My Two Favorite TV series:
Twilight Zone and Dr. Who

Written: 6 December, 2000

I think the original 1959-64 Twilight Zone series and the 1963-89 Doctor Who TV series are the two best TV series ever.

Although not every episode of Twilight Zone is a classic, or even great, there are some real unforgettable TV masterpieces among its episodes. I think in a way that TZ combined elements that I like from two other media: radio and comics. I enjoy the old-time radio drama anthologies like "Suspense" and it seems to me that Twilight Zone was like a TV equivalent of that kind of old-time radio show. Also, I like the "pre-Marvel" fantasy tales and other 1950s anthology comics (EC's Shock SuspenStories, etc.) and Twilight Zone seems to be in that tradition, too. Rod Serling would step out of the shadows to introduce a story just like Dr. Haunt or The Mysterious Traveler might have done.

Even the Black and White film added to the overall effect with shadow being used effectively in many episodes like one would see in a B&W movie. The mysterious black-haired "Twilight Zone women" became even more spookier-looking in stark B&W. And the haunting musical scores of Bernard Hermann and Jerry Goldsmith added to the mood.

Some of my favorite "Twilight Zone" episodes are:

"Walking Distance" (10/30/1959)
Gig Young stars as a tired businessman who winds up re-visiting his old hometown only to find that he's actually traveled back in time to when he was a child. He encounters his childhood self and gets some moving advice from his father. Probably my favorite episode.

"Perchance to Dream" (11/27/1959)
Richard Conte keeps having a recurring nightmare where he encounters a "cat lady" named Maya at a carnival. Maya keeps wanting him to go on the roller coaster ride and endure other scares in the dream which might cause him to have a heart attack in real life. He tells a psychiatrist his story, and tries to go without sleep fearing that if he does, Maya will cause him to have a heart attack.

"The After Hours" (6/10/1960)
Anne Francis visits a department store where the manniquins come to life after dark.

"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" (4/7/1961)
Cliff Robertson stars as a pioneer heading a wagon train going west for California in 1847. He goes off to see what's over on the other side of a sandy hill only to find that he's now in modern times.

"It's a Good Life" (11/3/1961)
Everybody has to watch what they say around Billy Mumy, because if he doesn't like it, he'll change them into a monstrosity. He then sends such abominations "into the cornfield." That's a good thing, he did...a real good thing.

"The Midnight Sun" (11/17/1961)
The sun is moving closer to the earth and everything is getting hotter and hotter. Or is it?

"Kick the Can" (2/9/1962)
Why should kids have all the fun? Maybe we can become kids again if we act like kids -- running through sprinklers, or playing "kick the can." One senior citizen thinks so, and urges his aged friends to believe once again. "I can't play kick the can alone!"

"To Serve Man" (3/2/1962)
Aliens arrive at the United Nations and they left behind a book. If only Lloyd Bochner can translate the alien language, perhaps we can know for sure whether they come in peace or not.

"Little Girl Lost" (3/16/1962)
A little girl rolls under the bed and into another dimension. Mom, Dad, and their physicist friend try to get her back before the portal closes. The movie "Poltergiest" borrowed from this episode.

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (10/11/1963)
William Shatner sees a gremlin messing with the airplane's wing but nobody else sees it.

"Living Doll" (11/1/1963)
Telly Savalas plays a man who doesn't like his stepdaughter's talking doll, and plots to get rid of it. But Talky Tina will have the last laugh.

"Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" (1/24/1964)
In the world of the future, everyone gets new beautiful bodies during their teenage years, thanks to an operation where they get to choose which model they want for their body. Number Twelve is one of the most popular. But one homely girl resists having the operation. After all, she says, "when everyone is beautiful, then no one will be."

I could go on and on. In fact, there's some episodes I've never actually seen, particularly the rare hourlong ones.

As for Doctor Who, my favorite stories are as follows:

"Spearhead from Space" (1970)
Jon Pertwee's first appearance as the Doctor; also the first color episode of the series. The fact that the whole thing is shot on film (as opposed to videotape) greatly enhances it, making it feel like a movie. The Doctor discovers that he's trapped on Earth for the time being (beginning the long earthbound U.N.I.T. adventures of Pertwee's Doctor) and has to fight the menace of the Autons.

"Terror of the Autons" (1971)
The Autons make their second (and as far as I know, last) appearance in the series. This story marks the debut of the Doctor's arch-foe The Master, played by Roger Delgado.

"Robot" (1974-75)
Tom Baker replaces Pertwee in the role of the Doctor. The Doctor helps U.N.I.T. and Sarah Jane Smith fight off an evil organization trying to destroy the world.

"Genesis of the Daleks" (1975)
First appearance of the Daleks' creator, Davros. The Doctor and his companions are sent to the planet Skaro to try and prevent the creation of the Daleks. Davros' S.S.-like soldiers foreshadow the Empire's military in the movie "Star Wars."

"The Seeds of Doom" (1976)
Another rare earthbound adventure with Tom Baker as the Doctor, and an appearance by U.N.I.T. at the end. A meteorite has been recovered which contains an alien form of plant life. That particular kind of plant absorbs everything in its way, including human creatures. But a fanatical plant collector insists on adding the deadly meteorite to his collection, by any means necessary, including murder. In the end, the giant plant creature has taken over the collector's estate and is still growing. This one makes it look like working on the show was great fun, and the fun comes across.

"Kinda" (1982)
This is Peter Davison's 3rd story as the Doctor (replacing Tom Baker in the role). The Doctor and his companions arrive on a wilderness planet inhabited by "primitive" natives (who turn out to be telepathic) and a small group of militaristic colonizers who keep disappearing in the woods. Very nicely directed episode and some great characters.

Anyway, those are my choices.