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 27th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1963 premiere of Season 5’s first episode, “In Praise of Pip.” Jack Klugman makes his fourth appearance in The Twilight Zone, portraying traumatized L.A. bookie Max Phillips, who gets a phone call and turns to his boss and says, “My son is dying in a place called South Vietnam. There isn’t even supposed to be a war there.” Leave it to Rod Serling to write perhaps the first television episode to mention the brewing Vietnam War. But that was Serling – always on top of the issues, and always figuring out a way to integrate them into his science fiction and fantasy stories. The fantasy here is that a mortally wounded Max revisits the Santa Monice Pier amusement park and finds his son – seen as a child and portrayed by the delightful Billy Mumy (making his third and final appearance on the show). Klugman was one of Serling’s small screen heroes – especially when it came to the serious subject of death. The irony is that Klugman’s four episodes – “A Passage for Trumpet,” “A Game of Pool,” “Death Ship,” and “In Praise of Pip,” all involve life or death situations. Let us toast a terrific episode, and one more chance to check out two Twilight Zone legends in action.