The Twilight Zone ‘To Serve Man’ review

I settled down to watch this latest episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ full of hope as to what I was about to witness. Recent attempts at sci-fi parable have fallen some way short, with the re-make of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ deciding to confuse and bewilder the viewer with bright visuals, whoosh noises and loud bangs – rather than the more sensible option of showing them a story with meaning, morals and a message. But I had heard big things about the TZ episode ‘To Serve Man’: it would present a tale that would throw you off completely, one that would make you think; it would introduce viewers to some of the freakiest, weirdest aliens we’ve ever seen; and it would not end well.

Well call me a cynic if you will, but I was not impressed. ‘To Serve Man’ only managed to hit one of those three marks, in that it didn’t end well. The aliens land, you try to get your head around how the special effects these days could be so bad, you ridicule the use of a lie detector, you scoff at the notion of an alien from ‘100 billion miles away’ having palms – you just cannot enjoy this show in any meaningful way.

Frankly it’s ludicrous that the creators would think we’re stupid enough to buy into this baloney. With the world of the internet at our fingertips and an entire planet of people working together to decode the alien language – even then it just wouldn’t be possible. Even ‘The Twilight Zone Companion’ agrees:

In the show … a staff of cryptographers led by Lloyd Bochner attempts to decipher the alien language as though it were some secret code, which is utterly ludicrous. Without some sort of interplanetary Rosetta stone, deciphering an unknown language would be impossible.

Though I don’t understand how that book exists, seeing as I only saw this episode today. Hmm.

It’s also an interesting choice by the creators – and not a particularly wise one – to… how should I put this? To use big words. See, the public of today are used to having things spelled out for them, but that’s as in ‘spelled out in the simplest form imaginable’. Using a word like ‘soliloquy’ is just going to shut the average viewer’s brain off for the length of the show.

I won’t spoil what happens at the end right here, though I might change my mind by the next paragraph. Safe to say it is a twist ending, and not a very good one at that. Hinging an entire plot on the ambiguity of meaning contained in a single word? Ridiculous. Where are the explosions? The CG ghouls from the netherworld? The little Japanese girls who steal your soul? The chainsaw hands? Hmm? ‘To Serve Man’ does nothing to take the medium of storytelling forward with its poor special effects, hammy acting and bizarre parlance.

As for Chambers talking directly to the viewer as the episode lurches towards its conclusion? Well that’s just ham-fisted laziness. In fact, the whole allegory element of this tale falls on its arse – what’s it trying to get at? That if we don’t change our ways ourselves then a greater evil (tall, bollock-headed aliens who look as dim as someone from Rotherham) will come to our planet to eat us? Well, I find that a mite far-fetched.

I expected a great deal more from this new ‘Twilight Zone’ franchise, but I’ve been left nothing more than slightly confused, a bit more bemused and not in the slightest amused.

… wait, it was made in 1962? Oh. Bugger.

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