001 – WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

Original air date – 10/2/59

Directed by Robert Stevens  |  Written by Rod Serling

Starring Earl Holliman, James Gregory, Garry Walberg

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For most of us who have had the experience of watching The Twilight Zone, the first episode, Where Is Everybody? would seem rather tame. But in order to retrace one episode at a time in chronologically-aired order, one will need to clear her head and watch it as if one hasn’t had a clue what the heck this show called The Twilight Zone is all about.

The show opens with a man in an Air Force attire, who seems to not remember who he is, walking through a town with nobody living in it.

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Several places he enters show some signs indicating there might have been people living here (from the hot coffee pot to the still-lit cigarette) despite being devoid of human beings.

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He enters a soda shop and finds a spin rack filled with the same book, The Last Man on Earth.

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By night time, he walks by a movie theater showing Battle Hymn which makes him remember that he is in the Air Force. After finding no one in the theater and the projection room, yet the film is running, he begins to lose his mind. He runs out to the street and at crosswalk, he presses a button. The button he pressed turns out to be a panic button.

***Spoiler alert***

We are cut to him being inside a booth with wiring taped to his head. He is being observed by a group of uniformed men.

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It turns out that the man is Mike Ferris who has been in an isolation booth for some 484 hours (I’ll save you some time by doing the math – that’s like 20 days). Mike Ferris is being trained to go to the moon, a mission that would necessitate weeks of isolation.

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Now, like I said in the beginning, I at first thought that the episode was tame as compared to others but then again this was the very first episode in 1959. On top of that, we are living in the time that the words space and tourism aren’t laughable when put together, we have to remind ourselves after watching this episode that it wasn’t until ten years after it was aired that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and famously mumbled his “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I doubt many people in 1959 actually sat back and said, “Jeez…I don’t want to be trapped in a space shuttle for days traveling to the moon” when the very idea is so far remote. This, folks, is what make Rod Serling WAY ahead of his time.

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One interesting factor on this episode is a little segment before the pilot that was shown to the potential advertisers. Here we see the great Rod Serling doing a sales pitch. On my DVD box set, this segment was included with the first episode but I do not know if it was shown on network television in 1959.

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