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 followed, from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era and beyond.
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. 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, October 8, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actress Sue Randall (1935-1984), who starred opposite Wally Cox in the comic episode "From Agnes – With Love." Ever the sweet on-screen presence (boomers will remember her as Jerry Mathers' always-sympathetic grade school teacher Miss Landers on Leave It to Beaver), on TZ she portrayed Millie the secretary, who becomes the romantic object of James Elwood (Cox), a shy computer programmer.
What she doesn't know is that she has a rival – Agnes, a supercomputer who has also fallen in love with Elwood. Decades before "artificial intelligence" or "A.I." became part of our vocabulary, The Twilight Zone dealt with it frequently. Most recently, Joaquin Phoenix played a contemporary James Elwood, under the spell of his own computer (brilliantly voiced by Scarlett Johansson) in the feature film Her (2013). Although comedy was not really the strong suit of The Twilight Zone, sometimes a comic approach was necessary – especially in an era where computers were still the province of big scientific companies, long before smartphones, iPads, and laptops were welded to our beings.