Friday, February 11, 2011

The Special One

Production Order #31
Broadcast Order #28
Original Airdate: 4/6/64
Starring MacDonald Carey, Richard Ney, Marion Ross.
Written by Oliver Crawford.
Directed by Gerd Oswald. 

The planet Xenon sends Mr. Zeno (Ney) to recruit smart kids to head up an invasion of Earth. Latest target is Kenny Benjamin (Flip Mark), a very bright boy who's also a major league prospect if his father (Carey)  is to be believed.

PE: Do you think all men on planet Xenon are named Mr. Zeno or is it a coincidence?

JS: Probably so. I love how when he transports himself, he resembles the Visible Man model kit.

Where's the Consulting Psychiatrist / Asteroid Mining Project?
PE: Best OL scene in a long long time (too long): Our opening shot. Mr. Turner (Jason Wingreen) has decided Mr. Zeno (Ney) is not a good fit as teacher for his son and has come to Zeno's office to say as much. Mr. Zeno, however, is not having any of this and convinces Turner to leave...via the window. It's a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted sequence. We first view Zeno from behind, almost gliding down his office hallway towards the nervous man. Turner's terror is palpable ("I don't want to jump...My family!"). An intense scene, one that actually filled me with dread. Not too shabby for a nearly 50-year old TV show.

JS: At first I thought that was a pre-credits preview of things to come, and so I was disappointed that they showed him jump (thinking that would have best been saved for later). When I realized that was part of the episode proper, I too was impressed that they didn't hold back.

PE: War of the Worlds sound effects alert! And more lightning!

JS: Call me crazy, but there's something about Mr. Zeno's interaction with Kenny (Flip Mark) that reminded me of the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) from Don Coscarelli's Phantasm. It's what I like to think would have happened had he captured the boy he was constantly chasing after (Michael Baldwin).

PE: MacDonald Carey's key scene, his visit to the office of "Educational Enrichment," is played perfectly. Normally, this is the part of the blog where I start ranting about crappy acting. You won't find much of that in this show. Carey's interview with EE director Mr. Terrence (Edward Platt) is played perfectly, complete with Carey's raving. You know he's telling the truth but put yourself in Terrence's shoes. This Mr. Benjamin is a nut! Terrence tries valiantly to talk sense into Benjamin but it quickly becomes evident that the man has become unhinged. Both Carey and Platt play the scene brilliantly.

JS: I kept having "Man with  the Power" flashbacks throughout that scene—expecting a storm cloud to appear overhead.

PE: Former Thriller babe Marion Ross ("Prisoner in the Mirror") doesn't have much to do here besides making salads and gossiping on the phone. She's a typical early 60s housewife. She does get a bit of time to shine further into the episode though when her husband convinces her that their son is being tutored by a spaceman.

JS: While I enjoyed Carey's performance as the concerned father, I was really impressed by Ney's performance. My favorite bit is when he tells Carey:
"I've been expecting to deal with you, Mr. Benjamin. In a few seconds, you will have killed yourself."
Powerful stuff!

PE: Oh yeah. We are in total agreement here. Carey does a good job fitting in with those other paranoid 1950s sf characters (Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers immediately comes to mind), but the show-stealer is the subdued, quietly evil Mr. Zeno. Much like the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the guy doesn't have to break a sweat to dispatch any roadblocks. I love the cool demeanor Richard Nye brings to the part. Not bogged down by the usual silly-bear costume or half-ape/half-turtle mask (and kudos to whoever decided to let Projects Limited concentrate on The Visible Man and chicken feathers), Nye relies only on his skills and a wonderful voice. Several times during the Thriller run, I remarked about top-notch acting by unknown actors. According to IMDB, Nye made a handful of movies and TV appearances but nothing stellar. A missed opportunity based on his performance here.

PE: "The Special One" is near perfect sf paranoia, marred only by a lackluster climax and one of the dopiest expositories I've ever seen (right out of Boys' Life it seems). Moral of the story: to thwart alien invasion, you must turn your house into a chicken coop.

JS: Yeah, Mr. Z's slow-motion death throes do drag on forever. And I too could have done without Ken's monologue (he's all growed up by this point, so I can't bring myself to call him Kenny anymore). "The Special One" is not in my top ten, but it was definitely a nice surprise to have my expectations exceeded after yesterday's abomination.

PE: Agreed. After all the crap we've wallowed in lately, I never saw this little gem coming. 



David J. Schow on "The Special One":

From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.

The Special One by Mark H

Mr. Zeno traveled regions quite nether
To teach kids to harness the weather
Till Dad feeling glum
Helped Ken evict the bum
Who knew spacemen could choke on a feather? 

Check back later today for David J. Schow's Spotlight on Flip Mark!
Tomorrow, David J. Schow and Ted C. Rypel meet up for a discussion in the Outer Limits Tavern.

Next Up...


  1. Fittingly enough, I heard from Marilyn Stefano yesterday, and couldn't resist directing her toward Le Blog. Mind your manners if she shows up.

    Kenny Benjamin is really the Arch Hall, Jr. of THE OUTER LIMITS.

  2. I liked this episode but it's funny how often scenes come up that simply do not ring true at all. In "The Special One" the scene that bothered me was when the alien shows up unannounced and says he is there to tutor the boy. So the parents allow the guy to march upstairs with the kid and have a private lesson in the kid's room. Would any of us allow the guy to be alone with our son? They don't even ask for ID or at least have the first few sessions with the parents present.

    1. Being the early 1960's they don't. that Mister Zeno is an outer space pervert.And I find it amussing to see Mister Zeno killed the child,he is tutoring,by turning the atmosphere into something,loooking like chicken feathers

  3. So ‘special’ I almost skipped it. But I’m glad I didn’t.

    Seeing this episode as a KID bored me silly and pushed the limits of fantasy fiction for me. Who WAS this kid who loved to study, talked and moved like a robot, and hung out alone in a room with a creepy old guy? Well, okay, that part is STILL creepy.

    Now I watch it as a FATHER of a 14 year-old boy and get an entirely revisionist feel for it, and one that writer Oliver Crawford probably intended. The story is really about a father’s fear of losing influence over his son, his son’s interests, and his son’s … world. And that can be a terrifying thing. (Especially when it’s a creepy guy he’s losing the interest to).

    Fourteen is also the age where boys, if they don’t have strong fathers in their lives, or fathers in their lives at all, fall under the influence of gangs in our urban cities, and fundamentalist jihadists in the Middle East. Most of those suicide bombers were vulnerable and impressionable early teens when they were first indoctrinated. The most dangerous encounter you could have in L.A. during my term there were with 15 year-olds inducted into gangs, carrying guns, and being pressured to prove themselves. So the idea that a 14 year-old could be turned by an alien into weapon as part of the first wave of an invasion is a strong premise.

    And the fear of the father losing influence over his son is very palpable and real, thanks to MacDonald Carey’s performance. Of course the influence we lose our sons to today is Xbox. But is that so far removed from Zeno?

    Another thing he got right with this episode is the 14 year-old being the one who is starting to understand gadgets better, whether it be how to import your MP3s to your new iPhone 4, or change the weather with a modified solar system model kit.

    The episode is still a bit dull, and the suffocating scene with the ruptured pillow fight of flying feathers superimposed goes on forever and ever. But I get it now on a different level as a dad. We think we’ve created an impenetrable and lasting bond with our sons, but their world is just unfolding, while ours is starting to close up. And the scariest thing of all is about to overwhelm them … Girls.

  4. Next...on a very special OUTER LIMITS...

    Weird thing is my first invisibility teacher was English so this kinda hit home with me. And, hey--Kenny learned about global warming; albeit desk global warming.

    9:00 window freezing
    11:00 play catch with father
    1:00 save world
    2:00 make up elements
    3:00 feather craft
    4:00 the art of defenestration

    I know yesterday's was the bottom of the Season One barrel for many, but this is it for me. Probably the most embarrassing invasion attempt in the history of alien conquest. DJS delineates most of the absurdities. If ever we needed a bear...

    Oswald and Peach do what they can with it, and there are a couple of moody moments early on when Carey sees Zeno slip out the door like a shadow, and the elevator disappearance, and Ney manages some decent work. One wonders if this had unfolded as a mystery, purely from Carey's POV, if it might have been compelling somehow.

    Unintentional amusements abound: Where in the cult classic ROBOT MONSTER we have an alien who's named Ro-Man and is a Ro-Man from the planet Ro-Man, here we have Mr. Zeno who's from the planet Xenon and breathes xenon. When Carey first sees Zeno zap out a window he reacts with all the shock of a man who's just heard a disappointing ball score. Later he tells the Chief about it at the EEP office and instead of being (wisely) vague and simply saying there's an impostor tutoring his son, he stupidly blurts out that it's an alien from another planet. The tree outside Kenny's high-rise window must be the tallest in the world. The performance of the Dance of the Feathers has to be seen to be believed (and how it does go on). And Flip Mark's speech at the end might just be the most poorly written and delivered in TOL.

    The pits.

    1. The feather scene was most enjoyable for me because the music accompanying it was great and Richard Ney's desperate attempts to escape were quite well done.

  5. I wondered about that tree, too--either it's too tall or it's on a patio, and if the latter, he's going to have to do a double-bounce triple gainer to get all the way out to the street! I did not remember this episode with much fondness, either, but I've been absorbing the influence of Ted R. lately and so was looking for the good things--and there ARE several here. Peter was right about the opening scene--Wingreen really sells it in his brief appearance. And I thought Carey was fine throughout--you really get the worries that Hollywoodaholic talks about, and his sense that he's supposed to be the authority but he might not really be competent enough to pull it oof. His pre-problem scenes with Ross are natural enough--he's a realistic dad, similar to my own and many of that time (I don't recall Ward Cleaver ever coming home and waltzing right into the kitchen to crack a beer!) One of my favorite scenes is the one he has with Burt Freed--I wouldn't have appreciated that in my youth, but NOW--that's exactly the kind of conversation I have with my buddies, given that that we can't remember half the stuff we used to know: "There are 108 elements" "No, there are 116" "No, there are 103" "Aww, you don't really know, do you?" "No, but neither do you. Doesn't matter, my kid can beat up your kid" "No way, my kid can beat up YOUR kid!" Great stuff.

    Special effects were fifty-fifty. Good: the visible man transportation, Mr. Zeno's gills gasping for xenon, and the stop-motion icing of the lamp and the window (or should I say "freeze-frame," nyuk, nyuk). Not so great: the double-exposed kid walking through the wall, and the endless feather fight at the end.

    Overall, not counting the last scene, a well-paced episode and one that keeps your interest, hoary take-over-the-world-again plot or not. At least two Zantis from me.

  6. A peculiar hybrid of THE OUTER LIMITS and THE TWILIGHT ZONE, with these related but ultimately different flavors never quite blending. The All-American family unit is straight out of ZONE (or HAPPY DAYS), putting a spotlight on "average" characters LIMITS generally goes out of its way to avoid. Since the plot involves a boy genius, it probably seemed logical to make his parents sitcom-bland and ultra-conventional, so his "specialness" could stand out. Fair enough. But we do pay a price here, since this also means we're stuck with Howard and Marion Cunningham-types for an entire episode. Flip Mark does everything that's asked of him, but a freckle-faced kid as the protagonist of an OUTER LIMITS story never quite did it for me. And then there's Mr. Zeno (Richard Ney), doing his "evil Klaatu" routine rather effectively, looking like Chris Lee's younger vampire brother in some shots. And hey, let's give Kenneth Peach some credit for a flamboyantly-shot episode, boasting that neat 'visible man' optical and culminating in all those slo-mo feathers (always liked Zeno's tumble down the stairs). Bottom line: Ney's pretty cool and there are some nice visual touches, but the show is stuck with a storyline that happens to embrace character-types and a milieu generally alien to the OL universe. Interesting if a tad uncomfortable to watch Stefano and company trying to be versatile and connect with the "common man," only to shift full-blast into LIMITS territory when a moment calls for it. Bottom line: I have nothing against Mom's apple pie and Little League practice, but THE OUTER LIMITS is simply not the right venue for these concepts. Still, "Special One" is worth seeing for a few nice touches -- the teaser is genuinely effective. Frontiere's grand music for "The Borderland" (also used in "Sixth Finger") works very nicely with all those swirling feathers. And having the story (and most of the drama) unfold in a New York City apartment -- with a second floor! -- is an interesting, offbeat choice.

  7. I have to go with Larry B. and Gary on this one: A dud overall, with a few mitigating elements. It would've been at home between "The Human Factor" and "Tourist Attraction," and might even have been a standout there. But at this point in the season, after what's come before, it's a mood-wrecking bore.

    A few things work, as others have mentioned: The gruesome pre-credits forced-suicide scene is effective (pretty intense stuff for kids, and Zeno gets off easy in the end considering poor Mr. Turner's family), and the adult performances are realistic. Carey and Ross behave like an actual married couple, and there's even a hint of sex between them (guess Mrs. B's feeling frisky). Ney is fine, if one-note. The rest just didn't do it for me, and the alien invasion plot is especially tired when there's no weird bear or mysterioso science to distract from its foregone conclusion.

    Wonder what that apartment would go for these days...

    Oh, Joanna Frank-ophiles take note: Warner Home Video released Elia Kazan's America, America on DVD earlier this week.

  8. This one never worked for me, but I greatly enjoyed the insights expressed here.

  9. "The gruesome pre-credits forced-suicide scene is effective (pretty intense stuff for kids, and Zeno gets off easy in the end considering poor Mr. Turner's family)"

    Mark, you've touched on one of the episodes biggest flaws IMO. While I agree with David H. and Gary (and John and Peter) about the opening scene's intensity, there is nothing subsequent that can even come close to matching its dramatic "weight".

  10. Larry: Yeah, although there's plenty of death in OL's first season, I don't recall a character being treated so disposably before this scene. I could be wrong, but it's jarring nonetheless. Stefano must've been exhausted by this point...

  11. Multiple rivets have been driven into the sad truth about this "Specious One" by some of you perceptive folks---there's simply nothing that happens after the teaser that matches it in intensity.

    For decades I've cited this one as the quickest that comes to mind among episodes I don't care to revisit. I saw nothing this time around to alter that opinion. But some episode had to be. It's still got TOL cachet: a nice effect or two; Oswald's room-of-gloom visual appeal; some decent atmospherics (not for Zeno, though). The WAR OF THE WORLDS sound fx seem pretentious here. And Frontiere's poetic "Never Born" music cues are way beyond the material being underscored.

    The message is sound, if simplistically played. This was a generation still painfully mindful of what the Nazis had done to recruit and warp youthful enthusiasm. But the plot is implausible and cartoony---horsefeathers, as it were, and not the good Marx Brothers kind. If ever we needed a "bear," it was here, and what we got was a fish, or at least an alien with gills.

    The characters are no worse than adequately functional. Well-cast blandly complacent middle-class parents. (Carey's "The government's behind it" affirmation of the program's soundness tellingly marks a less cynical time. And David H. nails that unusual detail of a TV dad opening a beer.) The always welcome Burt Freed (PATHS OF GLORY) adds a bit of gruff edge. Flip Mark does OK with uninspired material. ("So anyway, last week---I foiled an alien invasion, and I stole some cool secrets, like controlling the weather, and I can walk through walls---check THIS out---!")

    The interesting character is Richard Ney, channeling James Mason as Humbert Humbert, more chaste but still preying on kids in closet perversity.

    The frantic elevator chase by Carey is played as suspense but ends up feeling comical. In fact, he and Marion Ross seem anesthetized through the entire story. Dad sees Zeno's disappearing act, registers nothing, and then questions Kenny gently about his midnight visitor ("I KNEW it---it's those teleporting government guys again. But at least the government's behind it.") And both parents display a blase disregard for their son's walking through walls. Carey's only recourse to a second note in his proven acting range is the welcome blowup in Maxwell Smart's boss' office.

    Zeno's choking-on-poultry-feathers slow-motion asphyxiation is interminable. (Hey Larry R---maybe he should've coughed some up, like in "Uncivil Warriors"!) And Kenny's commandeering of the Climate Control machine to foil Zeno always reminds me of Richard Eyer playing computer-enhanced genius in THE INVISIBLE BOY. Or Vincent Price's kitschy skeleton-manipulation rigging at the end of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.

    Despite a respectably TOL look, this overt little moral fable just doesn't seem worth its weight in xenon. As far as subversive alien-induced Children's Crusades to conquer their parents' Earth are concerned, I'll take Bradbury's "Zero Hour."

    And hold the chicken feathers.

  12. I've tried on numerous occasions with this show but, unlike yesterday's crazed foray into nuclear chaos, this one just keeps getting WORSE for me.

    I agree that the Jason Wingreen opening scene is pretty shocking, and establishes high expectations. But the whole Cleaver family thing really takes me out of this one, hard as I try. I just stare at the screen waiting for Zeno to de/re-materialize again, so stunningly good is the effect.

    Next time I want to watch a swirling room full of feathers, I'll watch the Stooges bake a cake with a potholder inside and spend the next 5 minutes spewing feathers into the stratosphere. (Hmmmm..there's real limerick potential here..)


  13. Not only is Kenny's apartment way up there (very convenient, for Mr. Z, just in case he needs another Parent-Disposal Window), but the establishing shots leave the impression that the Benjamins live in City Hall — Los Angeles City Hall, to be exact, last seen getting blown up in WAR OF THE WORLDS. The window biz was spliced in to avoid the script's preference for time-consuming, effects-laden fiery death, which normally would have been accomplished with another Project Unlimited "disintegration." By this point, still too budget-busting, so they went for the window.

    And if the intrusion of "happy, normal" All-Americans distresses you, better strap on the vomit bag for Season Two. S1 at least featured a few strong femme leads who had duties other than being brood mares for the human race, with the exception of Geraldine Brooks in "Architects of Fear," where pregnancy was a legitimate plot point. Well, Joanna Frank wants to have a bazillion bee-babies, but what the hell — she's really a bee, and that's what bees DO. (Do, bee! Do, bee! DO!) In this context it's interesting that we never got to see any of the moms from "Spider County." The relationships strongly suggest that when women aren't reproducing, they are anchorless and drifting without a man — see "Fun and Games," "The Mutant" (hell, if we could just slow down our species tendency toward rampant accidental reproduction, we wouldn't have NEEDED Annex One!). I'm wondering how most of THE OUTER LIMITS' women hooked up with their eccentric mates in the first place. The real answer, of course, is that these scripts were written mostly by men in that fragile, post-Jackie Kennedy, pre-Women's Lib period. In this regard, Eva Frazer ("The Borderland"), Signe Hasso ("Production/Decay") and others are unusually proactive. It does seem that Laura Hanley in "Fun and Games" is just mooning around, waiting to be impregnated ... but her adventure suggests a larger new world for her. Not a bad thing.

  14. Further to Laura Hanley: Nancy Malone became a director of some note. She's still with us, and weirdly enough she used to live right down the street from director BILL Malone (they're not related, though).

    Someone commented further back — I can't find it — about Harlan, which got me to thinking: Is Harlan the Last Outer Limits Writer Standing? No, as it turns out: Tony Lawrence, Ib Melchior, Robert Towne and William Bast are all still breathing. I can't find out anything about Lou Morheim, or Sonya Roberts, or Robert Mintz, or Sam Neuman.

    Seeleg Lester hung on until 2004, and Bill Ballinger, till 2006.

    I believe at this point that ALL our OUTER LIMITS directors are gone ... but have yet to verify Charles Haas.

    Anybody knows different, chime in!

  15. Laura Hanley may be the most significant female role in the entire OL series. Her back story, as noted, was a tad unusual, and her personal awakening ("I can be far more than just a cheerleader") suggests the birth of modern feminism. Judith Bellero must resort to femme fatale extremes to achieve power, but Hanley ultimately plays fair, wins, "for herself, and perhaps, for her gender." Incidentally, will this new liberation help Hanley's marriage to a decent but apparently weak fellow (shades of the original Mrs. Muir)? "Help," not "mother" him seemed to be the main lesson. Perhaps that means seeing past Mr. Hanley's weaknesses and focusing on whatever the poor soul actually has going for him -- kind of like the way Laura helped Mike to discover the best in himself while submerging the worst. In any event, it's a strong, realistic female character who is the true protagonist of "Fun and Games," a solid plus for OL's "female empowerment" credentials.

  16. Something I had in my notes for "The Special One" but forgot to incorporate. A few episodes ago (I believe it may have been The Brain Mansion show) someone brought up Steve Ditko. I think "The Special One" is the closest I've seen to cinematic Ditko. That intro hallway scene, Mr. Zeno, the mini-astro-neutrolyzer that Kenny uses to defeat Mr. Zeno, etc. I'd never seen this one as a kid but I suspect I would have dug it (even the dopey climax) immensely.

  17. Sorry professors, I'm running a little late today. Not much more I can say about this one that the experts haven't pointed out. Probably fits into that category of, 'hasn't aged well.' At least towards the ending climax, when the wiener kid saved his dad, I felt "Well, I definitely don't like this one, but I don't hate it either."

    That was until the script wussed out and let that scumbag Mr. Zeno teleport back into whatever gingerbread house he came from, when he should have been captured and tortured to death. While lame, the finale, with the chicken feathers/ocean plankton clogging up Zeno's gills, was one of the bizarrest things I've ever seen. 1 Zanti.

  18. Peter-

    I just did a double take at your generous 3 and a half Zantis for this ep. I'm starting to wonder if you are purposefully trying to f#$k with my head! J/K

  19. UTW--

    I'm just relieved that Peter and John finally found something in the series they could really appreciate (along with ZZZZZZZZZZZZ, that is)....


  20. Actually this isn't about The Special One, but it's our current spot so here goes. I've really found the experience of this blog has helped me see how relevant and integral my love of OL has been in my life, largely because of the eye-opening perspectives of all the contributors. Thanks Peter, John, DJS, Ted, Mark, Gary, Lisa, Hollywood...,UTW, Lisa and others (I know I've missed some of you, sorry). So many points of view I never considered. And a great opportunity to reconsider episodes I didn't care for as much. I often wondered, as there are a small handful of awesome OL websites out there, what would be something relevant that offers something different. I think this blog is just the right thing at this time, giving us all a chance to share our thoughts, and connect with others of OL fandom. We haven't had the chance before like this.

  21. LR-

    Yes, while 'The Invisibles,' along with the 'Destruction and Decay of Strange Particles,' get ZERO ZANTIS! Still, Peter actually helped me make a little dough on the side with his premonition of Green Bay's reign of terror............maybe I shouldn't piss him off?

  22. Ooops, I said Lisa twice; I meant Larry the second time.

  23. Jim Barwise-

    Your welcome and a big thanks to you in return. Being a 'newbie,' that had previously only seen about 4 episodes several years ago, I owe even more gratitude towards yourself and the commentators you have listed. Honestly, I had my doubts about this series. I wasn't impressed in the initial viewing that I had before. Still, I had a feeling that there must have been gold somewhere in this series as it is famously well known among classic programs. I mean, if I loved watching 'TZ, Thriller, and Night Gallery,' how could I have missed these mini-works of art? If it weren't for Peter and John starting up this blog, then I may never have watched any of these awesome shows. So for that, they deserve the credit and accolades for taking the time to do this.

  24. D'oh! I meant 'production,' not 'destruction' of 'decaying particles.' Sorry, my days rotate with my job and this happens to be my Monday.

  25. The interesting character is Richard Ney, channeling James Mason as Humbert Humbert, more chaste but still preying on kids in closet perversity.

    I can't find it now, but some fellow (perhaps inspired by his residing near, I'm not making this up, the "Outer Limits Family Restaurant" in Conway, SC) wrote an essay for some website wherein he detailed at length all of the indoctrinating-young-OL-viewers-into-homosexuality subtext that allegedly runs rampant throughout The Special One. It was the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories. It went way beyond Mr. Zeno's mildly effete manner, and even posited the notion that they cast Flip Mark because a "Mark" is/was gay slang for "prospective youth that a mature homosexual attempts to turn queer".

    "The Mutant" (hell, if we could just slow down our species tendency toward rampant accidental reproduction, we wouldn't have NEEDED Annex One!).

    That was the point of my comment in The Mutant's WACT entry. Damned writers invent all these fantastic fictions without ever explaining who's paying for all this technical wizardry (spaceships for everyone who wants real estate on Annex One?) that has much cheaper alternatives (free condoms for the 3rd world!) and why the populace isn't rioting in the street when their 4,000% tax bill arrives in the mail.

    Further to Laura Hanley: Nancy Malone became a director of some note.

    But her memory is fading. One her Twilight Zone commentary for Stopover in a Quiet Town, she complements its' director, Gerd Oswald(!), who, as we know, did her OL Fun and Games ep. The show's real director, Ron Winston, probably turned over in his grave (which he's occupied since 1973) upon hearing Gerd receiving his laurels.

  26. UTW-- By your comments (if you hadn't said otherwise), I would have thought you were a veteran fan. I'm glad that you've discovered OL. I wish I could temporarily "forget" each episode just to see them again for the first time. LIsa--glad to see you back; missed your perceptive comments.

  27. The Limerick Bandits can't be stopped. This just in:



  28. We had John Williams with "Stranger in Paradise" for ATAD. Perhaps "This is MacDonald Carey, and these are the Days of Our Lives" could be the WACT theme.

    (Video embedded above by John)

  29. I saw this as a teen and was bored and so many years later, on a second viewing, I was bored again.

    I think the big mistake here was the opening scene. Had it not been in place, there would have been slow revelations of ever more peculiar events - hopefully culminating in a something a mite interesting. Zeno is strange and alien from the beginning.

    Also, the opener promises something that is a mite long in delivery during the actual episode, where the prologue should cause anticipation, the body of the segment is boring, the performances drab and artificial in the way many domestic sitcoms were in the '50s. So even the without the prologue, it might not have helped.

    What I find really interesting about the show is that the story of writer Oliver Crawford. He got a 'Writers Guild of America' nomination for this episode! (he also received Emmy Award nominations for his work on the series 'Climax!' and 'The Lineup' in the '50s.)

    And was also a victim of the blacklist.

    According to 'Variety':
    "In 1953, Crawford was contracted to work for Burt Lancaster and Harold Heck. Shortly thereafter, he was called before the sub-committee of the House Un-Americans Committee and refused to cooperate by naming anyone. His refusal to implicate anyone led to being blacklisted and fired from his contract.

    He left Hollywood with his family and went to New York and scraped together whatever work he could find, eventually finding work on "Playhouse 90."

    After his career rebounded, he served on the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America for 26 years. He worked with the Writers Guild to provide financial restitution to victims of the blacklist and also led the cause to remove the anti-Communist loyalty oath from the Guild's membership application.

    His novel, "The Execution," in 1985 made into a TV movie of the week starring Loretta Swit, Valerie Harper, Rip Torn, Sandy Dennis, Jessica Walter and Barbara Barrie. He also served as associate professor of filmmaking at Loyola Marymount University."

    He did write an excellent episode of Star Trek, 'The Galileo Seven' and then two lesser ones in the 3rd season.

    Another aspect I find interesting is the possible gestation of the plot, which seems to me to a kind of reverse engineering of Ray Bradbury's famous 'Zero Hour'. It's the story of a parent increasingly concerned that the alien invasion game being played out by her child and swathes of children across the country are actually true and that they, the adults, are in danger.

    It was adapted on radio 7 times across the '50s in 'Suspense' (3 times), 'Escape', 'Dimension X', 'X Minus 1', 'Light Out' and three times on TV.

    In those stories, the kids have already being befriended and being playing with the alien leader - Drill - before suspicions are aroused. It seems to me that 'The Special One' is a kind of, "how would something like that start" and has a viewpoint split between the parents and Zeno with Crawford trying to sketches in the details; from the end of one failed recruiting mission to the beginning of another as envisioned in our show. It's the kind back and forth playing with ideas that's common in the field.

    All the radio and TV show adaptions are in the public domain, for those interested, here is one from 'Suspense':

  30. Just watched Marion Ross in Route 66's 2nd season episode "1800 Days to Justice" from late 1961. Anyone who considers her just an amusing, slightly daffy mom-next-door type should check out this show. EXCELLENT dramatic work; I was totally impressed.


  31. I'm sure a lot of people see a "naive early ' 60s" attitude every time Roy Benjamin says something like "Well, the government's behind it, so it must be all right." Maybe they're right, but this story lays it on SO heavily, maybe Oliver Crawford was trying to say the opposite thing. I mean, one of the best ways to make fun of something is to have a character lay it on very heavily, and by the end of the story, Roy has done that with his "Trust the government" attitude.

  32. 0 Zantis. I hated this one- its a really padded 20 min episode. The dad doesn't seem that surprised his kid is an alien. The Floating feathers climax is weak. Also, I hate to pile on, but the kid isn't very good. Why do the aliens need him? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Young Marion Ross is kind of cute.

  33. I'm glad that the revised version of the COMPANION mentions Roy's incredible trust early in the story, because I thought the same thing when I saw it again yesterday, that this is from the same Joseph Stefano who was behind so many stories with that "mistrust of authority" feeling.

  34. Peter Enfantino:
    "A few episodes ago (I believe it may have been The Brain Mansion show) someone brought up Steve Ditko. I think "The Special One" is the closest I've seen to cinematic Ditko. That intro hallway scene, Mr. Zeno, the mini-astro-neutrolyzer that Kenny uses to defeat Mr. Zeno, etc. I'd never seen this one as a kid but I suspect I would have dug it (even the dopey climax) immensely."

    Interesting observation. Hadn't occured to me before. Hmm. For me, it's "THE FOUNTAINHEAD". That whole DAMNED thing feels either like one long, interminable, unending TWILIGHT ZONE episode, or, like every single word of dialogue was written BY Steve Ditko. Of course it does. It's OBSESSED with the story's writer's philosophy.

    Funny you mention "The Brain Mansion". An early DR. STRANGE episode, "The House Of Shadows" (episode 9, STRANGE TALES #120 / May'64) has a near-identical premise. A tv show is set up with someone going into an alleged "haunted" house, which turns out to actually be a living being from another dimension. Steve Ditko supplied the story & full art. (His "editor" STOLE credit & pay for the story, while merely fine-tuning some of the dialogue.)

    Figure that one. The comic probably came out in February 1964. "The Guests" aired on March 23, 1964. What are the odds? What was in the water???

  35. As dramatic as that opening scene is, it does have one funny side to me. When Jason Wingreen sets himself on that window sill in an awkward way, I can't help thinking of Paul Reubens dancing to the "Tequila" song in PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

  36. Did anybody notice how in "Stranger Things," the atmosphere of the "underside" dimension is full of floating feathers? I feel this must have been inspiration.

  37. One "L-OL" moment - but only if you know a LATER show - is Edward Platt's look when MacDonald Carey starts to really rant. It's pretty much the look he gave so many times while dealing with Maxwell Smart!

  38. Ok, I know I'm late to the party, but I DO like this episode. I feel pretty much as you guys do. The TOO long chicken feather scene, etc. But creepy possible child abuser Mr Z. is great in this thing. Side story, my BEST friend and business partner in life is the infamous actor BILL MUMY. Bill could have sold this part and it would have been all the better for it--

  39. That makes a lot of sense.
    It's very interesting to meet someone (online) who's known him so well.

  40. I am a huge fan of this series, mainly because of the moral lessons, for which this particular episode provides. I have used the narrator's epilog in my commentaries, whenever commenting on the subject of education.


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