- Host John Newland’s introduction to Alcoa Presents, or One Step Beyond (1959-1961)
The second episode of One Step Beyond remains one of its weirdest, most chilling and most dramatic, even several decades after it first aired on American television. If you've seen this episode, chances are, you've never forgotten it.
Airing originally on January 27, 1959, the black-and-white “Night of April 14” remains creepy as hell today because it ends on that spooky and unsettling note.
When I wrote my book An Analytical Guide to TV’s One Step Beyond in 1999, I knew that this story was a turning point of sorts in an understanding of the series. If I could find that book and verify Newland’s claims, then the show's argument that it was based on “fact” was at least plausible. On the other hand, if the prophetic novel was but a calculated fiction created for One Step Beyond, then I knew that any claim of veracity was likely suspect.
Well, the book existed (and is extant), and I've written about it on the blog before (in relation to The Lone Gunmen and the 9/11-styled pilot episode, I believe.). The novel is indeed titled Futility and it was written by a novelist named Morgan Robertson. Futility’s plot concerns the maiden voyage of the largest ocean liner ever built. On an April night – in the story – this fictitious vessel (described in the text by the adjective “unsinkable”) strikes an iceberg and because there are not enough lifeboats aboard over one thousand passengers die in freezing waters.
The name of the ocean liner in Futility is…Titan.
Countries across the world shared in the news first of Titanic's unique nature, and secondly in its horrifying destruction. The disaster preceded World War I, World War II, and of course, the media terror of 9/11. Was the Titanic's sinking the first really "worldwide" story of mass suffering and death? I don't know for certain, but Titanic's tale has had an imprint not just on the generation that witnessed the disaster, but on all the succeeding ones, even a century later.