Today, December 11th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1959 premiere of "And When the Sky Was Opened." Rod Taylor, Jim Hutton and Charles Aidman star as returning astronauts who suddenly and inexplicably begin to be erased from existence.
I'm reminded of the recent Star Trek reboot in which a young Bones (Karl Urban) tells a young Kirk (Chris Pine) that space is "disease and danger wrapped in silence and darkness." Not exactly a recruiting poster slogan, and quite a bit different than the early rah-rah days of the U.S. Space Program. Despite the enthusiasm and fascination that the public had with the prospect of venturing off the planet, Rod Serling was not about to avoid the storytelling possibilities, either.
More often than not, our astronauts are indeed dealing with "disease and danger wrapped in silence and darkness." This episode had a multitude of assets. Serling was working from a crackling good short story by Richard Matheson. Relative newcomer Rod Taylor would shortly don the Victorian outerwear of H.G. Wells himself in The Time Machine. And Taylor was no space virgin: three years earlier he had co-starred in the Fox time travel feature World Without End. Jim Hutton was practically brand new in Hollywood (this was his third role); he would go on to star with Paula Prentiss in a number of major studio feature comedies. Charles Aidman would return to the Zone as a physicist in "Little Girl Lost."
And keep an eye out for Sue Randall playing a nurse. She would return as the subject of Wally Cox's affection in "From Agnes – With Love" and will forever be remembered as Theodore Cleaver's (Jerry Mathers) teacher in Leave it to Beaver.
So let's hoist a shot glass of rye to three brave astronauts who may some day return from their own personal form of the Bermuda Triangle, courtesy of The Twilight Zone.