Worst to Best
1980s Twilight Zone
Season Three

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24 Street Of Shadows

A somewhat insipid tale of a man who changes places with a millionaire and uses his new-found wealth to help aid the underprivileged. While it's nice to have a bit of social commentary in the series, it feels clumsy and lifeless here, another of many third season episodes that have no real drive.

23 The Trance

Peter Scolari plays a fake medium who claims to channel an ancient being. Seven minutes into the episode, and we find that he really does become possessed by an ancient being, and... that's it. The remaining two acts go by without any real twist or building on this topic, and an episode with some vague potential - albeit predictable - grinds slowly towards its finish. There are some nice barbs aimed at modern society, but generally this is a flat rendition of a halfway promising idea.

22 The Crossing

Ted Shackelford gives a strong performance in the somewhat clichéd role of a Catholic priest haunted by... yes, you guessed it... guilt. Believing he was responsible/culpable for a woman's death in a car crash, the Twilight Zone gives him the chance to atone and put things right. That the episode doesn't quite explain how this all happens can either be regarded as underwriting on the part of the scriptwriter, or, more charitably, the makers giving respect for the viewers' intelligence to put it all together.

21 There Was An
Old Woman

Colleen Dewhurst stars as a children's book author who has more ghosts in her house than R. Dean Taylor. With the manipulative presence of dead children and repetitive incidental music by Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon, this is the equivalent of Steven Spielberg directing kittens made out of sugar.

20 Stranger In
Possum Meadows

A deeply unsettling episode that casts Steve Kanaly as a mysterious man in the woods who talks to a young boy by himself. Kanaly's performance is suitably creepy, as, while 90% of the audience would have guessed that he's an alien - this is the Twilight Zone, after all - the characters in the story suspect that he's a potential child molester.
     Despite these doubts, and the vibe that this would have been a companion piece to the Diff'rent Strokes episode The Bicycle Man, the mother of the boy begins to flirt with the stranger. This is especially unpleasant as he reveals to her that he has a wife and children - a plot point there to cause a change of heart at the end, whereby he returns the kidnapped boy from his UFO. Sadly, this does not provide an excuse for the mother, who is looking to become romantically involved with a married man.

19 Crazy As A
Soup Sandwich

One great pity of the third season boxset is that there are no DVD extras. The first two seasons contained 27 commentary tracks as well as some deleted scenes, something which would have made for a fascinating addition to a series that was effectively restarted. In particular, the story of how J. Michael Straczynski convinced ex-Creative Consultant Harlan Ellison to sell a script for the season would have been almost essential. A commentary between the two of them would have been wonderful, though Ellison's unusually positive comments can be read in a Neal Adams edition of "Comic Book Profiles" (1998), Adams having drawn an adaptation of this tale in 1991. Ellison praised the episode as "a terrific little segment [...] a lovely little show. I'm very fond of it."
     The viewer's opinion of the episode may not reach such a high level as Ellison's. An intentionally broad comedy, one of just half a dozen comic tales from the season, it has performance and music styles that hark back to the original series and tales like Mr. Dingle, The Strong. Ultimately stories like this come down to personal taste, and, in its defence, a brief overview of this season written several years ago for an Anorak Zone TZ microsite had it tying with The Curious Case Of Edgar Witherspoon as the worst episode of the season. That both have been reappraised here and now sit comfortably far away from the bottom of this ranking (very far away in Edgar Witherspoon's case) shows that they have rewatch value. Either that, or just... I drastically changed my mind.
     Robin Ward replaced Charles Aidman as the narrator for the third season, and, while not dreadful, is unmemorable in the part. Ward had acted in, amongst other things, the badly-received 1973 sci-fi series The Starlost, devised by Ellison. Ellison left The Starlost after it didn't meet his vision, and insisted on his name not appearing on the series. Perhaps this is why, in a season one DVD commentary to Paladin of the Lost Hour, Ellison describes Ward as an "average-voiced, car salesman kind of guy." Ward also rerecorded the narration for the first two seasons for syndication, purely to save on money. His abilities are stretched to breaking point here, with an overegged introduction that includes the lines "registered coward, and owner of a yellow streak so vivid it could be slathered on a hot dog. Mr. Lochner was written out of the will when the meek were guaranteed their inheritance and just now he's trying to avoid another kind of pay off, a soulful payoff, in that off-track betting parlour we call... the Twilight Zone."