Tag Archives: Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone S2 E4: A Thing About Machines

When I started reviewing episodes of The Twilight Zone, I mentioned that my favorite episodes were those that showed some rotten person getting their comeuppance. The season 2 episode “A Thing About Machines” is a prime example of this trope, as well as being a really fun episode to watch.

The premise is simple: Bartlett Finchley is a snobby critic with a peculiar eccentricity, that being he hates, despises, and loathes any and all types of machinery. More than that, Finchley is convinced that the machines in his home are out to get him. It sounds crazy, but this is The Twilight Zone, so we know better. I should also say that Richard Haydn does a great job as the arrogant Finchley, proclaiming his dominance over machines until almost the end of the story.

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It’s interesting how Rod Serling and company chose to play this episode out. Given the premise involves machines “rising up” against a human, it would have been easy to present this story in more of a horror style, playing up the victim’s increasing fear and terror. Instead, the story first makes Finchley so unlikable, that you feel inclined to cheer when the machine revolution begins in force.

And really, the way Finchley acts, he brought it all on himself. His hatred of machines is so extreme it borders on the absurd. For example, note Finchley’s reaction at the end of the introductory scene when his clock begins chiming the hour. The clock isn’t doing anything wrong, clocks are supposed to chime the hour, but Finchley’s reaction is to command it to stop, and then SMASH it when it continues to chime. That reaction is not only unreasonable, it’s practically insane, and it makes you wonder just how “together” Finchley was before this episode takes place.

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The plot device of the machines rising up one by one is pretty well done: the phone rings when it’s not connected, the television randomly switches on, the clock rings when it’s not supposed to, the typewriter types with nobody at the table, and those machines that are capable of sound have one message in common: Get out of here Finchley! As if that weren’t enough, things step up a notch further when other, more random objects come in for the attack. My particular favorite is when Finchley’s electric razor literally comes snaking down the stairs and rises up to attack (if you look close, you can se the wire manipulating the razor). As with all of The Twilight Zone episodes of this type, things build to a climax where Finchley does indeed “get out”…permanently.

I don’t say this often, but given the subject matter this is one episode of The Twilight Zone that I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern remake of. Given how the technology all around us has increased tenfold from fifty years ago, it would be most interesting to see a retelling of this story by someone who’s surrounded by iPhones, smart TVs, computers everywhere. Hopefully the rebooted series that’s on CBS All-Access will run with this idea in a future episode.

Overall, “A Thing About Machines” is a good example of what makes The Twilight Zone so enjoyable to watch. Let me know your thoughts regarding “A Thing About Machines” in the comments below and have a great day!

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The Twilight Zone S5 E27: Sounds and Silences

The Twilight Zone is memorable, and rightly so, for creating an anthology full of memorable stories, nearly of which have a shocking twist at the end. For me personally, the reason I love this series so much is because Rod Serling proved to be a master of “watch this obnoxious individual get what’s coming to him.”

“Sounds and Silences,” produced late in the 5th and final season, is one such episode. The episode details the demise of Roswell G. Flemington, owner of a model ship company, and described by Serling himself as “two hundred and twenty pounds of gristle, lung tissue and sound decibels.” He’s not the worst character to get his comeuppance on this show, but he comes awfully close through sheer obnoxiousness.

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Flemington is a man obsessed with the Navy, to the point that his company office is modeled after the interior of a ship’s cabin. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad, except Flemington is also obsessed with noise. I’m not just talking about blaring records as loud as he can (which he does throughout the episode), I’m talking about slamming doors, stamping feet, and yelling whenever he talks. One harried staff member mutters aloud that “someday all of that noise is going to come back and bite him” and boy does it ever!

The downward spiral begins when Flemington’s wife of 20 years finally has enough and decides to leave him. The one part of this episode that I find difficult to accept is that a man like Flemington was able to find a wife at all! I absolutely love the scene where she tells Roswell off and proceeds to inform him, in no uncertain terms, that their marriage is over. This is also the scene that completely destroys any final scrap of sympathy you might have for this character, as Flemington describes, in sneering detail, how he had to put up with a hypochondriac mother and THAT is why he’s so obsessed with noise. You might feel bad for him, were it not for the fact that the man is clearly talking down to his soon-to-be-ex-wife. It’s made plain that this guy deserves everything he’s about to get.

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It’s after Flemington’s wife leaves that the fun really starts. I have to imagine the sound people had a lot of fun with this episode, when they had to simulate Flemington hearing noises louder than they actually are. It’s slightly surreal, hearing all of the sound effects, but it goes a long way toward showing how Flemington is rapidly losing his grip on reality. In fact, the conclusion comes not long afterward, when Flemington, having convinced himself that all of this is “mind over matter” finds he cannot hear at all.

Now, I have two thoughts on the ending of this episode. On the one hand, it’s implied that Roswell simply took “mind over matter” too far and accidentally made himself deaf. On the other hand, when you spend day after day listening to records at ear-splitting decibel levels…really, he was bound to lose his hearing sooner or later. In either case, this is one of the most suitable punishments presented in the show. Flemington, a man obsessed with noise, is now forced to live in a world with none at all.

Let me know what you think about “Sounds and Silences” in the comments below and have a great day! From now on, I’ll be working in reviews of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, so I really hope you enjoy them.

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