Due to completing my fallout series, looking back at season 11 of Doctor Who, my Tuesday articles on Big Finish audios will move to Thursday and Tuesdays will take a brief visit to The Twilight Zone.
CBS All Access recently brought Star Trek back to our screens with Star Trek: Discovery and through the brilliant Jordan Peele, we’ve now started a new series of another classic: The Twilight Zone. With only two episodes aired at the time of this writing, I wanted to check them out and determine just how much of the classic is still alive. Can Jordan Peele bring The Twilight Zone to a modern audience? And I think the answer is yes… with a caveat.
Opening with The Comedian, we are treated to the story of comedian Samir Wassan who simply isn’t funny. His jokes are opinions about politics and he can’t get anyone to laugh. When at the bar one night, legend J. C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan) appears to him and asks if he really wants to be successful. And suddenly he is! But, as with everything in The Twilight Zone, there’s a price tag involved and it might just be too high.
It’s not a question of whether the story is good. Netflix has Black Mirror to fill the void that The Twilight Zone left and that might actually be a better show, but we need more time to make that determination. No, it’s a question of: does it have what it takes to carry the name. Frankly, Black Mirror is astoundingly good, but The Twilight Zone is a name that goes back over 50 years and has a legendary reputation. Jordan Peele’s opening is wonderful and immediately invoked that spirit that goes back to my childhood. Black Mirror will never be able to do that for long time fans. That’s not to knock Black Mirror! It’s just a testament to the nature of the Zone. And that’s a heck of a challenge for Mr. Peele! He’s no Rod Serling… but he’s not doing a bad job trying.
The cast is also spot on. Comic rival DiDi Scott (Diarra Kilpatrick) is a wonderful foil, putting Wassan down and making his decision to be the best that much easier. Amara Karan (who Doctor Who fans will remember as Rita from The God Complex – a character I really wanted to see travel with the Doctor) is wonderful as Wassan’s girlfriend. But the story comes down to a standard story of The Monkey’s Paw or any genie story: a wish has a price and that price is too high. There’s nothing unique in it. It’s good, but completely predictable. On top of that, the episode plays for nearly an hour. The best of the Zone were the 30 minute episodes that left the viewer stunned. If there is one added perk to this version, it’s the mini-game fans of the classic series will get to play; the “spot the icon” where some element of the classic series might make a cameo. In this case, watch out for The Dummy.
Is it good? Absolutely. Does it have character? Certainly. Can it sustain? Maybe. But it’s early days and we have to be fair. The first episode of Black Mirror is one I always warn people to stay away from until they know if they like the series. Maybe this first episode will be the weakest. Maybe the ones that follow will be better. The first episode I was stunned to find on Youtube! CBS All Access actually gave us a complete story for free unlike that atrocity they pulled with Star Trek: Discovery. I think I’ll give this a few episodes to talk about it with our friends at the Junkyard.
It’s time to cross over into The Twilight Zone. ML