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 18th, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes Happy Birthday to actor Fred Beir, born on this day in 1927. Another actor whose name escapes you, Beir teamed up with TZ veterans Jack Klugman and Ross Martin to play astronaut lieutenant Mike Carter in the gripping fourth season hour-long episode "Death Ship." Carter and his compatriots land on an alien world, discovering the wreckage of another spaceship identical to theirs. What’s even more shocking is the fact that inside that wreck are the bodies of three dead spacemen – their bodies.
Beir – playing the youthful neophyte – lends capable support in this compelling episode. Their ship, itself – both in flight and on the ground – should look familiar. It’s the same saucer featured in MGM’s Forbidden Planet. By the 1960s, based on nearly two decades of flying saucer sightings, it wasn’t uncommon for science fiction writers to put our astronauts in saucers. If you can’t beat’em – join’em. Beir passed in 1980, at age 52, but he’s forever enshrined in the panorama we call The Twilight Zone.