Worst to Best
The Twilight Zone
Season Four

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12 In His Image

George Grizzard (The Chaser) plays a double role well in this season opener. Sadly, the rest of the episode doesn't really live up to his performance, and, without giving away spoilers, it does all feel a little "pulp". The revelation at the centre of this story was done before, and done again, in everything from Blade Runner (debatably) to The Outer Limits. However, while the later works made it feel relatively sophisticated, here flashing lights and typical "sci-fi" sound effects make it all seem like something that could have been made in the 1940s. It's far from awful, and the split screen is seamless, even on Blu-Ray, but there's a nagging feeling that a thoughtful series about the human condition has become a bit too "B Movie" in its approach.

11 Valley Of
The Shadow

The "next time" teasers for season four devolved from Rod, on set, giving vague hints, and into Rod in front of a grey background introducing clips from the following week's episode. Not only did it lack the former's class, but could also lead to spoilers... here events that take place over 21 minutes into the episode were revealed the prior week. (Fans of Rod lighting up may also be dismayed to know that his introductions, also via grey insert, only featured him smoking once, and the "next time" teasers, of which there were 14, only saw Rod breaking out the cigarettes three times).
     The Charles Beaumont tale involves a journalist, Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) driving by accident through "Peaceful Valley", and being told that he can never leave. Note that, as with Beaumont's In His Image, a man in a car accident assures everyone he's alright, only to be told there might be "internal injuries" and that the person concerning themselves with his wellbeing wouldn't want anything bad to be on their "conscience". It's a small matter, but a hint that the writer's work was beginning to suffer and lack inspiration. Of his remaining seven scripts for the series, three were ghost-written for him, and a fourth was co-written.
     David Opatoshu gives a reliable performance as the nominal antagonist, but it's hard to tell which is stranger: the fact that he has to say "Mr. Redfield" 22 times, or that he illustrates a device that can take back time by stabbing a colleague through the heart with a letter opener. As Lister once said in the Red Dwarf episode Justice: "You could have just explained that to me verbally!"
     Lastly, James Doohan becomes the third member of the main Star Trek cast to appear in the series, following on from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy... Shatner would return in season five, a season where George Takei would be the fourth and final cast member to feature... all, of course, before Star Trek was even made.

10 Passage On
The Lady Anne

Passage On The Lady Anne is the final script that Charles Beaumont wrote for the series. Although credited three times during the fifth season, Number 12 Looks Just Like You was ghostwritten by John Tomerlin, and the other two entries were ghostwritten for him by Jerry Sohl. At this stage Herbert Hirschman's contract with CBS had expired, and he'd taken an offer of work elsewhere. Bert Granet, the producer of The Time Element, was quickly drafted in as the new producer for the final five episodes to be made (though not the final five to be broadcast).
     It's one of just six episodes to feature an original music score (the others being Mute, Jess-Belle, Miniature, I Dream Of Genie and The Bard), with stock music being used for the others. It's a sad cost-cutting exercise, and one which, sadly, would continue with season five, where 18 of 36 episodes used stock music and cues. Featuring some English acting talent, and a script so racy (for the time) it contains the word "orgy", this is nevertheless a languidly-paced entry, although no bad thing because of it. As an English fan of the series, it's interesting to see English cast members switched from regular people to "the other" ("I guess that means 'welcome aboard' in British") and see my own nationality through American eyes. This is never going to be regarded as a classic episode of the series, and the couple at the heart of the story are too bland to really care about their fractious relationship, but it's a reasonable way to spend 50 minutes.

9 Jess-Belle

James Best (last seen as Jeff Myrtlebank) finds that his relationship is being sabotaged by locale femme fatale Jess-Belle (The After Hours' Anne Francis). What follows in Earl Hamner, Jr.'s sole script of the season is more of his traditional mix of likeable southern stereotypes, verbal wit and wry whimsy. It won't be to everyone's taste, but has an energy and flair missing from some of the more laborious episodes of the season.
     Featuring a witch who turns into a doped-up leopard, what's striking is how sexual the show has become after the relatively staid debut season. Prior discussion about couples in separate beds is put to one side as we get to see a roll in the hay and a strong inference that more had happened in the past. Also look out for song narration, over three years before Doctor Who did the same feat (The Gunfighters), which prohibits Rod from delivering a post-story summary for the only time in the series. Speaking of trivia, then note that this is the first time the "Jr." is credited as part of Earl Hamner's name onscreen.

8 He's Alive

Dennis Hopper stars as a rising neo-Nazi whose only real friend is an old Jewish man. It goes further than any episode beforehand, abandoning metaphor and labouring it on thick, with Rod giving TV viewers the surprising revelation that being evil isn't a good thing. Although there is much to credit with this episode, it's one where Rod's respect for the intelligence of his audience is so low that it's not until over 40 minutes into the episode that we get the "surprise" twist that Hopper's shadow-laden advisor is none other than Adolf Hitler. As such a "revelation" was obvious after 40 seconds, let alone 40 minutes, it falls somewhat flat, and makes The Eye Of The Beholder look like the most impenetrable script ever written.

7 No Time Like
The Past

A Serling time-travel tale with one of the coolest-looking time machines, but also one of his wordiest scripts. Serling, great though he was, could be heavy-handed, and here he presents us with a physicist (Dana Andrews) so verbose that he even explains the plot to himself in soliloquy. During this time Rod had taken a teaching post in Ohio, and even ends with a quote from Lathbury.
     Despite being several notches below the quality of his earlier scripts, this story is, if nothing else, a lot of fun. It's watchable, and never drags, which is more than can be said for stories lower down in this ranking. Yet what's truly astonishing is the previous week's "next time" trailer, which showed scenes and events that take place over 46 minutes into the episode. Even stranger is that Rod promises "an ending most unexpected, in the tradition of... The Twilight Zone", despite the fact that there's really no particular twist involved, or, at least, one that hasn't already been spoilt by the clips package present.