Friday, December 11, 2009

TZ Promo: “And When the Sky Was Opened” (12/11/1959)

I've told this story before. Some years back, I was a regular poster on the message board of a marvelous Twilight Zone website called The Fifth Dimension. It was there that I chronicled my first Twilight Zone experience (or, in more prosaic verbiage, the first time I ever saw the show). Sadly, the site disappeared several years ago, and with it, my recounting of said experience. As time has marched forward, my memories have grown progressively hazy of my younger years. I will attempt to (re)recount the tale here, but the details will likely be somewhat inaccurate.

I first discovered The Twilight Zone in the summer of 1982, right before I entered the 7th grade. KPTV-12, a local TV station (which is now Fox 12), started airing the show on Saturday nights. They'd air an hour-long episode at 10:00, then a half-hour episode at 11:00. A I recall, my normal Saturday evening routine was as follows: I had church youth group meetings, from which I'd get home around 9:30, then I'd watch TV until I fell asleep (I was 12 years old and there was no internet; what else was there to do?). It was this routine that led me to The Twilight Zone: one fateful night, as I was flipping through the whopping four channels on the dial (this was before cable or satellite TV, at least in my house), I stopped on KPTV-12 and witnessed something altogether strange and mystical, beautiful yet foreboding.

There was a doorway, suspended in space. An eyeball floated by, its fake eyelid lazily rising. Then a scuba diver swam across the screen, complete with a trail of oxygen bubbles (it would be years before I'd discover that it was actually a mannequin with flowing hair). A mathematic equation, a ticking clock, and then… the words appeared before my quizzical, adolescent eyes:

The Twilight Zone.

I believe the episode was Jess-belle. I recall being entertained, but not monumentally so. The TV Click (The Oregonian's TV Guide knockoff) indicated that another episode would follow at 11:00, this time only half an hour in length. I decided to keep watching, and what I saw next changed my life. That half-hour episode was more than entertaining. It was fascinating. Moody, complex, scary. I'd never seen anything like it before in my life. From that night forward, I was hooked.

That episode celebrates its 50th anniversary tonight.

The teleplay for "And When the Sky Was Opened" was written by Rod Serling, based on the short story "Disappearing Act" by Richard Matheson. The episode and the story have very little in common except for the central story conceit… which I won't reveal here (Matheson's original title should give you a clue). It stars Rod Taylor (best known for his roles in The Birds and The Time Machine; he recently played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) and Charles Aidman (who would reappear in season three's "Little Girl Lost" and, in the 80's, provide the narration for the "new" Twilight Zone TV series), and is the first of nine episodes directed by Douglas Heyes (who went on to direct some of the series' most visually arresting episodes, including "The Howling Man," "The Invaders," and "The Eye of the Beholder"). Original music is provided by Leonard Rosenman.

I should also mention that it's one of my top ten favorite episodes of all time, and not just because it was the episode that made me a lifelong fan. It's just damned brilliant.


Robin said...


You said you was member of a forum called The Fifth Dimension before. It has moved to another site called "Twilight Zone Cafe"

Craig Beam said...

Yes, I know. I'm known as "kriegersaurus" at the TZ Cafe. My point is that my original post/story was lost when The 5th Dimension disappeared.

Robin said...

Ok. I just wanted to say, i have enjoyed reading your blog about Twilight Zone. Good work.

Craig Beam said...

Thanks! :-D

ishkanei said...

"On Thursday We Leave For Home"
"And When The Sky Was Opened"
My three favorite TZ episodes to do with space flight in that order, and the 1st two, my top two TZ favorites, period.