Thursday, January 31, 2019

What's the Worst that Could Happen? (First Contact Edition)

In this edition of "What's the Worst that Could Happen?" the subject is first contact; the first occasion an alien race meets the human race. The encounter can take place in space (on a ship), or on Earth.

For purposes of this list, however, encounters with one alien of a larger species will not be included. Movies such as Alien (1979), The Thing (1982) and Predator (1987) all contend with humans in out-of-the-way locations meeting a single representative of a dangerous species.

This list focuses, instead, on the disasters that invariable occur when two worlds, and two societies, collide.

10. In 1953, aliens from Mars land on Earth, and commence the annihilation of the human race. Humanity responds with force, even deploying atomic weapons, but the manta-ray-shaped alien ships continue their conquest of our world, until humanity's society is in ruins. Fortunately, the aliens are defeated by germs. "After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth." (War of the Worlds [1953]).

09. The alien Kanamit arrive on Earth and appear humble and friendly. Their primary textbook (the Kanamit version of our Bible, perhaps) even suggests the alien desire to work with man. That textbook is titled "To Serve Man."  Alas, it's a cookbook!  The humans boarding Kanamit spaceships to visit the alien home planet are bound, on arriving at their destination, to be served on a dinner platter. (The Twilight Zone (1959-1961): "To Serve Man.")

08. In 1985, Earth launches an exploratory space probe called Voyager One. This peaceful satellite is equipped with the Queller Drive, which spews fast neutrons, destroying all organic life within close range. Unfortunately, Voyager One passes within close range of the Worlds of Sidon, killing millions of people on two worlds.  Years later, after 1999, the people of Moonbase Alpha encounter the Sidons, who are seeking vengeance for the deaths of their people.  ]"Greetings from the people of Earth!" (Space:1999 [1975-1977]: "Voyager's Return.")

07. Fifty alien mother-ships take up positions over major cities around the world. The aliens aboard, the Visitors, promise friendship and peace. Instead, they begin turning the world against scientists, who might discover the truth about them. And what is that truth?  The Visitors are reptilian creatures here to steal our water, eat our people, and abduct humans to use as cannon fodder in their Great Leader's war against an unknown alien enemy.  "Friendship is universal!" (V [1983]).

06. An alien ship in crashes in Roswell in 1947, but its pilot is murdered by dark forces within the U.S. government. The aliens behind the crashed ship forge an alliance with an International Syndicate on Earth to enslave the human race (turning it into a breeding ground, for the Earth's original life form: the black oil). This global consortium sells out its own species to the aliens, permitting (while simultaneously discrediting) widespread alien abduction. (The X-Files[1993 - 2002]).  The members of the syndicate will be allowed to survive, naturally, after the new regime takes over during a national emergency. "Fight the future!"

05. Gigantic alien saucers arrive on Earth and, after a coordinated countdown, use their powerful weapons to obliterate cities around the world. They destroy the White House and other monuments (including the Statue of Liberty), nearly wiping humanity off the face of the planet. Fortunately, these ultra-advanced aliens use computers compatible with our own, and a virus is uploaded to their mainframe which makes the aliens susceptible to human counter-attack. (Independence Day [1996]).

04. The Taelons come to Earth promising peace and new technologies for the human race. Unfortunately, the Taelons are a dying race, and are secretly using humans or dark purposes, including strange breeding experiments, and the recruitment of our young to fight in a war against the Taelon enemy. A human resistance movement springs up on Earth, and over the years another secret is revealed: The Taelons are fighting an even more hostile enemy, which also wants to take over the Earth. (Earth: Final Conflict [1997 - 2002]).

03. Aliens from Mars come to Earth, and basically troll everyone on the planet. They enjoy wiping out humanity by shrink rays, disintegration rays, and other bizarre means. They also perform strange experiments on our people, creating animal-human hybrids. Fortunately, yodeling kills them.  "Ack ack! (Mars Attacks [1996]). 

02. In the 24th century, in the Delta Quadrant, the U.S.S. Voyager encounters a race of berserk aliens in fluidic space, called Species 8472. These aliens, who go by the mantra "the weak shall perish," are so terrifying that the Borg are actually scared of them.  Captain Janeway makes an alliance with the Borg, to send the psychic, savage aliens back to fluidic space. (Star Trek: Voyager  [1995 - 2001]).

01. In the Mirror Universe, the peaceful and logical Vulcans land on Earth, following the successful test flight of Zefram Cochrane's warp ship, the Phoenix. Th kindly Vulcans are greeted, in this universe, not with a handshake and open arms, but with fire-arms. All hail the Terran Empire. (Star Trek: Enterprise [2001 - 2005]).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Walking in Another Person's Shoes: The Cult-TV Body Swap

After a fashion, all of science fiction television concerns the concept of identity, and a human individual's desire to protect, preserve, and nourish that identity. 

When you break down that assertion to specifics, it isn't difficult to discern how the genre is dominated by threats to the inner "self."  From evil twins, impostors and doppelgangers to alternate dimension counterparts, heroes in cult television almost constantly face challenges to identity Superheroes, for example, often suffer from amnesia: the total loss of memory and awareness of "who they are" or who they are destined to become. 

The Borg -- arguably Star Trek's greatest villain -- rob humans and other races of personal identity, assimilating individuality into a colorless collective.

Similarly, vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are demons who inhabit your (dead) body, but lack your human soul.

From one end of the genre to the other, villains in the pantheon might accurately be described as body thieves or identity robbers/identity corrupters.

Perhaps the most common genre convention in cult television is the idea of the "body swap."

In body swap tales, two individuals change bodies, and in the process overturn the order of the status quo.   In sci-fi TV history, villains have swapped bodies with heroes, men have swapped bodies with women, and sane men have swapped bodies with mad-men.

And in each example of this template, the great struggle in the drama is to re-assert personal identity and reclaim a life that might have been lost.  We cling to our identities. Without it, we are nothing.

The Joe Stefano, Leslie Stevens anthology The Outer Limits (1963-1965) featured an early "body swap" story during its first remarkable season. 

In "The Human Factor," by David Duncan, a scientist named Dr. Hamilton (Gary Merrill) has invented a device for treating the mentally-ill that can join the therapist's mind to that of the patient. This machine can not only share thoughts, but emotions as well...even the emotions "down deep...below the intellect."   

Hamilton has cause to test his mind-joining machine on an engineer named Major Brothers (Harry Guardino) at a military base in Greenland.  Brothers has gone mad with guilt over the death of a fellow officer, and believes that some kind of icy monster has infiltrated the facility.  His goal now is to destroy the facility, and everyone in it. 

But during a therapy session using Hamilton's mind-device, an earthquake occurs and Brothers and Hamilton switch minds and bodies.  Naturally, no other officer believes Hamilton's crazy story that he is actually the good doctor, now trapped in the body of a lunatic; and that a lunatic is now acting as the calm, steady psychologist. 

Disaster is ultimately averted but only because Hamilton's assistant, Ingrid (Sally Kellerman) is able to detect Hamilton's true, good self, inside Brother's body.  The idea of greatest importance in this body swap story is that man is more than a simple machine; that he exists as more than a physical presence, and boasts a soul or spirit (independent of physicality) that can be recognized as distinct and special. 

We would all like to believe that others would recognize our "essence," even if we seem different, or inhabit a different physical form. The Control Voice's ending narration dwells on the machine that made this particular body swap possible, and notes that it is neither good nor evil; that it is man who will always control his machines, and make such choices.

The final episode of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) "Turnabout Intruder," also concerns a body swap. 

This time, another mentally ill individual, a female scientist named Dr. Janet Lester (Sandra Smith), discovers mind-transference technology at on archaeological dig on the distant world of Camus II. 

A former lover of Captain Kirk's (William Shatner), Lester didn't make the cut at Starfleet Academy, and has since developed a deep  and abiding self-hatred.  She has blamed her failure not on her own instability, but on an exclusive world of Starfleet captains that refuses to "admit women."

In the course of the episode, Dr. Lester forces a body switch on Captain Kirk, and then assumes command of the Enterprise.  However, Dr. Lester's capricious, cruel nature soon becomes evident to the Enterprise crew, including Mr. Spock, Scotty and Dr. McCoy. 

When these officers attempt to relieve Kirk of command, Lester tries Mr. Spock for mutiny, and attempts to have Kirk (in her own body) executed. In this version of the body swap tale, the restoration of order again depends on a person -- a friend -- who can recognize a person's true essence outside of physical appearances.

In this case, the Spock-Kirk friendship proves paramount, and Spock makes use of a Vulcan mind-meld to prove that Captain Kirk's true self is trapped in the body of Dr. Lester.  Again, the idea of the soul is raised, if not named directly.  In "Turnabout Intruder," Captain Kirk speaks of the things that make him "special," "only to himself."

In "Turnabout Intruder's" coda, Captain Kirk also notes that Dr. Lester's life could have been as productive and happy as "any woman's," which today is largely and rightly interpreted as a sexist remark.  But the point of his reflection is that if Dr. Lester had not hated her own identity and self, she could have accomplished wonderful things. 

The body swap story is often about a person who wants to change, to be different, and a person upon whom change is forced.  If you are happy in your own skin, you have no need to envy anybody else, or covet their identity.  But Janet Lester considered her identity not a gift (something special to herself, in the words of Kirk) but as a prison. And she sought to escape that prison at her first opportunity.

Chris Carter's The X-Files (1993-2002) took the idea of the "body swap" in a different direction entirely during the sixth season two-part episode, "Dreamland." 

In this tale, an experimental U.S. aircraft reverse engineered from UFO technology emits an energy wave that exchanges the bodies of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and government bureaucrat, Morris Fletcher (Michael McKean).   

This body swap tale is played largely for comedy, and a highlight of the show is an extended sequence during which Mulder sees himself as Morris in a bedroom mirror.  McKean and Duchovny literally mirror each others moves and expressions -- with perfect timing. 

Although this episode is a bit more fanciful and less serious than your typical X-Files segment, there's again a point to the drama: the idea of what it means to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

Here, Mulder is cut off from not just his body, his job, and his best friend, Scully, but from his obsessive, lifelong pursuits.  He finds himself with teenage children, a nagging wife, and no real friends.

Morris, meanwhile -- at least in a certain sense -- does a better job with Mulder's life than Mulder did.  As Mulder, Morris attempts to get frisky with Scully, and enjoys his new, more youthful and athletic body.  Mulder gets moved into a suburban Hell, but Morris makes his time in Mulder's body enjoyable. 

The Farscape canon (1999-2003) also features a variation on the familiar  body swap story.  In "Out of Their Minds" by Ian Watson, a Halosian energy blast strikes Moya and all the refugees and fugitives aboad her (save for Zhaan) are shunted out of their bodies...repeatedly.  

There isn't just one switch among two characters featured in this dizzying, frenetic adventure, but several switches, spread out amongst Chiana, Rygel, John Crichton, Aeryn Sun and D'Argo. 

Like The X-Files installment, "Out of Their Minds" boasts a playful tenor, and doesn't shy away from issues of sexuality (a perpetual strength of Farscape, in general). 

Crichton spends some personal time in Aeryn's body, and Aeryn takes a peek down John's trousers while in his body.  In this sense, "Out of Their Minds" is about curiosity.  In real life, we never have the opportunity to become anyone else, let alone someone of the opposite sex...or a different species.

When the displaced crew members of Moya pull together and defeat the Halosians, the point seems to be that although these characters are all different, they are all alike under the skin. When  they remember that and work together, they succeed.

Walking in someone else's shoes and seeing something through someone else's eyes builds empathy for that person.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fourth season two-parter "This Year's Girl," the renegade slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) uses a mystical device to swap bodies with the very woman who put her in a hospital (and coma) for the better part of a year: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). 

So the visiting Watchers Council actually apprehends Buffy in Faith's body, and Faith -- in Buffy's form -- is left to wreak havoc on the Slayer's personal life, including her romantic relationship with Riley (Marc Blucas).

This episode is another exploration of what it means to walk a mile in another person's shoes.  As Buffy, Faith has sex with Riley out of revenge, out of petty jealousy.  But Faith is upset and deeply-affected after the intercourse because she felt real love...something she had not experienced herself, and was not prepared for.

Suddenly -- and literally -- she's got skin in the game. She was affected by what she did; and now can't treat her new body so cavalierly.

Smallville's (2001 -2011) fourth season offered yet another variation on the commonly-seen body swap story, entitled "Transference." 

In this episode -- one of Smallville's finest hours -- Lionel Luthor John Glover) plots to steal Lex's body using a Kryptonian crystal or artifact.  But Clark (Tom Welling) jumps in at the last second to save his friend Lex, and he ends up being the person switched with Lionel. 

In this case, Lionel not only gets a new and younger body...he unexpectedly finds himself in an invincible one.

At this point, Lionel is the undisputed villain of the series, and he returns to Clark's life in Smallville with super powers to go along with his criminal mind.  The kicker in this case is that after order is restored and Lionel is returned to his own body, he feels the after-effects of Clark's presence.  In an instant, Lionel is "born again," a reformed man.  The switch has changed him, but not because of himself, but because his body housed a being of rare, superhuman virtue.

"Transference" points to another aspect of "body swap" stories that proves irresistible. Actors featured in a regular series are suddenly gifted with an opportunity to play a different role; to emulate their co-stars, in many cases.

Smallville proves truly spectacular in this regard, with Welling deftly taking on the gestures, stance and mannerisms of Glover's character, and Glover doing the same for Welling's character.  That's the thing that makes this episode so funny, and it's really a credit to Welling (who gets most of the screen-time) for pulling off a brilliant, funny, and carefully-observed version of Lionel Luthor.

Like many other genre conventions, the body swap isn't going to disappear from cult television anytime soon.  It's too useful a trope, really.  The body swap mixes things up for the performers involved, allowing them to play insane, the opposite sex, or another series regular. But it also reminds us how precious and fragile personal identity truly is. 

It would be terrible, after all, to lose your body to another person.  Especially a person who might be you...better than you ever were.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

UFO: "Exposed"

In "Exposed," a speeding UFO skirts past interceptor missiles in near space, and is seen in orbit by a hot-shot test pilot, Paul Foster (Michael Billington). 

After recovering from a six day coma, Foster learns that his experimental plane, the XV-104, was destroyed and his co-pilot killed. Foster also learns that his employers at Ventura Aircrafts blames him and "pilot error" for the disaster. 

Furthermore, photos recovered from the plane show no signs of an alien craft in Earth orbit. Paul's record also speaks against his veracity. He has reported seeing UFOs three times during an eight year span.

Desperate to clear his name and standing, Paul begins a personal investigation of the disaster, an investigation that leads him to a man named Ed Straker, and the secrets of SHADO. 

But Commander Straker is expecting Paul. Straker arranges for a rendezvous with the pilot at the movie studio. And there, all is revealed...

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's UFO gets a second (or is it third?) male lead in "Exposed," an episode that introduces the character of test pilot Paul Foster. If Straker functions as the brains and determination of SHADO, Foster surely represents the youth, vigor, physicality, and sexuality. That may be an over-statement in some sense, however, because Foster proves in this episode that he is every bit as stubborn and resourceful as SHADO's commanding officer. 

"Exposed" is fascinating in terms of UFO episode content because at the same time that it keeps tabs on the wily, in-the-know Straker, it reveals an outsider's experience of SHADO.Basically, the organization organizes a vast, complex conspiracy to prevent anyone from knowing the truth about what happened to Foster's co-pilot, and plane. 

Evidence is tampered with, a cover-up is engineered, and a spy (Jean Marsh) is even put in close contact with Paul, to prevent the truth from being discovered. In fact, SHADO also arranges for Paul to experience "temporary blindness" for a spell as Straker and others decide how to handle him and his knowledge.  From an outside perspective, none of this is very nice, or even legal.

Today, "Exposed" plays like a twisted version of a mytharc X-Files story. In The X-Files, Mulder and Scully often try to uncover pilot or bystander stories regarding UFOs, but are stymied at every turn by the shadowy conspiracy and the Cigarette Smoking Man. In UFO, the people of the shadowy conspiracy are basically the protagonists, and the truth must remain buried, except for a chosen few.  The two series, in some way, thus represent looking-glass reflections of one another.

While Mulder is a champion of freedom, both or people and of information, Straker makes it plain during "Exposed" that allowing the world's population to know the truth about the aliens is not an option because it would cause "a breakdown of authority," not to mention "mass hysteria" and "panic." Unspoken in the series is a faith in the government and its many organs, a faith that, post-Watergate, would simply have not existed.

Intriguingly, Paul absolutely buys into the SHADO (paranoid?) view-point once he is told that everything has merely been a test to judge if he is worthy of joining the organization. In other words, Foster is not okay with the truth being hidden from him, but once he's on the inside, he's okay with the truth being hidden from others. This hypocrisy doesn't reveal him in the best light.

"Exposed" is fascinating, because it operates on the series' standard "double" thematic track. In many UFO episodes, Straker makes it plain that the aliens must be defeated at any cost, and the alien weekly schemes are, indeed, usually stopped in their tracks. These instances are clearly victories for SHADO. 

And yet, there is always, at the same time, a "human cost" for these victories. Consider "Identified:" SHADO captures an alien pilot and learns much about his physiology and nature. At the same time, however, the human cost hits Carlin's family hard: the discovery that his sister's organs have been harvested by the aliens.  

An upcoming episode, "A Question of Priorities," goes even further down this road, revealing the human cost to Straker when there is an attempt to capture an alien defector. In "Exposed," the human cost is Foster's career, reputation, and credibility. Straker is willing to see Foster destroyed if he doesn't pass SHADO's test. He has no compunctions about ruining a man's life if it keeps the secret of SHADO.

As these instances reveal, UFO is a hard-edged series, even by today's standards, with no real happy endings.  Sure, Paul gets a new career in "Exposed," but a pilot has died, an aircraft is destroyed, and the world's people remain in the dark about "the truth."

The last question raised by "Exposed" involves the necessity of a character like Paul Foster in the series' mix. He's a charismatic, conventionally-handsome, romantic lead. Foster takes center stage in a way that Carlin, or Alec, can't.  Alec comes across as a bit of a lech in "Identified," and Carlin is a bit charisma-deficient.So perhaps Straker needs a second in command who captures this demographic. Yet as I wrote last week, Straker remains the series' most compelling individual. He possesses a depth that many of the secondary characters simply lack This episode may ostensibly involve Foster's dogged hunt to solve an impenetrable mystery, but when the resolution is offered, the audience realizes that Straker has been pulling the strings all along. He is a master manipulator.

Next week: "A Question of Priorities."

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Cult-TV Faces of: Pets












Friday, January 25, 2019

Horror Lexicon 14: Mob Justice!

One of the most common -- and long-standing -- tropes of the horror film is mob justice. This genre convention might be described as the idea that local people, when faced with fear and anxiety, may seek to take the law into their own hands to remove any monster, being, or personality they determine is a threat to their safety and survival. 

The problem is that a mob is susceptible to group-think, the concept that, in a group or mob, many people suppress their individual sense of morality, or responsibility for decisions. So the mob in these horror movies often acts, and acts violently...and without any sense of wisdom or proportion.

Going way back to 1931's Frankenstein, a key visualization of "mob justice" is forged: the villagers with lit torches, marching against an individual they deem guilty of a crime. As late as 1995, and John Carpenter's Village of the Damned, the horror movie has provided viewers with related imagery of frightened people, confronting "the other" with torches.  Humans murder, and burn, that which they fear, this image reveals.

By 1968, mob justice had become "posse" justice. In an outbreak of the zombie plague in rural Pennsylvania, roving bands of citizens, joined with local law authorities, went out with shotguns and rifles to shoot those they deemed monsters. In at least one incident, they targeted people instead of zombies, murdering Ben, the last human survivor in a farmhouse.  Ben had survived a night of horror, interpersonal conflict, and danger, only to be killed on the dawn of a new day.

Animal attack movies are also notorious for featuring instances of misguided "mob justice."  Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) features a scene with (drunken) Amity locals rushing their boats and going out on the water to go hunt the great white shark.  These locals bring back an innocent victim -- a murdered tiger shark -- and display it in town as a trophy.  

Grizzly (1976) from William Girdler, offered a similar scene, though set in a national park. A group of hunters -- ignoring the prominent "No Hunting" sign -- descend on the woods to find and murder the bear attacking campers. One of the hunters experiences a close call with the bear, and no doubt thinks twice about his actions.

The trope of mob justice has even found its way into slasher and rubber reality films, as well. In Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), a group of Haddonfield rednecks and drunks learn in a bar (while drinking and watching TV) that Michael Myers has returned to their town on Halloween nigh, twenty years after his last attack.. Instead of letting the police handle such a difficult situation, these drunkards and loud-mouths go out into the night and start hunting their quarry. They end up killing an innocent man, Ted Hollister, instead of the Shape.

In a very real way, the origin of Freddy Krueger is about mob justice, even if the mob-justice doesn't occur on-screen in Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).  When child-murderer Freddy escapes justice on a technicality, a mob of parents get together, trap him in his boiler room, and burn him alive.  It is that act of mob justice, ironically, that allows Freddy to seek his revenge from beyond the grave.

Looking at these examples, one sees a mob kill our hero (Night of the Living Dead), murder an innocent man (Halloween IV), spawn a deeper evil (A Nightmare on Elm Street), harm nature (Jaws), and also hurt a being, or "monster" the audience sympathizes with (Frankenstein).  

Therefore, the lesson of this trope in the horror lexicon is simply this: beware the mob.  The mob is more dangerous than any so-called monster, out there, hiding in the woods. 

And mob "justice?"  There's no such thing.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

What's the Worst That Could Happen? (Time Travel Edition)

Back in November, I posted about the sci-fi movie and trope of suspended animation, and all the myriad things that have gone wrong in its usage in pop culture imaginings. In the second edition of "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" I look at another common genre convention: time travel.

So, time travel gets invented -- the genie is out of the bottle -- and what's the worst that could happen? Modern pop culture has more than a few answers for us.

10. You, an enlightened and compassionate person of a Utopian future age, travels to the past, and by saving a woman in a traffic accident from dying, end up altering history so that Nazis win World War II. (Star Trek: "City on the Edge of Forever.")  No good deed goes unpunished, right?

09. You time travel back to Scotland in 1334 A.D, contract the Black Plague, and are promptly captured by the locals, only to be burned at the stake for being witches and heretics. (Space:1999 "Journey to Where.") 

08. You travel back in time to the 1950's and accidentally prevent your parents from falling in love, thereby erasing yourself from existence. And by the way, your teenage Mom has a crush on you. (Back to the Future).

07. You create time travel, and travel to the future, only to learn that it is your invention of time travel that raises global tensions to crisis level, and precipitates a nuclear war that destroys human civilization. (Logan's Run: "Man out of  Time.")

06. Again, you create time travel,but this time it plunges the world into chaos since the future is forever changing, and therefore hopeless. You must go back in time and kill the people who helped you create time travel in the first place. (The X-Files: "Synchrony.")

05. You time ravel back to 1941 aboard your nuclear air-craft carrier, but before you can defend Pearl Harbor from Japanese attack, the same vortex that transported you through time re-appears.  Do you go home, or change history and save a lot of American lives? (The Final Countdown).

04. You and your companion travel back through time and end up on the Titanic. You endure a number of time-hops to other, equally dangerous eras. Your last time hop, however, is back to the Titanic, meaning you are caught, essentially, in an endless time-loop. (The Time Tunnel).

03. You visit an alien planet the day after a terrible accident has wipe out all life there, only to be hurled back in time twenty-four hours before the disaster. Now you must live through the last 24 hours of the planet. You will either have to save it, or die with the planet at the end of the day. (Star Trek: Voyager: "Time  and Again.")

02. The day of your marriage, you go out riding and are accosted by a strange woman on horseback yelling at you as she chases you on a mountainside. You escape and go ahead and marry. Twenty years later, you are an alcoholic, bitter person living a miserable life with your good-for-nothing spouse. You go out for a ride, and encounter your younger self. You attempt to chase her down, but you never catch her, and she never gets the warning. In twenty years, she'll  (The Twilight Zone: "Spur of the Moment.")

01. Using an American spaceship, three intelligent apes from an apocalyptic future time travel to Earth in the early 1970's. One of the apes is pregnant. In twenty years, her grown up simian child leads a revolution of our normal apes, and human civilization falls. Thanks, astronauts! (Escape from the Planet of the Apes).

National Twilight Zone Day: "Come Wander with Me"

There are, perhaps, several episodes of Rod Serling's classic   The Twilight Zone  (1959-1964) more sharply-written, more morally-valuab...