Episode 11: And When the Sky Was Opened
I'm pretty sure I meant to review only movies on this blog, but dammit this episode was too good. I'm also sure that many, many people have seen this show before, but somehow I slipped through the Twilight Zone until recently. I've been going through the show from the beginning and am constantly being amazed at this show's social commentary, direction style, command of irony and ability to surprise me with an ending. This episode in particular is simply exquisite.
I feel like I don't even want to talk about the plot, only what was absolutely amazing about it. I'm gonna write a bit about my film analysis and plot analysis. Really just my favorite aspects of the episode.
The chronology of the episode was wonderfully chosen. To start with Forbes asking Gart if he remembers Harrington is the perfect way to set it up. It already causes the question for you, is Forbes just crazy? Is this memory his way of dealing with going through something so traumatic as to crash land back on Earth after being shot into space? This really kept the ending a surprise from me, because I'm already used to the psychological issues the Twilight Zone is so apt to present. I was entirely thrilled by the way they used light, angle and good acting to present exactly what's going on at the end. When Forbes suddenly looks up and light comes from below him, after switching from an eye-level angle to a low angle, we all realize he's about to disappear. That there really was a Harrington, and soon there won't be a Forbes or Gart. The angle change reveals a change in perception and suddenly Forbes is aware. He is above where he was before and sees the truth. That was pure genius. They didn't have to say anything out loud or even hit you over the head with it, it just became so obvious. Truly, Gart's acting the moment he realizes it, too, is on point. The absolute shock and dreading on his face is perfect. Knowing that he's about to disappear from existence translated well.
The plot of this episode brought up so many interesting issues I never thought I'd see in a TV show, much less one from the oppressive decade of the 50s. About space travel and most importantly about the media's ability to cover up anything and everything. The fact that they use the newspapers to not only express what the reality of the moment is, it also is our reference point for the disappearance of a character. In addition to the newspaper, Forbes attempts to use a wire he sent to his girlfriend/wife to prove the existence of Harrington. This makes a point about the information we receive and how we receive it. It shows how any form of written communication can be altered and can suddenly create reality. The fact that we look to all written documents as truth. The closing commentary truly reiterates the idea that suddenly, information can just simply be wiped from human memory, whether it actually existed or not. Those men existed and suddenly they didn't, because the newspapers said so. Obviously, the reality in the episode is that something didn't want them to return, and the science fiction cover is beautifully kept intact. However, the use of newspapers really makes the episode about control of information, perhaps mostly by the media. The beauty of this episode is that people can find what they want to find in it. I guess at the time, people were not fond of the idea of space travel, so they could see it as a comment about how we shouldn't go into space because some supernatural force will make you disappear if you do. Serling was always so good at playing into the social thought at the time, while still saying so much more against it. Either way, people could get from it what they wanted. Truly and absolutely brilliant.