Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition Season 1
Later, CBS Video launched a TZ video club, first tape just $4.95, and while I didn't partake, I was thrilled to know I could finally enter the Fifth Dimension on my own schedule should I want to.
Fast-forward to the DVD Age. Image Entertainment has long held the video rights to the Zone, and released volumes containing three or four episodes apiece, in no discernible order. I finally jumped in and picked up two "Treasures Of" discs, containing such classics as the seldom-seen "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."
This was all prelude to the TV-on-DVD craze of 2004, which has seen many great shows and some far less deserving arrive in handy, chronological boxes. Like Star Trek before it, a distributor finally saw the wisdom of compiling The Twilight Zone by season, and adding gobs of extras. And Image didn't quit with TZ Classic; they went beyond the summit of our imagination and pulled together Season One of the mediocre 1985 reprise. (New Line recently released the 2002 Forest Whitaker–hosted incarnation.)
Season One of the original—and arguably only real—Twilight Zone arrives in a six-disc set that's nearly sublime in both its ambition and execution. That first season, for those who didn't breathe TZ like I did, set the bar for the show's five-year run, presenting such indelible episodes as the Cold War allegory "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street," the nostalgic "Walking Distance," "The After Hours" (who can forget those spooky mannequins?), as well as "A Stop at Willoughby" and my personal favorite, "A World of His Own." Sure, there were a few clunkers, but very few. ("The Chaser," about a love potion, comes to mind.)
The remastered episodes look terrific, boasting excellent clarity and good contrast, along with adequate mono soundtracks. Had Image simply presented them in order we'd have been pleased. But about 80 percent of them have some type of bonus, and some have more than one. They range from isolated music tracks featuring Bernard Herrmann and other composers, vintage radio dramas of the episode at hand, audio interviews with producer Buck Houghton and others, and occasional commentary tracks, including Martin Landau, Kevin McCarthy, and Earl Holliman, who comments on the pilot episode "Where is Everybody?" Best is "commentary" by Rod Serling himself, in the form of Q&As with students at Sherwood Oaks College. He's quick to criticize his own work, and is a joy to listen to.
There is a sixth disc beyond those containing the episodes. And it's a disc as vast as one could hope in terms of more extras. These are of the what-was-available variety, but it's all good stuff, including Serling's pitch to sponsors, in which he describes several planned episodes, and a compilation of Serling's Emmy speeches. We also get the original unaired version of "Where is Everybody?" featuring a narrator other than Serling, and a full episode of The Liar's Club, an odd '60s game show Serling hosted.
The set even includes a copy of the TZ Bible, The Twilight Zone Companion, an excellent tome I'll always resent because it beat my friend and I to the punch.
Jumping forward to 1985, CBS revived The Twilight Zone in a respectable but wildly uneven way. Notable for appearances by up-and-coming talents like Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and William Petersen, New TZ gave birth to a few memorable stories while occasionally re-making some original episodes.
In all, Season One delivered 59 installments over 24 episodes. Highlights included "Wordplay," in which Robert Klein plays a salesman befuddled by his industry's jargon, and the haunting "Examination Day," in which a 12-year-old must pass a government test with severe consequences for failure. Interestingly, many of the episodes are set in some strange '80s netherworld fraught with out-of-date references, as if the writers thought they were writing for the original Zone.
Picture quality on Image's six-disc box is soft and grainy; clearly no attention was given to the original film prints. The Dolby stereo tracks, meanwhile, are clean and intelligible. Extras are mostly in the form of selected writer, producer, and director commentaries, including such luminaries as director Wes Craven and writer Harlan Ellison. Unlike the original series set, there is no platter devoted to supplements.
It's academic to say that The Twilight Zone's enduring success was a result of telling stories that are as timeless as infinity. As true as that might be, the best part of having entire seasons on DVD is that I'll never have to lose sleep again.