Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 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 presents 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 (arriving this October). 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 presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, September 29, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of rugged character actor Steve Forrest (1925-2013), who portrayed mystified returning astronaut Major Robert Gaines in the fourth-season one-hour episode "The Parallel." Returning from a space mission in which he briefly blacked out, Gaines arrives back on what he believes to be Earth. But there are subtle changes that lead him to believe he may have entered a parallel dimension.
When I began to re-watch the hourlong episodes, I figured I was in for a letdown, because even Serling felt that the hours were padded and that TZ was best told in the half-hour format. "The Parallel" disproves that assertion – it’s a very suspenseful, unsettling hour, and Steve Forrest plays the increasingly frustrated Gaines beautifully. There are some episodes you wish went on longer – this was one of them. Incidentally, Forrest’s brother was Dana Andrews, who starred in the episode "No Time Like the Past," which aired one week before "The Parallel." Let’s toast Mr. Forrest, and the weight he brought to another excellent episode of the series we love.