Today, June 1st, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1962 premiere of "The Changing of the Guard."
British actor Donald Pleasence, new to American audiences, portrays Professor Ellis Fowler, a gentle educator who has been teaching poetry to the boys of Rock Spring School for fifty years. Sadly, the headmaster (Liam Sullivan) informs him that he must retire. Cut loose from the only world he knows, Fowler hovers near suicide until the school bell starts to ring, summoning him back to his classroom for a major epiphany.
This episode, which closed the third season, is beautifully written by Rod Serling and directed in subdued fashion by Robert Ellis Miller. Pleasence is a revelation as Fowler, and American audiences would soon after see him as British prisoner of war Colin Blyth, the camp forger in The Great Escape – the film that launched his terrific feature film career, which included his memorable stint as Dr. Loomis in the Halloween films.
So let us raise a comfortable cup of cocoa to Professor Fowler, the generations of Rock Spring School boys he taught, and the very necessary place he carved in the starscape we call The Twilight Zone.