Despite major changes in personnel and the ill-advised switch to a full-hour format, Twilight Zone
(with "The" removed from its title) began its fourth season on a promising note. Written by series veteran Charles Beaumont, the premiere episode "In His Image" maintained the high standards that Rod Serling had established throughout the first three seasons, and the story--about a man (George Grizzard) who builds an exact robot replica of himself, with dire consequences--fit well into the hour-long format that Serling reluctantly went along with. Twilight Zone
struggled with its expanded length, resulting in some episodes that lack the consistent punch of earlier half-hour episodes. Exhausted by three seasons of prodigious creativity, Serling and Buck Houghton vacated their roles as producers (with Serling's involvement limited to script feedback, writing nearly half of the season's episodes, and on-screen hosting), and TV veteran Herbert Hirschman became the new show-runner (departing mid-season, he was replaced by Bert Granet), promising not to tinker with the series' proven success. But Twilight Zone
was inevitably becoming a shadow of its former self, and the involvement of proven TZ
writers like Richard Matheson, Earl Hamner, Jr., and Beaumont could not entirely compensate for Serling's growing detachment.
Still, these 18 episodes include some fine examples of enduring quality, such as Matheson's "Death Ship," starring Jack Klugman and Ross Martin in a recurring nightmare scenario, and featuring the same spaceship model used in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet. Beaumont's "Miniature," starring Robert Duvall, was the only hour-long episode pulled from initial syndication (due to a plagiarism lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed), so its inclusion here (along with color scenes from its eventual syndication) is a welcome treat. Serling lampoons the medium of television with "The Bard" (with an early appearance by Burt Reynolds), and his teleplay for "On Thursday We Leave for Home" is the season's highlight, ranking among Twilight Zone's finest science-fiction episodes. It remained clear, however, that Twilight Zone was past its prime, and when the series was renewed for a fifth season in the spring of 1963, a return to its original half-hour format was a belated step in the right direction.
Of course, season 4's overall strengths and weaknesses won't matter to collectors of The Definitive Edition DVD sets, and a wealth of archival bonus features make this a must-have addition to anyone's TZ collection. Image Entertainment and features producer Paul Browstein deserve extra credit for their diligent assembly of supplements that render all previous TZ releases virtually obsolete. Nothing has been overlooked, from the commentary (on "Death Ship") and interview clips by acclaimed TZ expert Mark Scott Zicree to the inclusion of a vintage TZ spoof from Saturday Night Live, radio-show adaptations starring Blair Underwood, Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips and others, and a vintage Twilight Zone comic book, accessible on computers with Adobe reader installed. There's even a brief Rod Serling blooper taken from a scratchy 16-millimeter print, proving that no stone was left unturned in making this a truly definitive TZ collection. --Jeff Shannon
18 episodes of the fourth season of Rod Serling’s classic, groundbreaking series, now presented in pristine high-definition for the first time ever, along with hours of new and exclusive bonus features not available anywhere else!
EXCLUSIVE BLU-RAY FEATURES. 13 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone writer Earl Hamner, writer William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run), author Bill Warren (Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties), writer/producer Jeff Vlaming (NCIS, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica), writer/producer Joseph Dougherty (thirtysomething, Judging Amy, Saving Grace), authors/historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson (Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour), and writer/producer Jaime Paglia (Eureka). Vintage Audio Interview with director of photography George T. Clemens. ALSO INCLUDES: Audio Commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree for Death Ship and William Windom for Miniature. Vintage Audio Recollections with Herbert Hirschman, Ross Martin, Burgess Meredith, Pat Hingle, Earl Hamner, Buzz Kulik and Anne Francis. Video Interviews with Morgan Brittany, Anne Francis, Paul Comi and John Furia, Jr. 7 Radio Dramas featuring Blair Underwood, Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips, H. M. Wynant, Mike Starr, Barry Bostwick and John Ratzenberger. Isolated Scores for all 18 episodes featuring Fred Steiner, Van Cleave, Rene Garriguenc and others. Rod Serling Promos for “Next Week’s” Show. Rod Serling Blooper from He’s Alive. Saturday Night Live Clip. The Famous Writers School Promo with Rod Serling. Genesee Beer Spot. Twilight Zone Season 4 Billboards. Episodes: In His Image, The Thirty Fathom Grave, Valley of the Shadow, He's Alive, Mute, Death Ship, Jess-Belle, Miniature, Printer's Devil, No Time Like the Past, The Parallel, I Dream of Genie, The New Exhibit, Of Late I Think of Cliffordville, The Incredible World of Horace Ford, On Thursday We Leave for Home, Passage on the Lady Anne, The Bard