It says a hell of a lot for the quality of the writing that the majority of the episodes still hold up so very well. I hadn't seen the lion's share of the stories, making it even more enjoyable. There are Twilight Zone tales that most people have either seen or at least know by reputation, but there are also some episodes scattered throughout the season that are pure gold and deserve at least as much attention.
If you're a fan of good television and good writing, and don't own it, you're missing out.
1.01 Where is Everybody by Rod Serling
A man wanders into a town totally devoid of people, with no knowledge of how he got there. I have seen this story so many times, it can't help but have lost some of its edge for me. That said, keeping in mind what was on TV at the time, and that it had to launch the series to both the advertisers and the broader audience, it does a good job of being weird and creepy but not too out there.
1.02 One for the Angels by Rod Serling
The Salesman and Death. A wonderful little character piece, with great performances by the two leads. Two characters, each wanting something that will deny the other what they want. Twilight Zone at its best deals with people. A truly charming tale.
1.03 Mr Denton on Doomsday by Rod Serling
A tale about a washed up gunfighter, this story has a bit more of the kind of feel one expects from the series. An ordinary situation that becomes stranger as the story progresses. Good writing and acting, not to mention appearances by two young stars, make this very watchable indeed.
1.04 16 Millimeter Shrine by Rod Serling
This story of an aging actress and her obsession with her glory days is as relevant today as it was back in 1959 when it was made. Getting Ida Lupino for the part was a hell of big deal for the day, and she puts in a great performance.
1.05 Walking Distance by Rod Serling
A man trying to escape his life goes back to his old hometown. The first dud. The idea is good, but the execution has numerous problems that I feel damage the story. Simply put, people's reactions don't make sense.
What is interesting about this story is the alternative audio track on the DVD. It's a lecture by Serling himself to students, made some years after the episode screened. It's obvious that Serling hates the episode. He can see the flaws in it, and goes on to tear the story to pieces and then explains how he would handle the same story with a decade's worth of writing experience under his belt. The end result is a fabulous addition that actually helps save the story.
4/10 for the story
10/10 for the audio lecture.
1.06 Escape Clause by Rod Serling
This story of a bitter hypocondriac is one of the darker, though still amusing, episodes. Of special note is Thomas Gomez's performance as Mr. Cadwallader, one of those very special Twilight Zone characters.
A good story, with a thoroughly unlikeable character as the lead, which in some ways would make it a harder watch if he wasn't relishing things quite so much.
1.07 The Lonely by Rod Serling
The tale of a man in 'solitary confinement' on an asteroid is wonderful, tragic, and harsh. This was the first episode made after the pilot, and so is a little more 'normal' in scope and flavour than some of the other episodes. But that's not a complaint, as the characterisation and story itself is marvelous.
1.08 Time Enough at Last by Rod Serling (Based on a story by Lynn Venable)
The first classic episode. Well remembered by anyone who has seen it, this tale of a little bank teller who loves to read is very much the sort of story people think of when they think of the series. To tell you more, if you haven't seen it and don't know about it, would be to ruin the tale.
1.09 Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont
A great story about a man who cannot sleep, with an ending that still holds up. Another one where to tell you too much is to hurt the story.
1.10 Judgment Night by Rod Serling
A little predictable by today's standards, this story of a man on a ship who has no idea how he got there is still quite good. It gets quite full-on towards the end, very uncomfortable, and with a couple of brief but nice stunts for a studio bound production.
1.11 And When the Sky Was Opened by Rod Serling (based on a story by Richard Matheson)
The problem with Twilight Zone is because it is Twilight Zone, and even if you haven't seen it, you know its reputation, you find yourself looking for the twists. What makes TZ so damned watchable is, even if you're guessing the twists, the characters usually draw you in, as is the case with this episode. What could have been an average story is wonderfully realised with some creative story-telling and fine acting by Rod Taylor as a test pilot.
It also has another Rod Serling Lecture, where he tells the students of the one criticism he won't accept, then invites them to tear the story apart. The lecture isn't as good as the previous one, but it's great to hear the way he joins in with the students mocking some of the conceits of the story-telling. 'In two weeks I'm going to come back in here with such a good answer to that, and you're going to feel like such a dummy!'
1.12 What You Need by Rod serling. (Based on a story by Lewis Padgett)
Not as harsh as the previous few episodes, this still has a bit of an edge to it. Good characters carry it through nicely, especially the salesman, who always has just what you need.
1.13 The Four of Us are Dying by Rod serling. (Based on a story by George Johnson)
A man with the rather unusual gift of being able to change his face at will is the centrepoint of this story. In some ways the story is a bit obvious, but what saves it is the drama surrounding the situations he builds for himself. Not brilliant, but watchable.
1.14 Third from the Sun by Rod Serling (based on a story by Richard Matheson)
A nice little drama piece is given the TZ treatment. A man working at a government facility believes the end of the world is coming and comes up with a plan to avoid it.
1.15 I Shot an Arrow into the Air by Rod serling (Based on a story by Madelon Champion)
Another TZ drama piece, but fairly ordinary and predictable. The characters are okay, though there's no explanation for Corey's behaviour, beyond a 'what happened to him?' conversation.
1.16 The Hitch-Hiker by Rod serling (Based on a story by Lucille Fletcher)
This is an interesting one. It's a tale I've seen done many times before, and so though I hadn't seen the Twilight Zone's version, I didn't think it would be terribly remarkable. However, the direction and the acting elevate the episode. Right from the first time we see the titular hitch-hiker, there's an amazing amount of tension that grows throughout the story. A fine example of how the way a story is told is at least as important as the story being good.
1.17 The Fever by Rod serling
Not a bad episode, but not one of the greats, as one of the characers catches gambling fever. Special mention must go to the sound design, which when the machine spoke I found wonderfully creepy. It gets an extra point just for that.
1.18 The Last Flight by Richard Matheson
Well told story of a man out of time. Where it loses out to the fact that this is a story we have seen many times since, what makes it work is good characterisation and acting.
1.19 The Purple Testament by Rod Serling
A man develops a thankless ability and is haunted by it. Great story, dealing well with the drama as the lead becomes more and more unable to cope. Dick York (who played Darren in Bewitched) shows what a fabulous actor he is in this story.
1.20 Elegy by Charles Beaumont
Three astronauts find themselves in what looks like a frozen snippet of the twentieth century. Interesting little idea, well handled.
1.21 Mirror Image by Rod Serling
Good performances all around, the first half of the story leaves one unsure of just what is going on, as a woman encounters people who say they have spoken to her before, but she has no recollection of it happening.
1.22 The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling
This is an episode I've seen a few times over the years, and it still stands the test of time. A community fear they are under attack from within.
1.23 A World of Difference by Richard Matheson
Not a bad little story as a man finds that his reality may not be what he believes it to be. Has a couple of camera shots that, given what needs to happen without an edit, were quite an achievement for the day and still hold up well. It gets a low score not because it's bad, but because by this point TZ has set a benchmark that is slightly higher than this episode manages.
1.24 Long Live Walter Jameson by Charles Beaumont
Fabulous story about a history professor's secret. The story is simple but very well told, building and flowing beautifully. But between Kevin McCarthy's wonderfully understated performance, and Edgar Stehli's incredibly honest and beleiveable one, this tale is elevated well beyond those around it.
1.25 People Are Alike All Over by Rod Serling (based on a story by Paul Fairman)
Roddy McDowell plays a scientist who crashes on Mars. Not one of the greats, but not bad, either. Just didn't quite engage me.
1.26 Execution by Rod Serling (based on a story by George Clayton Johnson)
A man who is going to be hanged finds himself transported to an strange world. Nice idea and good story, with a nice performance by Russell Johnson, playing a scientist as usual.
1.27 The Big Tall Wish by Rod serling
Wow... It's hard to say much about this story of a boxer's come-back fight without spoiling an amazing bit of TV. An amazing character-piece that damn near tore me in half.
1.28 A Nice Place to Visit by Charles Beaumont
A petty thief finds that his new life takes some getting used to. Not a bad episode, elevated somewhat by a great performance by Sebastian Cabot as Mr. Pip. Oh, and I love the telephone.
1.29 Nightmare as a Child by Rod serling
A woman meets an odd little girl. A bit predictable, but still has some wonderfully creepy moments. One problem is that the story doesn't maintain the creepiness it starts with. But still a good watch.
1.30 A Stop at Willoughby by Rod serling
Gart Williams is overwhelmed by his busy, demanding life, when he slips into the Twilight Zone. Oh the surface a predictable enough story, however I loved the finale. Others may not rate this story as highly, but the ending literally made me shout "Oh yes!" Apparently it was Serling's favourite story of the first season.
1.31 The Chaser by Robert Presnell Jr. (based on a story by John Collier)
I rather liked this episode about a man so desperately in love that he buys a love potion to win the girl of his dreams. The interactions between the man and his love interest are somewhat repetative. However, what makes the story for me is his dealings with Professor Daemon, played beautifully by John McIntire, and some gorgeous direction when he first enters Daemon's house, and at the finale.
1.32 A Passage for Trumpet by Rod Serling
A down and out trumpet player who feels he has nothing to live for finds himself in the Twilight Zone. A fabulous performance from Jack klugman. The subtlty and honesty of his acting take a good script and raise it even further. A brilliant episode that left me grinning from ear to ear.
1.33 Mr. Bevis by Rod Serling
A joyful oddball finds he has a new friend - a guardian angel. While not actually a bad episode or story, it just doesn't quite work. It's not the predictablity, many other episodes survive that well enough. It just seems that in this case it needed something more, a better actor in the part, making more of the character perhaps. That said, it's not a hard watch, and I smiled and laughed a few times through the story.
1.34 The After Hours by Rod Serling
A young woman goes to buy a golden thimble from a department store, and finds things to be very odd indeed.
I have a hard time reviewing this one fairly. Though it was the first time I'd seen it, the ending was spoiled many years ago thanks to one of the Twilight Zone's most commonly used promo pics. That said it is a good episode. Well directed, well acted, a great set and some wonderful props.
1.35 The Mighty Casey by Rod Serling
A down and out baseball team gets an extraordinary new pitcher. This is, unfortunately, a one joke episode. There are plenty of times when that works, but it doesn't this time. Oh, it's charming and funny in places, but the humour is heavy-handed and not enough to carry the story.
1.36 A World of His Own by Richard Matheson
A playwright makes characters come to life. Another one-joke episode, this one works. It's quite a fun little comedy, with enjoyable performances from everyone, and a final moment that is a cute pay-off for the first season.