In its fifth and final season, Twilight Zone went through some challenging times. Rod Serling had even less involvement, writing scripts in a hurry and generally feeling very fatigued. Producer Bert Granet passed on to William Froug just after the season began. Unsurprisingly, season five suffered from a lack of quality compared to earlier seasons, although there are still some superb episodes.
The season starts strongly with Twilight Zone alumni Jack Klugman and Billy Mumy in 'In Praise of Pip,' about an alcoholic bookie who discovers his son is dying in Vietnam. The season continues to have strong episodes such as 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,' a superb tale and one of the most-loved episodes concerning a recovering mental patient (William Shatner in one of his best performances) seeing a gremlin on the wing of an airplane he's flying home in; 'Living Doll,' in which a little girls' new doll starts terrorising the girls stepfather; 'Number 12 Looks Just Like You,' a chilling story about a future society that encourages people to upgrade their appearances to all look beautiful; 'Night Call,' which sees Gladys Cooper receiving eerie phone calls on dark and stormy nights; 'The Masks,' wherein a dying millionaire exacts revenge on his greedy family; and 'Stopover In A Quiet Town,' in which two people wake up in an empty town made out of cardboard and paper.
Most episodes in season five ultimately fall very average compared to previous offerings: 'Steel,' 'A Kind of A Stopwatch,' 'The Last Night of A Jockey,' 'The Old Man in the Cave,' 'Uncle Simon,' 'Probe 7 Over and Out,' 'Ring-A-Ding Girl,' 'You Drive,' 'The Long Morrow,' 'The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross,' 'Spur of the Moment,' 'Queen of the Nile,' 'What's in the Box,' 'I am the Night - Color Me Black,' 'The Jeopardy Room,' 'Mr Garrity and the Graves,' and 'The Brain Center at Whipple's' either offer great ideas that are not realised well or are all average episodes that pass the time well enough.
There are some (by Twilight Zone standards) dreadful episodes in this season: the clichéd and utterly dull 'The 7th is Made up of Phantoms'; 'Ninety Years Without Slumbering,' which completely cheats its audience at the end, 'Black Leather Jackets,' a contender for worst ever episode and mind-numbingly dreadful; the childish and irritating 'From Agnes - With Love'; the totally awful 'Caesar and Me'; 'Come Wander With Me,' the most bizarre and confusing episode ever made, so incoherent that it is rendered unwatchable; 'The Fear,' in which Twilight Zone lives inside its own clichés for 30 minutes of pointless drama; and finally 'The Bewitchin' Pool,' the final episode, wherein the script isn't brilliant but the production is so much worse.
Fortunately, the Twilight Zone's worst is still pretty good, and even in the worst episodes there is still at least something, however small, to admire.
Also on this DVD are 4 non-syndicated episodes that are rarely seen. Included chronologically, it was a rare treat to see these for the first time. They are somewhat of a mixed bag all in all: 'A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain' doesn't generate much energy, and 'Sounds and Silences' is pretty okay but could have been much better, whereas 'The Encounter' is a fascinating and extremely personal tale about consequences, and is fresh and diverting. But the episode that REALLY impresses is, ironically, not really a Twilight Zone episode at all. This is 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,' which was produced as a French short film that won the Cannes Film Festival. Serling brought the rights and aired the film as a Twilight Zone episode. Stunningly produced, it is one of Ambrose Bierce's most haunting stories.
The sixth disc in this release includes footage of Serling's lectures and interviews with guest stars and writers, and is worthy of your attention.
So The Twilight Zone comes to an end. Although season five may not be perfect, it is a vital part of this incredible show. A terrific series, all in all, and one of the true landmarks of television entertainment. A masterpiece.