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 10, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers character actor Richard Kiel, who died on this day in 2014 at age 74. The commanding presence of Kiel is on full display as a seemingly benevolent Kanamit alien in the classic TZ episode “To Serve Man.” The Kanamits have arrived on Earth to provide us with technological expertise that can change the course of our planet … we hope. In the days before NBA basketball players seem to grow and grow and grow, Kiel’s height (he was 7’2”) and acting ability brought him plenty of work in film and television.
However, it was the role of Jaws, the nearly mute, steel-toothed assassin in the James Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, that truly catapulted the gentle giant into the stratosphere of popular culture, and made him a popular guest at many an autograph convention. While Bond purists might have groused at Kiel’s seemingly unstoppable character (he definitely had a touch of Wile E. Coyote), young people embraced him all over the world, making The Spy Who Loved Me a huge international hit, and inspiring the producers to bring the legendary assassin back in Moonraker, where he finally gets a chance to speak, albeit briefly.
Here’s to a legendary TZ character, and a great guy to boot.