Saw most of a bio of Rod Serling on TV over the weekend that included many things I never knew, which is sometimes the mark of a good production, but more likely means that I never bothered to learn much about the subject. (Both, in this case.) It was filmed in black and white, a wise choice, since it would have been jarring to go back and forth from b&w to color, considering that the many Twilight Zone clips were in b&w.
There were a few omissions. No mention was made of one critical element of that show’s presence — good episodes or bad, the Twilight Zone had a presence — namely Serling’s voice. A sonorous voice with a slightly sinister edge. If you doubt its importance in the scheme of the drama, imagine if he’d introduced the episodes with a voice like Wally Cox’s.
A more important omission was the bio’s gliding over Night Gallery, which Serling hosted in the early 1970s. He also wrote about a third of the episodes. I haven’t seen any of them since they were new, and I’m not sure I really need to, but it included some of the most frightening television I’ve ever seen. Of course I was nine or ten at the time, but still the effect was there, and probably not only because I was a kid. There must have been macabre merit to some of them.
There was one Night Gallery episode so unnerving that I’m certain I would never want to see it again (like the movie Eraserhead), namely “The Caterpillar,” though I’m grown now and sure — well, reasonably sure — that the entomology of the story is bogus. Internet sources tell me it originally aired on March 1, 1972, and I might have seen it then or during a rerun.
It involved explorers or colonists in some tropical location, one of whom wanted to murder a rival. His weapon of choice: a flesh-eating caterpillar deposited at night in the rival’s ear by a native accomplice. The native goes into the wrong room and the creature is put in the would-be murderer’s ear. After inflicting terrible agony, the worm emerges from his other ear, and then there was the kicker: “… it was a female. Females lay eggs…”