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, August 7, we remember the wonderful character actor John Anderson, who died on this day in 1982 at the age of 69. Anderson starred in the popular episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” in which he portrayed Captain Farver, the pilot of a 707 airliner that runs afoul of a super air current that transports the aircraft and its passengers back to the days of the dinosaurs. Thanks to Rod Serling’s brother’s help – Robert Serling was an aviation writer with all the right connections to get accurate cockpit chatter – this episode seemed amazingly realistic for its time.
Anderson also appeared as the angel Gabriel in “A Passage for Trumpet” – helping Jack Klugman’s down-on-his-luck horn player regain his confidence and spirit; he played a tool and die tycoon under siege from an unscrupulous corporate raider in “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”; and he made his final appearance as the leader of a postapocalyptic community in the atmospheric “The Old Man in the Cave.”
Often low-key on screen, Anderson reminds us that on shows like The Twilight Zone, understatement could be a statement in itself.