Twilight Zone S4 – Death Ship (02/07/63)

tzdeathship4In the year 1997 . . .

We open with a shot of the least inspirationally named spacecraft in history.  Liberty . . . Intrepid . . . Eagle . . . Challenger . . . Enterprise . . . Discovery . . . I give you E-89. However, cruising above “the 13th planet of star system 51,” it seems appropriate.

They are seeking a planet suitable for colonization.  Lt. Mason sees a signal and is excited that they might finally be meeting another race, although another species seems more likely.  Capt. Ross reluctantly agrees to land the ship and check it out.  When they land, they are shocked to look out of the porthole and see a crashed E-89.

They do not need helmets to go investigate, although they do all put on the snazzy astronaut suits.  This is preferable to the aliens landing on earth who always seem to be naked.  They identify it as an Earth ship.

tzdeathship2The interior of the ship is identical to theirs.  So is the crew — 3 dead bodies who look exactly like Ross, Mason and Other Guy.  Mason reaches into the pocket of Dead-Mason and pulls out his ID — were these guys expecting to get carded in space?

They attempt to radio back to Earth Station 1217, and get nothing but static.  Ross proposes that the wrecked E-89 is from a probable future.  A good captain would have said it was a possible future.  He says if they never take off, it is impossible for them to crash.  Of course, the captain has no one waiting for him back on Earth (or Planet 3 as it is probably known then).

Other Guy is mulling their situation when he suddenly finds himself back on Earth.  At his house, he sees his wife’s black hat and black gloves laid out on the bed for her to wear to his funeral; or a bank heist.  He picks up a telegram which announced his death.  Zap — back to the ship.

tzdeathship5Ross and Other Guy then notice that Mason is missing.  As it is 13 below zero outside, he probably didn’t go for a walk.  We see Mason waking up on Earth.  He actually sees his daughter, and later his wife. Somehow Ross intrudes on Mason’s hallucination and orders him back to the ship; then we cut to them struggling on the ship.  If Mason physically disappeared, how did Ross yank him back to the ship?

Ross still denies the obvious.  His new theory is that aliens are controlling their minds. Scaring the crew into not taking off, they prevent Earth from knowing of their existence. Ross says they will go back to Earth.  They take off, making their best G-force faces. Once they are safe from the planet, Ross decides to go back and complete their mission.  Having beaten the aliens at their own game, he expects the wrecked ship to be gone.

In a struggle over the controls, the ship goes out of control.  Mason manages to stabilize it, and they are able to land safely.  Initially, they do not see the wrecked ship.  I was completely suckered in and thought this might be an interesting ending.  However, they look out the back window and see the other E-89.

tzdeathship3Mason tries to convince Ross they are dead, but the Captain just won’t accept their fates.  They are doomed to rinse and repeat this cycle forever.

Another good episode in the often maligned 4th season.  It really succeeds in spite of itself in some ways.  Once they see the wrecked E-89, it is pretty obvious what is going to happen.  The story unfolds along beats familiar to TZ viewers. The ending could have gone a couple of different ways, but I’m a sucker for trapped-in-purgatory stories where people suffer through the same bleak, hellish existence day after day. There is a certain familiarity to them.

While it might have been better at 30 minutes, it did not feel padded out.  The extra time allowed for more character development, and Ross Martin and Jack Klugman made the most of it.  Nice music and camerawork contribute to making this a pretty good episode.


  • Jack Klugman (Captain Ross) was in 4 Twilight Zones and later in the 2nd greatest sit-com ever.
  • Mary Webster, who played Mason’s wife, disappeared from TV for 30 years, then resurfaced on Senior Jeopardy.  I wonder if she mentioned TZ in the interview segment.

Tales From the Crypt – Well Cooked Hams (11/03/93)

tftchams1Billy Zane is a magician doing something and his hat catches fire.

If I seem less than thrilled, you are indeed perceptive — maybe it is external influences. There actually are several things to like here. Maybe I’ll just dwell on these rather than unfairly criticizing the episode.

Billy Zane is actually pretty good as the incompetent magician Miles Federman.

His assistant Maryam d’Abo is absolutely beautiful although given too little to do and saddled with a terrible accent — oops sorry, trying to stay positive here.  Her twin blonde replacements are pretty snappy numbers also.

tftchams2The real episode-maker, though, is Martin Sheen playing a role unlike any I’ve ever seen him portray (i.e. not indistinguishable from actor Martin Sheen).  Sheen is unrecognizable as Kraygen — literally, as I did not recognize him (although I finally placed the voice).

The sets are interesting, and the score is fine.  I really don’t know why I was so uninvolved in the episode.


  • Title Analysis: Not quite as pathetic as People Who Live in Brass Hearses.  At least half of this one makes sense.
  • Andrew Kevin Walker went on to write Se7en.  So, I’m not about to fault him for my ennui.


Tales of Tomorrow – Age of Peril (02/15/52)


The Bureau of Scientific Investigation apparently has its offices on the roof of the Capitol.

This episode takes place in the distant future year of 1965.  And still no flying cars.

The Bureau of Scientific Investi-gation tells Larry Calhoun they have top secret info which must be forgotten when his job is done. The US has developed a new missile, the R8D. Somehow part of the plans were stolen and Calhoun is to investigate.  His boss tells him to take along the new Lie Detector machine which is described as “the most important device in criminology” since the doughnut.

At the plant, Calhoun finds security tight.  He meets the detector’s inventor Dr. Chappell and his daughter Phyllis.  Calhoun decides to test all 580 employees at the plant, from the chairman to the janitor.  If it only took 5 minutes each, that would be 2 full 24 hour days.

Calhoun tests the lie detector himself.  He purposely tells a whopper and the machine accurately busts him on it.  None of the 580 employees are caught in a lie, however. Calhoun is still sure it is an inside job.  When he determines that the phone is tapped, he uses that opportunity to have a bogus conversation with the security officer.

That night, having taken the bait, a man breaks in to steal the plans.  He surprised that a camera inside the safe takes his picture as he opens it, and he runs away.  But not before having a nice 8×10 glossy taken of him.

ttageperil03They question the man in the photo, Elwood.  He plays dumb about the theft and the wire tap.  He demands to be tested by the lie detector. Hooked up to the gizmo, he claims to innocent, and the machine says he is telling the truth — he has beaten the lie detector.

Back at the Bureau of Scientific Investigation, Calhoun’s boss tells him that 48 men across the country have beaten the lie detector.  He tells Calhoun that if this problem isn’t solved, “this country will move into a new [titular] age of peril in which criminals have the upper hand.”

Calhoun goes back to the plant to see the security officer and Irene.  At Calhoun’s insistence, the security czar finally agrees to take the test.  He too passes.  When Chappell removes the sensors, however, the needle jumps when Calhoun mentions a man in California who beat the machine.

Well, well, well . . . it turns out Dr. Chappell has been hypnotizing murderers, rapists, thieves and various low-life burdens on society so that they could beat the lie detecting machine that he invented.  Calhoun and his boss point out the danger of his plan.

ttageperil05Chappell replies that he is not just hypnotizing them to beat the machine, he is hypnotizing them to not be criminals any more; also to cluck like a chicken.  Calhoun is a brilliant guy because he asks the question that I was thinking: “What about the crime they committed to begin with?”

Chappell gives an answer that would only a raving psychopath [1] could embrace: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” [2]

Chappell then gives a thoroughly unconvincing demonstration which actually does nothing to support his claims.  Calhoun, suddenly not so brilliant, calls his boss to pitch the idea.

Really not much science-fiction here as lie detectors have been around since 1921.  I guess this one was supposed to be fool-proof, but the flaw in the system is the whole point of the episode.  The absurd premise and the illogical flow of the story just doom this outing.  Too bad — for all its cheesiness, I have have enjoyed the series so far.


  • [1] I originally wrote sociopath, then consulted this article.  I’m not sure one diagnosis can contain her multitudes.
  • [2] The actual line is “What does it matter, so long as they never commit another?” Pretty close.  Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth is starring in our Grand Re-Opening play, but he’s feeling much better now.



Night Visions – The Bokor (07/12/01)

nvbokor05The episode starts out on a miscue with a title card for the Southeastern Florida School of Medicine.  There is no Southeastern Florida — there is only South Florida and Southwest Florida.  Doesn’t seem fair to me either, but tell it to East Virginia.

Medical student Diane Barnes (erroneously named Diane Ballard on IMDb) joins two other students, Paul and Cheryl, in the morgue late at night to examine a body.  They uncover the stiff and see that it has a tattoo on its forehead — a leap too far even for Henry Rollins.  She recognizes the man as a Bokor — an evil voodoo priest — and knows that the tattoo was applied after death to keep him dead and block his evil power.

The lovely Samantha Mathis (Diane) has a slight southern accent.  I don’t ever recall hearing that from her.  I have too much of a tin ear to know if it is well done or legitimate; it does make her even more adorable, though.

nvbokor02Diane refuses to slash into the tattoo.  One of the other students is not so smart and slices right through it.  Diane asks for a coffee break.  When they get back to the slab, the Bokor’s body is missing, along with his extracted organs, and Diane.

They follow Diane out of the morgue.  The Bokor follows Paul and Cheryl, even following after they fall into a well.  Turns out it was a ruse, that Diane is in cahoots with Richard who Paul and Cheryl had caught stealing morphine.  They toss the dead Bokor into the hole with Cheryl and Paul.  Diane and Richard pull out shovels and start filling in the hole.  A couple of things wrong with this:  1) That hole is about 10 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep — it would take a week for them to fill it in.  2) The rate at which they could refill that hole by hand is so slow that Paul and Cheryl could easily just step up on the dirt they shovel in and walk right out.

nvbokor07Back at their love-nest, Diane is cleaning up after their murder spree.  She realizes her bracelet is missing and must have fallen into the well.  That night she goes back to the site and re-digs the hole  All the way down.  Alone.  By hand.  Richard wakes up, goes to the hole and clubs her with a shovel.  He admits aloud that he actually pawned the bracelet last week.

Richard rushes back home a packs a bag because nothing screams innocence like fleeing the scene of a crime.  That night at a hotel, he wakes up bound and gagged.  Standing over him is a bloody, muddy, hot Diane.  She breaks out her autopsy toolkit.

So what happened?  Certainly it is intended that Richard killed Diane because the whole point was to eliminate witnesses to his addiction.  When he awakens, she tells him he should have burned her bones and spread the ashes.  Why, is she also a Bokor?  There is nothing to suggest that.  She does go on to say her Nanny told her, “a Bokor’s lover must be as pure as the sky just as a Bokor’s heart must be as black as the earth.”  I guess she is a Bokor which is really out of left field.

nvbokor11So far, both segments of the first episode have taken some solid, if well-worn, tropes and undermined them with a really sloppy narrative.


  • Meh.  Just that Samantha Mathis should be much more successful.
  • IMDb and YouTube.