peaceful and rewarding. He continued to teach at Ithaca until his death in 1975.


The End of Season Three

            The reason The Twilight Zone went off the air is because Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, who had sponsored the show since the beginning of the third season, chose not to renew their sponsorship due to CBS’s decision to move the show from its original time-slot of Fridays at 10:00 pm to Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. They did not think the audience would follow them to the earlier time and they were probably correct. The Twilight Zone was too weird to be placed in the middle of the primetime lineup next to situational comedies. When the show failed to find a new sponsor in time for production to begin on the fourth season they found themselves off the air. Something similar happened at the end of the first season but popular demand managed to keep the show on the air. This time they weren’t so lucky.
            Unfortunately, many members of the show’s production crew found themselves at the risk of potential unemployment. Many could not afford to wait it out, so they submitted their resumes elsewhere. In total the show lost nine members of its production crew, several of which had been there since the beginning. The biggest blow to the show, however, was the departure of long-time producer Buck Houghton, who was a fundamental part of the show’s success. Not able to wait around for a decision from CBS, Houghton accepted a position working for Four Star Productions working on The Richard Boone Show at NBC. He had produced 101 episodes of the show, had won the award for Best Produced Series from the Producer’s Guild of America, and had helped create a landmark piece of television history. With so many new faces it’s no surprise that the show would look and feel different going into the fourth season and its seems appropriate that the new season have a different format and a different name—the show dropped the definite “the” from its title and would now be known simply as Twilight Zone.
            As for Serling, his time in Yellow Springs was not the rejuvenating refuge he had hoped it would be. Serling had the type of personality that had to remain in motion all the time. If he found himself with downtime he would invent another project for himself. In addition to his two classes at Antioch, while in Yellow Springs Rod was also writing the screenplay for Seven Days in May and writing scripts for The Twilight Zone, which were now twice as long. He also had to fly back to Los Angeles periodically to film his onscreen introductions for the show and to meet with producer Herbert Hirschman. He also briefly hosted a movie series on WBNS in Columbus called 10 O’clock Theatre. So when he returned to Los Angeles in January he was still fatigued and frustrated which unfortunately would affect much of his writing for the show for the remainder of its existence.


Moving On

            Even if The Twilight Zone had ended after just three seasons Serling and company could have walked away from it with a sense of accomplishment. The 102 television episodes they produced in just under three years are some of the finest pieces of drama ever committed to film. “The Changing of the Guard” would have made an appropriate swan song to the series for it unabashedly embraces Serling’s sentimentalism and celebrates the value of human beings. But the show did continue. And despite the uneven quality of the fourth and fifth seasons, some fine episodes were still to come.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement to the following:

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling by Anne Serling (Citadel Press, 2013)

The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (Second Edition, 1989)

The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR Publishing, 2008)

Rod Serling Teaches Writing: Jeanne Marshall's Seminar Notes, 1962-63 arranged and annotated by Jeanne Marshall; Rod Serling Memorial Foundation

“The Radio Career of Rod Serling” by Martin Grams, Jr.; Old Time Radio Researchers Group

“Fading into the Twilight Zone?” TV Guide (Summer, 1963); Rod Serling Memorial Foundation

--Liam Sullivan also appeared in the season two episode “The Silence.”
--Russell Horton also appeared in the season five episode “In Praise of Pip.”
--Check out the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Twilight Zone alumni Orson Bean.

Illustration by Jim Harter which accompanied Anne Serling's
adaptation of "The Changing of the Guard" from the February 1985 issue of
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine 

--“The Changing of the Guard” was adapted into a short story by Serling’s daughter Anne Serling which first appeared in the January/February 1985 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. It was reprinted later that year in two anthologies: The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories, published by MJF Books and edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Richard Matheson, and Charles G. Waugh and Young Ghosts, published by Harper and Row and edited by Isaac Asimov, Greenberg, and Waugh.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 7

In which we take a closer look at each issue of the magazine. For our capsule history, go here. 

Volume 1, number 7 (October, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Art: Tito Solomoni (for “Offices” by Chet Williamson)

TZ Publications
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Theodore Sturgeon
Editorial Assistant: Marc Stecker
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Asst.: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing Mgr.: Jerry Alexander
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer, N. Hollywood, CA
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Mgr.: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.


--In the Twilight Zone: “Wonders Never Cease” by T.E.D. Klein
--Publisher’s Note by Carol Serling
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson by James H. Burns
--“Out of Place” by Pamela Sargent
--“Shootout in the Toy Shop” by Robert Sheckley
--“Zeke” by Timothy Robert Sullivan
--“The Burden of Indigo” by Gene O’Neill
--“Sea Change” by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Screen Preview: The Beast Within by Robert Martin
--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories, Part III by Kurt Van Helsing (T.E.D. Klein)
--“Offices” by Chet Williamson
--“The Tear Collector” by Donald Olson
--“The Great Elvis Presley Look-Alike Murder Mystery” by Mick Farren
--“Paintjob” by Jay Rothbell
--The Twilight Zone: The Third Season by Marc Scott Zicree
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Seven by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Big, Tall Wish” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In November’s TZ . . .

--In the Twilight Zone: Wonders never cease . . .
-Klein’s editorial column follows standard procedure for this issue, brief bios of the contributing writers along with their thumbnail images. Klein calls attention to the fact that Marc Scott Zicree’s guide to the series no long has to rely upon publicity images for each episode as the dean and students at the Ithaca College School of Communication have sent the magazine images from the episodes taken from the school’s Rod Serling Archive.

--Publisher’s Note by Carol Serling
-This is Serling’s first return since the premier issue and she uses the occasion to share some of the encouraging letters the magazine offices have received since the publication began, as well as promote the magazine’s new short story contest.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
-In a change of pace, Sturgeon looks at fewer titles than usual and uses the majority of the column to trumpet John Crowley’s novel Little, Big, which Sturgeon describes this way: “More than five hundred pages, and when you reach the end, you mourn that there are no more, and you deeply envy those who have yet to read it; you wish you could be a fly on the wall to watch their surprise and delight as they turn these magic leaves.”

-Sturgeon also briefly looks at Stephen Englehart’s The Point Man (“as exciting a slam-banger as you’ll find this year”), Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1980 by Jerry Boyajian and Kenneth R. Johnson (“the editors are convinced that magazines are still where the action is, and so am I”), and War Games by Karl Hansen, perfect if “your thing is battle, sex, violence, and hardcore sf all at once.” Sturgeon ends the column by wishing congratulations to Donald A. Wollheim on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Wollheim’s DAW Books.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson takes the opposite approach of Sturgeon and increases the number of films he looks at in this issue from his usual two to four. Wilson takes a brief look at Escape from New York (1981, director: John Carpenter), Outland (1981, director: Peter Hyams), Superman II (1980, director: Richard Lester), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, director: Steven Spielberg).

-The only film Wilson dislikes on an artistic level is Superman II, which Wilson believes fails to capture the relatively innocent feel of the original comic books, mainly though the film’s use of realistic violence. Superman II suffered from a troubled production which saw Twilight Zone director Richard Donner, who helmed the first film, exit the production. In recent years, a “Richard Donner Cut” of the film has been released.

-Wilson’s takeaway from Escape from New York and Outland is the inherent bleakness of each film, as the directors of those films present our voyage into the future and into space as violent, cruel, and dominated by the machinations of big business. Wilson is more pleased with Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he views chiefly through the lens of nostalgia, though he cheapens the film by not recognizing the artistry which separates the film from its admitted source material, the Saturday serial matinee. Hindsight is 20/20, however, and the film has gone on to be considered a classic of the adventure film.

--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson, Spinning fantasy from daily life
By James H. Burns
-The concluding half of Burns’s two-part interview with Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson is very rewarding. Matheson recounts his time scripting feature films, including an in-depth look at the Edgar Allan Poe series from director Roger Corman and American International Pictures. In this and subsequent sections of the interview Matheson occasionally comes off as difficult to please as he expresses dislike for the AIP Poe films as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which Matheson at one point had the opportunity to script until Hitchcock disagreed with Matheson’s vision that the birds should rarely be shown in the film.

-Matheson proceeds to discuss all of his film work for the large and small screens, those he scripted and those scripted by another hand based on his work. He discusses the difficulty in adapting his own work as well as in adapting the work of others. Some of the films Matheson discusses in detail include: The Morning After, Die! Die! My Darling, The Devil Rides Out, and The Stranger Within, the latter taken from Matheson’s story “Mother By Protest” (aka “Trespass”). Matheson also discusses the failings of The Legend of Hell House and Somewhere in Time, as well as his television ventures outside of The Twilight Zone, including the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within,” which Matheson claims was tampered with by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Matheson discusses the production of Duel, his work with producer/director Dan Curtis, and the occasional odd project such as the television film Dying Room Only, which Matheson greatly enjoyed.

-Matheson concludes by discussing the effort to make a film from his latest novel, What Dreams May Come, a project which would not see fruition until 1998. Matheson also teasingly states that “I have loads of Twilight Zone episode ideas left over from when I was working on it. Hosting a fantasy series would be a lot of fun.” Unfortunately, we never got to see Matheson host his own fantasy series or use those Twilight Zone ideas. As I stated in last issue’s review, this interview with Matheson is one of the finest and most in-depth I’ve read outside of Matthew R. Bradley’s career retrospective interview “The Incredible Scripting Man.” It comes highly recommended. 

--“Out of Place” by Pamela Sargent

Illustration by Annie Alleman
“‘To see ourselves as others see us’ can be pretty disconcerting – especially when it’s through the eyes of your own pet cat!”

-Seen through the perspective of a housewife and her interactions with her pet housecat, the world awakens one day to find that the thoughts of animals can be heard aloud. Grade: B

-The strength of this tale lies in the fact that Sargent does not play it for laughs but commits to a serious extrapolation of what might occur if humans could suddenly hear what animals were thinking. Sargent predicts that animals would reveal our hates, prejudices, fears, and guilt but that ultimately humans would overcome this burden and force the social order to return to what it was before the advent of the “miracle.”

-Due both to its quality and to its subject matter concerning housecats, the story has been reprinted several times, most frequently in cat themed anthologies such as Magicats! (1984), Roger Caras’ Treasury of Great Cat Stories (1987), and The Cat Megapack (2013). The story was included in The Best of Pamela Sargent (1987).

-Sargent (born 1948), whom T.E.D. Klein describes as “one of science fiction’s most consistently interesting young novelist,” was near the beginning of her career when this story appeared but has since become one of the most productive and accomplished female voices in SF. She has been the recipient of two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and been nominated for dozens more. Her work as an editor is equally accomplished as she compiled three volumes of the Nebula Awards anthologies as well as the innovative and important Women of Wonder anthology series. Associate Publisher Carol Serling found a liking for Sargent’s work as Serling included a story from Sargent in all three anthologies Serling compiled for DAW Books between 1993 and 1995. Sargent was the only author to have a story in each anthology. 

--“Shootout in the Toy Shop” by Robert Sheckley

Illustration by Randy Jones
“Baxter was big, hard-boiled, and hard to scare. But he finally met his match in the . . .”

-A down-on-his-luck and unlikable private detective is given a much-needed job by the owner of a toy shop whose inventory is disappearing nightly. Grade: D

-Sheckley returns to the magazine with this brief tale which attempts to combine the hard-boiled genre with the fantasy tale and is largely unsuccessful in doing so. The problems lie in the tone and the length of the tale. Sheckley never settles on a proper tone for this one, unsure whether to play it for comedy or for suspense or for wonder. He settles for a bit of everything and the mixture doesn’t quite gel. Also, the tale is too short and centered on the wrong character. Though its premise of a living doll is hardly original, as a reader I would have rather spent time with the toymaker and the toys than with the unlikable private detective who gets a taste of tragedy when he instantly falls in love with the doll only to destroy it in a jealous rage.

-Sheckley (1928-2005) was known for his mordantly funny, bitingly satirical short science fiction and fantasy tales, collected in such volumes as Citizen in Space (1955), Shards of Space (1962), and The People Trap (1968). During the 1950s and early 1960s he was unquestionably one of the finest practitioners of the short story working in SF, during which time his work was frequently adapted for television. He won a special author Nebula Award in 2001. 

--“Zeke” by Timothy Robert Sullivan

Illustration by Chris Pelletiere
“An alienated man confronts ‘the world’s sleaziest roadside attraction’ – and ends up shaking hands with . . .”

-An albino man struggling to adapt after a messy divorce finds solace from a creature viewed at a roadside freak show on a lonely stretch of Florida highway. Grade: C

-This is the strangest tale in the issue and it possesses an overall quality of ambiguousness that somewhat captures of the feel of the original television series. In a brief passage, the protagonist imagines himself in a Twilight Zone episode with his movements described by Rod Serling’s narration. Again, this is another story in the issue with tonal problems, as much of it is described in terms which would normally denote humor, including broad, unflattering Southern archetypes, but Sullivan chooses instead to try and achieve a tone of awe and wonder, coupled with a rather weak attempt at a concluding moral. Sullivan also attempts, not altogether successfully, the old trick of presenting stereotypical characters only to display the fallacy of the stereotype.

-Sullivan (born 1948) appeared on the SF scene in the late 1970s with short fiction and the occasional essay in genre journals. His few attempts at the novel appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time he also compiled the themed horror anthologies Tropical Chills (1988) and Cold Shocks (1991). Sullivan’s preferred form is the short story and he continued to place his short fiction with genre magazines as recently as 2015. 

--“The Burden of Indigo” by Gene O’Neill

Illustrated by José Reyes
“He wore the hated badge of the pariah. Why should the world care what was in his heart?”

-The tale follows the tragic events of a few days in the life a man cursed with the forced skin pigmentation of a social outcast in an unnamed future society. Grade: C

-This tale is marked by its strong social message, one which perhaps still speaks to us today, as it concerns a group of social outcasts who are marked with varying shades of synthetic skin pigmentation based upon an undisclosed tier of social or criminal transgression. O’Neill is wise in not attempting to delineate too much of the future/alternate society in which his tale takes place, leaving much of the detail to the imagination of the reader. The fault in the tale lies in the ambiguousness of character, as O’Neill is clearly attempting the tone of a moral fable but only succeeds in giving the reader enough of a glimpse of character to be disappointed when that glimpse does not flower into a fuller illustration. In other words, a reader may find it difficult to care for a character one knows little to nothing about. The main message of the tale rings clear, however, and that is the brutality of the righteous often equals or exceeds that of the transgressor.

-“The Burden of Indigo” was O’Neill’s (born 1938) second professional published SF story and he has continued to turn out short fiction and the occasional SF novel to the present day, mostly in the horror and dark fantasy genres. He has been nominated for multiple Bram Stoker Awards, winning two, one for his 2009 fiction collection Taste of Tenderloin and again in 2012 for his novella “The Blue Heron.” A recent interview with O’Neill can be found in the March, 2016 issue of Lamplight magazine. 

--“Sea Change” by George Clayton Johnson

Illustration by Robert Morello
“Lucho had a horrifying secret – even more horrifying than he himself realized.”

-A gunrunner suffers a gruesome accident in which he loses his hand only to discover that his hand has slowly grown back and the lost appendage has grown a doppelganger. Grade: B

-“Sea Change” was originally written as a story treatment and sold to The Twilight Zone for production during the second season. For reasons of objection from a sponsor of the series, a food company who believed that the story’s gruesome subject matter would turn viewers from their appetite, series producer Buck Houghton was forced to ask Clayton Johnson to buy back the story. Johnson, who had subsisted by occasionally selling his stories to the series, resulting in such episodes as “The Four of Us Are Dying” and “Execution,” used the opportunity to offer Houghton a deal. Johnson agreed to buy back his story under the condition that he was allowed an attempt to write an original teleplay for the series. Houghton agreed and the result, “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” marked the first of several distinguished episodes from Clayton Johnson’s typewriter, including such classic segments as “A Game of Pool” and “Nothing in the Dark.”

-The title is taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610 or 1611: “Nothing of him that doth fade, /But doth suffer a sea-change, /into something rich and /strange,”). Had the tale been dramatized on the television series, it likely would have resulted in a truly unique and unsettling segment which may be viewed as a classic along the lines of Johnson’s other efforts. It also would have struck a pleasing strain of Gothic horror too seldom featured on the series. As it is, Johnson held on to the tale for twenty years before allowing it to appear in this issue, the first of several such “lost” episodes that the magazine would feature in its pages. “Sea Change” was nominated for the now-defunct Balrog Award for superior achievement in short fiction and was reprinted a year later in Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, the only annual issue the magazine produced, as well as in the first issue of Night Cry, indications that T.E.D. Klein thought highly of the tale. Johnson chose the story as representative of his work for Masters of Darkness, edited by Dennis Etchison, and the story appears in Johnson’s career retrospective, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories.

-Johnson’s (1929-2015) skills at characterization were rivaled only by Rod Serling on the series and in this brief tale he develops two clearly delineated characters that immediately pull the reader into the dramatic situation. The concept itself may seem hackneyed to a modern reader but one must remember that Johnson originally wrote the material in 1962. If there is a fault with the tale it lies in its brevity. It feels too much like a story treatment rather than a proper story. That being said, it hardly suffers for this and remains an intriguing and enjoyable tale. 

--TZ Screen Preview: The Beast Within by Robert Martin
-Martin’s latest look at upcoming horror films covers the production of The Beast Within, a 1982 film which began life when producer Harvey Bernard bought the film rights to Edward Levy’s novel of the same name merely from reading the description of the novel in a catalog from publisher Arbor House. Needless to say, the film does not follow the events of the novel. The resulting film was not successful, monetarily or critically, and has largely been forgotten except by those with a taste for cult films or those with a particular interest in horror films. Directed by Phillipe Mora from a screenplay by Tom Holland (later a successful horror film director, Fright Night, Child’s Play, etc.), the story concerns the emerging bestial nature of the teenaged progeny of a rape. Among the cast is Twilight Zone actor R.G. Armstrong, who had a memorable role as the sympathetic contractor in “Nothing in the Dark.”

--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by Kurt Van Helsing (T.E.D. Klein)
Illustrated by Lee Brown Coye, with illustrations taken from the August Derleth-edited anthologies Sleep No More (1944) and Who Knocks? (1946).

-For this third installment of Klein’s examination of the literary ghost story, the writer considers the esthetics of the ghost story, with particular attention paid to form, tone, and the unity of effect in the successful tale of the supernatural.

-This installment is much more engaging than the previous entries for no other reason than Klein finally gets down to examining what makes a ghost story successful as well as offer an answer to the question of why there are relatively few truly distinguished ghost stories despite the thousands which have been written since the birth of the literary form. Klein largely espouses the views first proposed by M.R. James, author of some of the finest ghost stories in the English language, who opined, in the preface to his second collection of ghostly tales, More Stories of an Antiquary (1911), that the ghost story works best when the ghost is "malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales and local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story." Klein also forwards the opinion that the humorous ghost story is in fact rarely humorous, serving only to undermine the essential ingredient in the proper ghostly tale: the reader must be made to believe that these uncanny events can happen and thus be frightened by that realization. Klein also believes the tale of supernatural horror should be short in nature, no longer than a short novel, as it is difficult to maintain the essential atmosphere of the ghostly tale over a long novel. Klein disparages the five hundred page novels which were popular at the time. Ironically, Klein produced one of these giant supernatural novels, and a fine one at that, a few years later with The Ceremonies (1984). Klein prominently quotes from successful authors of ghost stories, from Edith Wharton and Henry James to Walter de la Mare and L.P. Hartley. Klein also promises a fourth and final installment next issue. 

--“Offices” by Chet Williamson

Illustrated by José Reyes
“The twentieth century has spawned a whole new way of life. Now it’s even spawned a new breed of ghost.”

-A copywriter discovers that the spiritual essences of his coworkers haunt the office building during the nighttime hours. Grade: A

-“Offices” was Chet Williamson’s (born 1948) first professionally published short story and received the cover of this issue of the magazine. It is no surprise, however, as T.E.D. Klein knew he had something special when Williamson submitted this tale. It is easily the finest in the issue and one which perfectly captures that unique Twilight Zone feel. It is a shame “Offices” wasn’t adapted for the revival Zone television series.

-“Offices” may remind one a bit of Charles Beaumont’s “The Vanishing American” in its examination of the effects of the nine-to-five workday on the spirit of the common person. Williamson has produced an admirable body of SF fiction, having garnered multiple award nominations for his efforts, winning the now-defunct International Horror Guild Award in 2002 for his story collection Figures in Rain. Williamson recently completed a sequel to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2016 as Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium.

--“The Tear Collector” by Donald Olson

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“His rows of colored bottles were beautiful to look at – but how many lives had he squeezed dry to fill them?”

-A young woman with a propensity to cry is engaged by a rich tear collector. Grade: C

-This slight fable of fortune and misfortune is the rather simple tale of a young woman who suffers a series of misfortunes and has a propensity to cry. She has a chance encounter with an eccentric collector of tears. She soon falls in love with the collector, bringing her happiness and after which she can no longer provide tears, thus ending their relationship. The ending suggests an amusing narrative cycle.

-Olson (born 1938) has not produced a great amount of SF material but has seen “The Tear Collector” adapted for the television series Tales from the Darkside, a competitor to the revival Twilight Zone series, as the sixteenth episode of the first season. He has seen some of his other short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and subsequently reprinted in one of the various book anthologies which bear Hitchcock’s name.

--“The Great Elvis Presley Look-Alike Murder Mystery” by Mick Farren
Illustrated by George Chastain
“There were dozens and dozens of suspects – all of them sporting sideburns and guitars!”

-A detective is tasked with sorting through the suspects of a murder at an Elvis Presley look-alike contest. Grade: B

-This one is an entertaining and funny riff on a classic mystery set-up. Farren has a gift for characterization that carries the tale along and the ending, though somewhat weak, has a pleasingly uncanny edge. Farren (1943-2003) was equally known as a singer, journalist, and fiction author. He was associated with the British underground music scene and much of his fiction reflects his interest in rock n’ roll and related subjects. Farren found time to be an impressively prolific author, not only in the realm of SF but also in fringe non-fiction and journalism. He began publishing SF with his 1973 novel The Texts of Festival and continued to produce SF stories and novels until his death. 

--“Paintjob” by Jay Rothbell

Illustrated by Earl Killeen
“A painting’s supposed to be two dimensional, not three – and certainly not four.”

-A proud landlord sets out to paint over a mural created by a tenant with unexpected results. Grade: C

-This slight tale has not aged well in one particular area, its unsympathetic portrayal of immigrants. Rothbell’s immigrant landlord is an extremely controlling, ignorant, and unlikable figure who hates Americans and who one assumes will come out of his frightening experience wiser but it is uncertain that he will do so. Nevertheless, Rothbell evokes some memorable imagery in the tale and the final third descends into the impressively hallucinogenic strains of a nightmare.

-Rothbell (born 1954) is perhaps best known as the fourth wife of writer Robert Sheckley and is sometimes credited as Jay Sheckley. They met and married in 1981 and after only a few years their marriage ended in divorce. Rothbell collaborated with Sheckley on a story, “Spectator Playoffs,” published in Night Cry. Rothbell would go on to provide both Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine and Night Cry with several additional stories and articles. She ceased writing SF in the late 1980s.

--The Twilight Zone: The Third Season by Marc Scott Zicree
-Here Zicree writes a brief essay on the transition from the second to the third season of the original television series, something he had not done for the second season transition but something he would later incorporate into his The Twilight Zone Companion.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part 7
-Zicree continues his guide to the original television series with episode summaries along with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations. With this issue, Zicree enters the third season of the series. The episodes Zicree covers, all of which we have also covered here in the Vortex, include: “Two,” “The Arrival,” “The Shelter,” “The Passersby,” “A Game of Pool,” “The Mirror,” and “The Grave.”

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Big, Tall Wish” by Rod Serling
-Presented here is the full original teleplay for Serling’s “The Big, Tall Wish,” filmed as the 27th episodes of the first season, directed by Ronald Winston, and starring Ivan Dixon. The episode originally aired on April 8, 1960. You can read Brian’s review of the episode here.

--Looking Ahead: In November’s TZ
-Coming up in the next issue are stories by Tanith Lee, Thomas M. Disch, Evan Eisenberg, Clark Howard, Melissa Mia Hall, Gordon Linzner, Juleen Brantingham, Stanley Schmidt, and a now-classic (and controversial) horror story by Ramsey Campbell. Robert Martin previews Halloween II, Klein, writing as Kurt Van Helsing, completes his examination of ghost stories, and Rod Serling’s classic teleplay, “Death’s Head Revisited,” is presented in full. See you back soon!