You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, THE TWILIGHT ZONE!
By the time you read those glorious words that have inspired generations of talent, some of you will already know just how special CBS’ reboot of THE TWILIGHT ZONE is. For everyone else, the series panel at WonderCon on Saturday confirmed we are all in for a ground-breaking treat.
Hosted by actress Ginnifer Goodwin, who actually stars in one of the new episodes, entitled “Point of Origin”, the panel consisted of producers/writers Win Rosenfeld, Alex Rubens, and Glen Morgan, as well as composers Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. Seated in a large auditorium with hundreds of fans waiting with bated breath, there was a heavy sense of excitement and hope that this reboot of Rod Serling’s classic TWILIGHT ZONE series would succeed where others had failed. The panel made it evident that executive producer Jordan Peele and everyone else involved has sought to maintain the tone of the original series while delivering something completely new.
Ronsenfeld describes first sitting down to discuss the show with Peele, at which point he asked how they could reinvent the franchise, to which Peele replied, “Dude, TWILIGHT ZONE’S not broken”. It seems that everyone involved agrees, and, as Rosenthal puts it, the aim was to honor the original series as much as possible, because the themes Serling wrote about in the 60s is just as relevant today as it was then. But the panel makes clear that this isn’t a show that’s just going to remake Serling’s episodes. As Rubens puts it, “we didn’t want to mimic the original…(we) tried to tell stories that reflect what we love about TWILIGHT ZONE”. Rubens even goes on to clarify that the episode starring Adam Scott, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, is NOT AT ALL a remake of the fan favorite, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. He acknowledges that they maybe should’ve gone with a different title.
Of course, we all know that what made Rod Serling’s TWILIGHT ZONE so timeless was, well, Rod Serling. But the entire panel agrees Jordan Peele is the perfect guy to take the helm of this new iteration. Rosenfeld even sees some similarities between Peele and Serling, saying that Peele is, “a deeply ethical and moral person who really cares about the world we live in…he also happens to be a master of genre”. Anyone who has seen Peele’s Get Out or his most recent film, Us (based off a classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode itself, entitled “Mirror Image”), can tell that Peele has a lot to say about society and human nature, and is more than capable of putting those messages on screen for us to digest.
These ten new episodes, like Peele’s other work, certainly sound as if they are going to take some digesting, in the best possible way. Goodwin describes reading the script for her episode for the first time, saying that it “made me sick to my stomach”, because of just how dark and traumatic it is. As Rosenfeld puts it, “we’ve constructed every episode like personal nightmares…you take whatever that (character’s) neurosis is and you collide them with a piece of magic”. Presto, chango, that’s how you make TWILIGHT ZONE episodes! And it sounds like there will be a little something for everyone, since, after asked what his favorite new episode is, Morgan states, “I can’t say. That’s like trying to say which kid you like best. Each is very different”.
Of course, there’s also the question of the music. TWILIGHT ZONE’S theme is perhaps the most iconic television theme of all time, something which the composers understand and didn’t want to mess with. Roberts jokes it would’ve been “musical suicide” for them to rewrite Bernard Herrmann’s classic theme. As they say, don’t fix what’s not broken. That being said, music plays an important role in the series, with each episode having its own “musical language”, as Beltrami puts it. The composers explain that despite that, each episode is connected in a way by the music, as each character experiences a similar theme during that pinnacle moment in each story when entering “the Twilight Zone”. The panel shares a few winks and nods amongst each other, seeming to hint that there are other connections we don’t yet know about, which should make the series even more fascinating as it goes on.
If all of this isn’t enough to excite diehard fans, TWILIGHT ZONE will also be littered with fun Easter eggs, including a few cameos viewers will have to look for to notice. One of those cameos? Willie the doll, from the fan favorite episode, “The Dummy”. Morgan describes with glee the phone call he had with David Copperfield, the owner of the 100+-year-old doll, describing how Willie is now so fragile and valuable, that he was kept in a safe at all times off set. So where will we see Willie? Supposedly, he’ll be in one of the episodes, hanging out in the corner of a green room. My guess is, TWILIGHT ZONE will require multiple viewings, not just to process the layered storytelling, but to find all of the goodies we didn’t notice the first time.
After an all-too-short forty-five minutes, the panel winds down, once again reaffirming that the cast/crew behind THE TWILIGHT ZONE reboot is passionate about staying true to the series we all cherish while giving us new classics to chew on. “Our goal was to do THE TWILIGHT ZONE we know and love, so we’re hoping you feel the same way,” says Rosenfeld. Morgan adds that during the process, whenever they were stuck on an episode, they would ask themselves, “is this what Rod Serling would do?” Something tells me Mr. Serling would be thrilled at the passion and love that has been put into this new TWILIGHT ZONE, one which I believe is going to help shape a new generation of storytellers, the way that Serling’s series did for so many others.