October 02, 2009

OCTOBER 2 - The day we crossed over into The Twilight Zone

Exactly fifty years ago, on October 2, 1959, Rod Serling presented for your consideration the first episode of his legendary sci-fi/fantasy TV series, The Twilight Zone.

The name of the series itself became a descriptive term. And, phrases from the introductions Serling did for the shows (like “presented for your consideration”) are still quoted.

In the debut episode – “Where Is Everybody?” – we first hear Serling’s deep voice doing the original version of the show’s intro. In later episodes, we also see him standing there with a cigarette, looking suave, doing opening narrations.

He wasn’t originally supposed to be heard or seen on the show.

When the pilot episode was shot, the voice of well known announcer Westbrook Van Voorhis was used for the intro. (Voorhis did the narration for the old March of Time radio and movie theater newsreel series, in which he used the famous catchphrase “Time…marches on!”)

But when The Twilight Zone was greenlit and picked up by CBS, Voorhis wasn’t available to do intros for other early episodes. So, Serling – who created the series and wrote many of the scripts – decided to do the opening narration himself.

His voiceover in the title sequence for the first episode and other early Season One eps went like this:

“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.”

Later in Season One, Serling starting using a different intro that added the familiar “next stop” line:

“You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

The version used in Seasons Four and Five had the “crossed over” line fans (like me) fondly remember:

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

The familiar atonal theme we usually think of as the music for The Twilight Zone wasn’t heard until Season Two. It was written by avant-garde French composer Marius Constant.

The opening music in the first season was written by legendary soundtrack composer Bernard Herrmann, whose created some of the greatest film scores ever recorded, from Citizen Kane in 1941, to Psycho in 1960 and Taxi Driver in 1976.

The star of the first episode aired on October 2, 1959 was Earl Holliman, who was later more widely known as the cop partnered with Angie Dickinson in the 1970s series Police Woman.

In “Where Is Everybody?” Holliman plays a man in an Air Force jumpsuit who inexplicably finds himself in a town where all the people have disappeared.

I won’t say any more about the plot or the final hallmark Twilight Zone twist at the end. Because – look, there’s a link up ahead – where you watch it for yourself on Hulu.com.

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 2:

“The public be damned.” - The infamous comment by captain of industry William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885) on October 2, 1882, when asked what he thought about the public’s views on how his railroads were run.

“Good e-e-vening.” – Alfred Hitchcock’s (1899-1980) famed opening welcome on his TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which first aired on October 2, 1955.

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