The Twilight Zone – Season 3, Episode 24 – “To Serve Man” – A Critique of Colonialism and Idealism

to-serve-man-the-twilight-zone

   We continue “Horror Month” with The Twilight Zone’s, “To Serve Man.” This is a fantastic and powerful episode on the show and so far is the best episode I’ve watched from this series. It has many layers and a depth that I’ll get into further into the review.

    The story was written by Rod Serling and directed by Richard L. Bare.

      The story involves a man being transported on an alien ship as he recounts how he got there when the Kanamits arrived to bring peace to Earth.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of aliens arriving and bringing peace, with a catch is a fascinating one and one that the show does really well.

The World – The world is really cool as they showed a time during war that the Kanamits were able to take advantage of, so the prosperity and technology they brought would obviously make people sated or want to visit where these strange saviors come from. The Kanamits look humanesque but are just alien enough to for their motivations to remain hidden.

The Reveal – The reveal is that the book the Kanamit leaves behind called “To Serve Man” is actually a cookbook and that they wanted to bring peace to the world in order to breed them as livestock.

Empire and Colonization – The Kanamit’s conquest is powerful and one that makes sense too in regards to history. How many Empires were able to hold power was by bringing “civilization” to other people and than using that as cover to exploit the populace, whether it was for soldiers, taxes, slaves, etc. This episode just shows one of those forms of conquest down to it’s base form.

Comfort and Resistance – When humanity was happy they stopped resisting. In a way the episode reminds us not to ever be satisfied that it is in striving and struggle that we are aware, which fits in regards to evolution and animal survival.

The Cons: Character Development – This is a problem in most episodes of “The Twilight Zone” as the writers at the end of the day are more focused on exploring concepts rather than characters. There are a few exceptions but I didn’t care about the code breaker or his girlfriend because we don’t see them do anything beyond reacting to what the Kanamits do. They don’t have a motivation beyond being props to serve the story.

   Minus the human characters this is actually a great episode and is very High Concept Science Fiction as it explores deeper ideas in a simple premise of aliens coming in peace but really having another agenda. If you are a fan of sci. fi., especially of the classic variety, check this episode out.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Twilight Zone – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Where is Everybody?” – Cost of Isolation

Where is Everybody

     As I’ve been watching the latest “X-Files” I decided to go back to the roots of “The X-Files” which “The Twilight Zone” if at least culturally would be one of those roots. This is a show whose entire point was exploring the unknown and posting mysterious premises to be explored, that at the end would reveal a twist of some sort. They are great shows and it was fun going back to the first episode of the show.

   “Where is Everybody?” was directed by Robert Stevens and written by Rod Sterling.

  The story involves a man with amnesia arriving in an empty town and seeking to find out who he is as the town is not all it appears to be.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is good and Bernard Herrman really did a good job keeping thing mysterious and creepy. The music was easily the best part of the episode.

The Cinematography – The cinematography was pretty great and there was a great use of shadows to capture the feeling of isolation and being trapped that the character was feeling. Joseph La Shelle did a great job on it.

Okay: The Writing – The writing is a whole bunch of monologues from the main character and it doesn’t hold up. He didn’t feel like a fully fleshed out human being, just the idea of a pilot.

The Twist – He’s in a lab being tested for a trip to the moon since he’s going to be up there isolated for a long time.

The Cons: The Main Character – Mike Ferris is a pilot who monologues a lot. This was a problem with the writing and a better actor could have made it interesting but I just didn’t care. I didn’t know what defined this character or what he wanted except to talk to people.

  This was a decent episode of the show but I didn’t like the main character and since we were stuck with him for too long the episode just dragged. The premise was intriguing, but could have been handled a lot better. There were no hints at him being an astronaut or going to the moon until the very end.

Final Score: 6 / 10

The Twilight Zone – Season 3, Episode 15 – “A Quality of Mercy” – A Matter of Empathy and Mercy

The Twilight Zone A Quality of Mercy Season 3 ep 15

    This episode has officially got me interested in watching the rest of “The Twilight Zone.” I really enjoy shows that make me think…it’s one reason I love the “Star Treks,” enjoyed the episode of “Black Mirror” I reviewed and tend to enjoy films like “Inception.” This was a good episode to kick off Leonard Nimoy week too, as he plays a small but key role in this episode of “The Twilight Zone.” This was one of his earliest works as Nimoy starred in this episode in 1961.

    “A Quality of Mercy,” was directed by Buzz Kulik and written by Rod Serling and based off a story by Sam Rolfe.

    The premise begins at the end of World War 2 where a bunch of American soldiers have some sick Japanese troops trapped in a cave and have had them trapped their for a while. A lieutenant arrives on the scene named Katell who wants to wipe them out as to him every Japanese is an enemy regardless of circumstances. The men protest but in the end follow orders. As they prepare for the attack though Katell wakes up in another man’s body in 1942, A Japanese lieutenant named Yamuri who is being ordered by his commander to wipe out the American’s trapped in the same cave.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of body swapping to see things from another point of view is cliche but a really awesome idea that is done really well here. They put Dean Stockwell in make-up to look Japanese but it works in this instance because he isn’t being used to bash Japanese, he is there so he can reveal that they are the same people stuck in a horrible situation in a circumstance in which mercy is what is needed and not seeing the other side as purely just “The enemy.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this episode and presents how tired the soldiers are in the wars being fought as well as showing closeness in relationship in how characters are placed in different scenes. Using the broken binoculars to show past and present was a brilliant use of cinematography too.

The Soldiers – The soldiers in both situations are presented as complex people which lends strength to the story. Nimoy’s character is a cool headed communications officer who calls out Katell on his bloodlust while the others are calling him out for being so green and point out they’ve lost 3 commanders already because they came in so arrogant and were easy for the Japanese to pick off. They all have great chemistry together and their Sargent played by Albert Salmi is stand-up guy. Dale Fujiwaka did a great job playing the Japanese captain who sympathized with the alienate on not killing the Americans and was supportive while their superior was driven by the need to kill.

Dean Rockwell – Dean Rockwell does a great job in acting in this! He plays the overconfident man who hates the Japanese and when he finds himself as a Japanese man he feels vulnerable and scared and when he realizes that Americans are going to be killed using the philosophy he used to justify killing the Japanese, he panics and realizes that he hopes he never kills. This episode really teaches the value of human life.

The Message – The message in this is powerful. It shows how the soldiers in wars are often just fighting to survive or due to orders and that it is important to stand up to protect the weak, even if they seen as the enemy and that mercy is important, for without it we lose our humanity. It also showed how soldiers are parts but often times it’s bigger things like the Bomb that end the war implying an even bigger question of ethics.

Okay: Sgt. Yamazaki – I wish we could have got this guys motivations more, he wasn’t green like the lieutenant so I wanted to know why he was so driven to kill the defenseless. He was the only person this episode who could have been handled better.

    This was a great way to kick of Leonard Nimoy Week! His character is small in this, which makes sense as this was when he was just getting started as an actor, but his cool demeanor is a nice contrast to the trigger happy lieutenant and his compatriots who joke around a lot more. The episode was powerful too as the point it made is one that is timeless and reminds us to empathize with those who don’t have power and the importance of seeing things from other points of view, as well as how important mercy is, especially when there is the option to kill.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Near perfect episode.