The new rendition of The Twilight Zone launched 60 years after the premiere of Rod Serling’s immortal classic (1959), is not what you would expect when compared to the original classic. While the entire first season of this new series has not yet finished airing all of the episodes, with one episode added to the CBS All Access streaming service every Thursday, the majority have since been posted and I can now provide an overall review of the finished product.
Jordan Peele, the writer/director of Us and Get Out, ensured us that there would be no remakes, but numerous concepts and characters would be revisited with a modern-day take. Thus “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which initially starred William Shatner as a schizophrenic who witnesses a gremlin tearing the engine apart on a passenger airliner, is now refined to “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” and concerns a schizophrenic who listens to a podcast predicting the demise of the airplane he is presently flying. Throughout the episode, the bigot profiles potential suspects who might have plans to sabotage the flight. Needless to say, the person responsible for the crime succeeds — and it is not a “foreigner” as suspected. His sojourn into paranoia, fostered by racial aggression, only leads him to damnation in the end.
But this, and “The Comedian,” are perhaps the best episodes of the series. The majority of what remains plays out more like Outer Limits episodes. In “Six Degrees of Freedom,” a group of astronauts launch from Earth, bound for Mars, moments before nuclear war commences, they have to not only deal with each other’s fallacies but question reality: could this all be a test of endurance under such a scenario? Are they really heading to Mars? There is evidence to suggest but who wants to put it up to the test? In another episode, “Not All Men,” small remnants of meteorites crash into the Earth, polluting the water, causing all the men in town to relieve their aggression — with murder and death to follow. But the plague proves to women that not all men can suffer from the effects when exposed to the water — it is simply a matter of decision.
As much as fanboys might criticize Jordan Peele, he captured the original essence of the original. Back in 1959, when the program first premiered, Rod Serling discovered how he could have aliens from outer space provide the commentary that would have been censored if spoken by people. Though the first four episodes focus on racial tension and racial divide (which starts to get old after the third episode), the series began showing promise by focusing on other social issues we face today. The scenario of an ordinary person thrown into an extra-ordinary event, patterned with an element of science-fiction, is certainly reproduced here. But with schemes so far out that I would have expected to see them played out in a modern-day Outer Limits episode, I certainly hope the second season can fit closer to the roots of the original. Yes, CBS renewed the series for a second season.
Make no mistake, this is not Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. This is Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone.