Home | Photos | Bike and Hiking Trips | Vacations | Essays | Time and Space | In Memoriam | Links

Living Forever... in

I've always had a special interest in the early 1960's television show The Twilight Zone. Many people appreciate Rod Serling's imaginative and often haunting story lines. But for me, there is something more - something almost supernatural about the intersection of the program, the time during which it was created, and my own life. The show was all about things in-between, about concepts that are neither real or unreal, not quite here nor there. The Zone was absolutely perfect for its time.

Take for example, the technology used to make the program. The show was shot and broadcast in black-and-white. Monochromatic television demands more of its viewers - the brain has to suspend its disbelief just a bit more to accept a world that consists only of shades of gray. Remember, too, that TV was relatively new, and the sets were connected to external antennas. The blue-gray images they pulled from space often had an erie, ghostly quality. The Twilight Zone arrived just before color television became the norm, at that technological juncture between radio and crisp color pictures. As in so many other ways, the Twilight Zone occupied a special place in the progress of technology - the only place it would work.

The show was produced in that period after the quiet conformity of the 1950s, but before the psychedelic explosion that came in the late-1960s. Its scripts reflected a nascent freedom of thought - of imagination carefully venturing forth from the safe, manufactured plotlines that had previously filled the intellectual wasteland that was television. And yet - the stories often had a structure, depth of thought, even a kind of discipline that was soon to be swept away as the youth of the world later rejected the Vietnam War, and all the conventions of reason that had led to it. The Twilight Zone could not have survived in Eisenhower's land of letter-jackets and poodle-skirts, but neither could it last into Johnson''s land of riots, free-love and LSD. No - the Twilight Zone could only exist in Kennedy's Camelot, when anything from going to the moon to global obliteration was newly possible. In those days of silver-clad astronauts and hydrogen bombs, when living people could remember when flight was fantasy and the most powerful weapon on earth was barely sufficient to destroy a house, it seemed that anything could be believed, no matter how wonderful, or horrendous.

Twilight Zone often tapped into the fears of the day. As a young child, I would often look to the sky, and wonder if the contrails I saw were the tracks of Soviet bombers come to lay waste our world. We kept a few cans of food in our basement as insurance against the Holocaust that might be announced at any moment from the disembodied voice coming from our television sets... "we interrupt this broadcast to bring you this special news bulletin."

On a more personal note, the Twilight Zone arrived at a moment of mysterious transition - that peculiar time when we are alive and learning the fundamentals of the world in which we have been placed, and yet cannot remember any but the dimmest, faded snippets. Each of us has our own few "Twilight Zone" years of coming into being, of transitioning from nothingness. For me, these years corresponded to the original run of the Twilight Zone. Not only that - Rod Sterling shared my attachment to Cayuga County, the place of my own childhood. He found subtle ways of weaving Upstate New York into his stories, the background, the very fabric of the show generated by his "Cayuga Productions."

I have long believed the art that survives is that which somehow uniquely fits the time in which it was created while somehow carrying a timeless message. By that measure, Rod Serling's creation is a success. As the years pass, all the actors, directors and writers responsible for the program will follow Rod into the grave, but their images, thoughts and stories will live forever... in the Twilight Zone.

Sign Dave's Guestbook!

Back to top