Which ZONE is Which? (Mania.com)

By:Don E. Peterson
Date: Monday, November 14, 2005

To date, there have been three versions of The Twilight Zone on television, and all of them (except for Season 5 of the original series, which is due out in December) are currently available on DVD. All have similar packaging and few notations about what year and version of the series it is, making it hard for the non-Zone fan to decipher which one is which. CINESCAPE comes to the rescue and offers a handy guide to make it easy for you to spend your money wisely and get what you're searching for ... without the inter-dimensional headache, of course.

The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 1
1959-1960
Grade: 4 Stars
Retail Price: $119.99

Notable Episodes: "Walking Distance," "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," "A Stop at Willoughby," "The Hitch-Hiker," "Time Enough At Last"

Coolest Features: Almost every episode has a commentary of some sort, the extra bonus includes the original "Zone" pilot that never aired, a Rod Serling blooper, the original "next" Serling bumpers that are priceless. Plus you get Marc Scott Zicree's excellent "The Twilight Zone Companion" book.

Geek Factoid: Rod Serling wrote 27 of the 36 episodes from the first season.

The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 2
1960-1961
Grade: 4 Stars
Retail Price: $99.99

Notable Episodes: "Eye of the Beholder," "Night of the Meek," "The Odyssey of Flight 33," "A Hundred Yards Over Rim," "The Obsolete Man"

Coolest Features: A Mike Wallace interview with Rod Serling from 1959, a script with Rod Serling's handwritten notes and ample commentaries (including actors Bill Mumy, Cliff Robertson, Don Rickles and Dennis Weaver).

Geek Factoid: To cut costs, CBS forced Serling and company to shoot six episodes of this season on tape instead of film. For a show like Zone it was disastrous, and they went back to film throughout the rest of its five-season run.

The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 3
1961-1962
Grade: 4 stars
Retail Price: $99.99

Notable Episodes: "It's A Good Life," "Five Characters In Search of an Exit," "Kick the Can," "To Serve Man," "The Changing of the Guard"

Coolest Features: More commentaries, Sci Fi Channel marathon spots, and even the Night Gallery promo spots (Serling's other, inferior anthology series from the '70s).

Geek Factoid: "It's A Good Life" has had the most incarnations of any Zone episode appearing during Season 3 of the original series, popping up as the Joe Dante directed segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie, partially being remade in the 1987 episode "The Toys of Caliban," and spawning a sequel in the 2002-2003 series.

The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 4
1962-1963
Grade: 2 Stars
Retail Price: $99.99

Notable Episodes: "Death Ship," "I Dream of Genie," "The Bard"

Coolest Features: Saturday Night Live bonus clip parody, a Serling blooper, a Burgess Meredith commentary on "Printer's Devil."

Geek Factoid: This is the season that gets short shrift in syndication because CBS at the time expanded the series to hour-long episodes, which didn't fit in half-hour strips later on. (In some ways, this proves why the half-hour length worked so well.) It was also the year that eliminated "the" from The Twilight Zone.

The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 5
1963-1964
Grade: 4 Stars
DVD Release Date: Dec. 27, 2005
Retail Price: $99.99

Notable Episodes: "In Praise of Pip," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Living Doll," "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "The Masks"

Coolest Features (as of press time): "Chatty Cathy" doll commercial from the era, Twilight Zone radio shows of six episodes, present day Twilight Zone radio shows, "The Encounter" episode which has never been on DVD and was never syndicated.

Geek Factoid: To cut costs, the producers bought the TV rights to "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," a short film from France written and directed by Robert Enrico, and aired it toward the end of the series' run.

The Twilight Zone Season 1
1985-1986
Grade: 4 Stars
Retail Price: $69.99

Notable Episodes: "Shatterday," "Wordplay, "Nightcrawlers," "A Message from Charity," "Her Pilgrim Soul"

Coolest Features: A 14-minute Wes Craven interview, audio commentaries by Craven, Harlan Ellison, Philip DeGuere and Bradford May. Additionally, many of the episodes were based on short stories by noted authors including Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Arthur C. Clarke. The transfer quality isn't as crisp and clean as many TV series of the era, but it's still a joy to finally be able to revisit this solid revival of the Zone.

Geek Factoid: Bruce Willis made his TV debut in the series revival's very first episode "Shatterday," while the Grateful Dead composed the show's theme song.

The Twilight Zone Season 2 and 3
1986-1988
Grade: 4 Stars
Retail Price: $69.99

Notable Episodes: "The Girl I Married," "The Hellgramite Method," "The Cold Equations," The Mind of Simon Foster," "Something in the Walls"

Coolest Features: : Deleted scenes and audio commentaries from directors Wes Craven, Bradford May and writers Alan Brennert and Philip DeGuere. Although Season 3's production value is half of what Season 2 was, the stories are a bit more daring and ultimately more frightening.

Geek Factoid: Season 3 didn't air on CBS but rather in syndication because they needed 30 additional half-hour episodes to stretch out the syndication package a good bulk of the last season was written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.

The Complete Twilight Zone 2002-2003
Grade: 2 Stars
Retail Price: $29.98

Notable Episodes: "It's Still a Good Life," "Chosen," "Shades of Guilt," "Monsters Are On Maple Street," Eye of the Beholder" (notice how many of the best are remakes of original "Zone" episodes)

Coolest Features: Sadly, none whatsoever though all the episodes are in widescreen which really gives them a cinematic quality. Strangely, you have to check out The Definitive Twilight Zone Season 3 if you want to hear Bill Mumy comment about the "It's Still a Good Life" sequel.

Geek Factoid: Singer Jessica Simpson starred in the episode "The Collection," while Jonathan Davis of Korn reworked the original theme song as a rockin', guitar crunching jam for the opening titles.