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 15, This Day in Twilight Zone History begins to commemorate the original debut dates of the show – commencing here with the great Season 3 opener “Two,” which premiered on this day in 1961. Submitted for your approval is the riveting story of two soldier survivors – Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery, playing sworn enemies who have no name – who meet in the ruined streets of what appears to be New York City.
Today, it seems like every third movie is about the apocalypse – nuclear, biological, climate, giant insect, etc., but back in 1961 end-of-the-world scenarios were relatively fresh on network television (as was the continual threat of being nuked). While the story could take place at any time, we get a sense of the future because Montgomery (playing the Russian) deploys a kind of ray gun to zap Bronson (playing the American).
Thanks to two great performances, this episode builds terrific tension (without resorting to any wild, out-of-control action) and offers plenty of grit – due in no small part to director Montgomery Pittman, who also wrote this episode, and the art department, who transformed a backlot into a ruined hellscape. This was hardly the glamorous Elizabeth Montgomery we would soon see on Bewitched, and Bronson truly underplayed his role, bringing out the war-weariness that would soon be a calling card for his feature film work.
A tip of the TZ cap to Montgomery, Bronson, and Pittman for a great way to begin a new season of timeless stories.