Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on Oct. 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run, would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science-fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things, and beyond -- becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History features key commemorative facts about the greatest science-fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia -- (debuting this month). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History offers a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, Oct. 20, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of versatile actor Barney Phillips (1913-1982), who appeared in four TZ episodes. Like a utility ballplayer who can play infield and outfield, Phillips was Serling’s go-to guy for a number of different roles.
In “The Purple Testament,” he’s Captain Gunther, a sympathetic doctor trying to understand a young Lieutenant’s (William Reynolds) outrageous claim that he can predict the future of his troops; in “A Thing About Machines,” he’s a TV repairman; in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” he’s Haley the diner manager with a secret; and in “Miniature,” he’s Robert Duvall’s boss.
Phillips also had a solid movie career, including a stint as Chief Franks, opposite Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough in Robert Wise’s epic film, The Sand Pebbles.
Here’s to Barney Phillips, always a plus in any starting lineup, particularly one handed to an umpire in The Twilight Zone.