Worst to Best
The Twilight Zone
Season Five

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30 Stopover In A
Quiet Town

Season five is full of unlikeable lead characters, which on one hand is refreshing in its different approach... on another, it makes many of them hard to sit through. Here a bickering couple wake up in a deserted town after drink driving the night before. Such a set-up promises little, and the story, overlong at just 24 minutes, limps to a fairly feeble twist which the entire episode hinges on. There is a nice moment where the female member of the couple wonders if they've died and are in the afterlife... she'd clearly been watching the series. Overall, though, this is the series devolving from screenplays for adults and into disposable sci-fi junk. Although Serling had plans for a sixth season, CBS were no longer interested, and talks with other networks petered out. With episodes like Stopover In A Quiet Town, the writing really was on the wall.

29 The Long Morrow

In the first couple of seasons Serling was producing scripts at least the equal of his peers; during seasons three and four his exhaustion was becoming more apparent. By the time season five came around, his skills had evaporated to such an extent that the viewer can be certain he wrote The Long Morrow even before the credits come up.
     Rod was always loquacious in his scripts, but here we've got a stiff, even creepy, romance (isn't astronaut Douglas Stansfield slightly predatory?) that features two lovers who don't talk anything like real people. Serling, doubtless completely worn out (this was his 85th Twilight Zone script to reach the screen) mistakes verbosity for profundity, and this quite simple tale about suspended animation becomes as stiff as the astronaut at its heart. One last thing to note is that the occasional soft focus the series uses for female leads is here at its worst, drowning Mariette Hartley in her initial scenes, while others inexplicably feature her in close up without it.

28 The 7th Is Made Up
Of Phantoms

With the final season, many of the stories feel like songs without a bridge; just fragments of ideas that aren't fully developed into a story with beginning-middle-end. This Serling script presents three modern-day soldiers who go into a time warp to help out at Custer's last stand and... that's it. It looks quite nice, and it's a pleasure to see Warren Oates, who would go on to later roles in films including In The Heat Of The Night. Yes suh, a-ha. But there's really little else beyond this most basic of recommendations, and the political idea of "Native Americans = bad" seems beneath Rod from a 2017 standpoint, even if it was the norm in 1963.
     Perhaps the only plus here is for fans of Rod smoking. With the season five sponsors not insisting on him plugging their products onscreen, Rod's smoking decreases, with him lighting up just eight times during his introductions, and just four times in the "next time" teasers. The 7th Is Full Of Phantoms is the only fifth season episode where he smokes during both.

25 You Drive

An Earl Hamner Jr. script featuring a hit and run driver haunted by his own car. Possessed cars must have been a fad of the period, as the following year NBC aired the much-derided sitcom My Mother the Car. However, while this is a serious episode, it fails to really grip as a thriller. Despite all the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera, it's a curiously flat affair. Largely it's because the episode goes exactly where you'd expect, with no real twist... a fault of a lot of season five entries, which opt for A to B plotting.
     The series again turns to single beds for a married couple, something avoided for Stopover In A Quiet Town. The only apparent difference is that the couple in Stopover were fully clothed, having gone to bed drunk, so it appears that the show had a mixed pyjama ban.

27 Black Leather Jackets

One of the glorious things about season five is that its poor episodes - and there are definitely a fair share of them - aren't the usual misfiring "comedies" or just plain below par offerings. Instead, season five presents multiple entries that can only be classified under "what the Hell have I just watched?"
     Black Leather Jackets features three gloriously wooden alien bikers who talk to a giant eye in a monitor and say things like "It's a gas" and "Do you know the word... love?" One particularly awful bit of writing in this ludicrous Earl Hamner, Jr. script gives us the conclusion "It's true [the human race] murder and hurt one another and they're subject to unreasonable hate and prejudice. But these are only the brutes, and you find them in any race. Most of these people have the capacity for love." (The later line "they learn love from their God and teach it to their children" would seem to disprove the alleged removal of the word "God" from all non-Serling scripts).
     In all, Black Leather Jackets almost defies classification. Probably the worst script Hamner, Jr. wrote, in a collection of variable material, it's also a serious contender for the best-worst episode of The Twilight Zone ever made. Daddio.

26 The Fear

The penultimate episode and the last to be scripted by Rod Serling. Having now chalked up 92 scripts for the series in five years, his complete exhaustion is only too apparent, as he seems to have lost the ability to write a character that doesn't speak like himself. If these episodes were ranked strictly for subjective entertainment value, then this one would be a lot higher up the list - in fact, objectively, it's already several places too high. It is, like Black Leather Jackets, glorious rubbish.
     Both the giant alien pictured (which turns out to be a balloon) and the small aliens on the large image at the top of this page are unbridled joys, for all the wrong reasons. The thematic connections with other episodes, even Stopover In A Quiet Town, can't be denied. It's a grab bag of silliness and outrageous situations, which ends with a UFO confrontation on a hill that makes the Monkees episode The Frodis Caper look positively restrained in comparison.