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 6, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers two fine character actors – Martin Milner, who died on this day at 83 in 2015, and John Mitchum, who was born on this day in 1919. Baby-faced Martin Milner was a fixture in World War II movies dating all the way back to 1949’s Sands of Iwo Jima, before he became a fixture in TV and co-starred opposite Vera Miles in “Mirror Image.” Milner played fellow bus passenger Paul Grinstead, the kind of grounded gentleman you want to meet in a lonely bus station when your life appears to be unraveling. In his TV career, Milner projected strength and reliability, especially all those years he spent on Adam-12 as Officer Pete Malloy.
John Mitchum – younger brother of actor Robert Mitchum – was always an asset on TV, particularly in his two TZ appearances. First, he was Erbie the train robber and mechanical engineer in “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” and he played the associate to John Dehner’s Jared Garrity in the eerie fifth-season episode “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” – helping the title character fleece the gullible inhabitants of a small western town. Movie audiences will also remember him as Clint Eastwood's first partner in Dirty Harry. Mitchum passed in 2001 at 82.
Here’s to these solid performers who brought their focus and seriousness to three more excellent episodes of a timeless series.