Interview: Marc Scott Zicree Discusses Rod Serling and "The Twilight Zone Companion"

By John W. Morehead of TheoFantastique

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

Without doubt one of the classic television programs from the late 1950s into the 1960s is THE TWILIGHT ZONE. For many, myself included, this program was a formative one whether the viewer is a child, teen or an adult. To this day it remains a source of fascination for me, as well for countless numbers of people.
For Christmas in 2006 one of the gifts I received was Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, 2nd ed. (Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1989). After reading through the book and enjoying it immensely I contacted Marc through his website. Marc agreed to participate in an interview, but due to his very busy schedule as a writer and producer we were like two ships passing in the night. Just recently we were finally able to connect for a phone interview. The interview at TheoFantastique makes for an interesting exploration of Rod Serling, the fantasy and science fiction writer’s craft, and the continuing legacy of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, as Zicree discusses the influences on Serling’s writing creativity, as well as the ongoing influence of the program in film and television, plus Serling’s penchant for addressing social issues in the guise of science-fiction…

MARC SCOTT ZICREE: When you have a medium in which millions of people are watching your work, and it lasts for decades, possibly for hundreds of years, it’s such an enormously powerful medium, television, that you want to say something fresh, you want to say something relevant, you want to say something truthful, and Rod was one of the great torchbearers of that cause, the cause of truth, and a spokesperson for his age. And in the tradition of Twain and Dickens, he wanted to be someone who could speak to what was wrong with society and as a result possibly change it. At the same time Rod was very aware that he had to be an entertainer and had to be entertaining in his work, and I think The Twilight Zone is very entertaining. I think one of the ironies of the fact that that the way Rod had turn The Twilight Zone to avoid censorship was that it forced him to write more universally. So, for instance, if he had been writings shows directly about things like the Cuban Missile Crisis, it would seem very musty that reflected the 1950s or 1960s, but because he was writing about the fear of the destruction of the world, fear of alien nation, fear of being singled out and alone against terrible, dreadful forces, something like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” where William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing and has to fight the others to prove that he’s sane, anyone who has ever spoken for a cause or gone against the majority opinion has this sense of being an outsider and has this sense of being that lone voice in the wilderness, and so I think Rod is almost unwittingly speaking for the ages because he was speaking more universally as a result of the censorship.

Read the complete interview at Theofantastique.

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