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Carl Sagan
Archie Savage
William Schallert
Roy Scheider
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Peter Sellers
Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Rod Serling
William Shatner
M. Night Shyamalan
Curt Siodmak
Jack Smight
Jerry Sohl
Steven Spielberg
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Patrick Stewart
Glenn Strange
Theodore Sturgeon
 
SERLING, ROD
(1924–1975). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: "U.F.O." (1954), episode of Studio One; Seven Days in May (John FRANKENHEIMER 1964); Carol for Another Christmas (tv movie) (Joseph Mankiewicz 1964); The Doomsday Flight (tv movie) (William A. Graham 1966); Planet of the Apes (with Michael Wilson) (Franklin J. SCHAFFNER 1968); The New People (pilot for tv series) (1969); The Man (Joseph SARGENT 1972); The Time Travelers (story with Irwin ALLEN, screenplay Jackson Gillis) (tv movie) (Alex Singer 1976); "The Theatre" (story; script Richard MATHESON) and "Where the Dead Are," segments of Rod Serling's Lost Classics (tv movie) (Robert Markowitz 1994) .

Wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone: "Where Is Everybody?" "The Lonely," "Escape Clause," "Walking Distance," "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "One for the Angels," "Judgment Night," "And When the Sky Was Opened" (story Richard MATHESON), "The Hitch-Hiker" (radio play Lucille Fletcher), "The Sixteenth Millimeter Shrine," "Time Enough at Last" (story Lynn Venable) (1959), "People Are Alike All Over," "Third from the Sun" (story Matheson), "The Mighty Casey," "The Four of Us Are Dying" (story George Clayton JOHNSON), "The Purple Testament," "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," "What You Need" (story Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), "The Fever," "Mirror Image," "Execution" (story Johnson), "The Big Tall Wish," "Nightmare as a Child," "A Stop at Willoughby," "A Passage for Trumpet," "Mr. Bevis," "The After Hours," "King Nine Will Not Return," "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," "The Man in the Bottle," "The Eye of the Beholder," "A Most Unusual Camera," "A Thing about Machines," "Night of the Meek" (1960), "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," "Back There," "Dust," "The Odyssey of Flight 33," "The Lateness of the Hour," "The Whole Truth," "Twenty-Two," "A Hundred Yards over the Rim," "The Rip Van Winkle Caper," "The Silence," "The Mind and the Matter," "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up," "The Obsolete Man," "The Arrival," "It's a Good Life," "The Shelter," "Death's-Head Revisited," "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (story Marvin Petal), "Still Valley" (story Manly Wade Wellman), "A Quality of Mercy," "The Passersby," "The Midnight Sun," "The Mirror" (1961), "To Serve Man" (story Damon Knight), "One More Pallbearer," "Showdown with Rance McGrew," "The Little People," "Four O'Clock" (story Price Day), "The Gift," "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" (story Frederic Louis Fox), "The Dummy" (story Lee Polk), "Cavender Is Coming," "The Changing of the Guard," "The Trade-Ins" (1962), "The Thirty-Fathom Grave," "He's Alive," "No Time like the Past," "The Bard," "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" (story Malcolm Jameson), "The Parallel," "On Thursday We Leave for Home," "In Praise of Pip," "Uncle Simon," "A Kind of a Stopwatch" (story Michael D. Rosenthal), "The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms," "The Old Man in the Cave" (story Henry Slesar), "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain," "The Last Night of a Jockey" (1963), "The Masks," "Sounds and Silences," "The Fear," "The Brain Center at Whipple's," "The Long Morrow," "I Am the Night—Color Me Black," "Probe 7—Over and Out," "The Jeopardy Room," "Mr. Garrity and the Graves" (story Mike Korologos) (1964).

Wrote episodes of Night Gallery: "The Little Black Bag," "The Nature of the Enemy," "The House," "Certain Shadows on the Wall," "Make Me Laugh," "Clean Kills and Other Trophies," "Pamela's Voice," "The Academy," "Lone Survivor," "The Doll," "They're Tearing Down O'Riley's Bar," "The Last Laurel" (1970), "The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes," "A Fear of Spiders," "Class of '99," "A Death in the Family," "The Different Ones," "Dr. Stringfellow's Rejuvenator," "The Diary," "The Miracle at Camafeo," "The Dear Departed," "Cool Air," "Camera Obscura," "Deliveries in the Rear," "The Waiting Room," "The Messiah of Mott Street," "The Caterpillar," "Lindemann's Catch," "Midnight Never Ends," "Green Fingers," "You Can't Get Help like That Anymore" (1971), "Rare Objects," "You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan," "Something in the Woodwork," "Finnegan's Flight" (1972).

Hosted tv series: The Twilight Zone (also created) (1959-64); Night Gallery (1970-72).

Narrated: Encounter with the Unknown (Harry Thomason 1975); In Search of Ancient Astronauts (documentary) (1975); In Search of Ancient Mysteries (documentary) (1975); The Outer Space Connection (documentary) (Fred Warshovsky 1975); UFOs: It Has Begun (documentary) (Ray Rivas 1976).

Film based on his work: "Night of the Meek" (1985), "The After Hours" (1986), "Our Selena Is Dying" (story; script J. Michael STRACZYNSKI) (1988), episodes of Twilight Zone; The Enemy Within (tv movie) (Jonathan Draby 1994).

 
As a writer, Rod Serling only had a few cards up his sleeve, but he played them very well. He had a knack for devising novel and unusual situations for fantastic narratives, and he excelled in producing claustrophobic, conversational dramas, like his script for John FRANKENHEIMER's Seven Days in May. He had a fine sense of irony, manifest in the effective trick endings of several of his Twilight Zone episodes. And he had a flair for writing florid, evocative dialogue. Against these virtues, however, must be weighed his many flaws. Unlike most science fiction and fantasy writers, Serling never envisioned alternative realities as interesting objects in themselves, but rather constructed them simply to make a point, sometimes driven home with clumsy heavy-handedness. He didn't know how to make use of broad canvases or how to generate visual, rather than verbal, conflict; thus, one suspects, his stilted, talkative script for Planet of the Apes had to be extensively reworked by Michael Wilson to make it into an involving adventure. His thinly-drawn characters often make speeches instead of conversation, and Serling absolutely depended on talented actors to bring them to life. A fondness for bitter irony is balanced by an equally common tendency to slide into the stickiest sort of sentimentality. Most damningly, Serling's career conveys the impression of a writer who didn't really have anything to say. Recurring concerns and strong emotions course through the works of writers like Richard MATHESON and Harlan ELLISON; Serling seems to survey his real and imagined worlds and sums them all up only with a wry, wistful comment: "Isn't life strange?"

For The Twilight Zone, Serling churned out an amazing number of scripts, and it is not surprising that they vary in quality. His weakest scripts often fall into the category of science fiction, since that genre most tempted Serling into simple-minded morality plays with obvious messages, as in "People Are Alike All Over," "Time Enough at Last," "The Fear," and "The Eye of the Beholder." (The latter has been inexplicably advanced as Serling's masterpiece; however, despite the cleverness of the conceit and the careful way the surprise ending is withheld and finally revealed, the episode is painfully stretched out to fill twenty-two minutes with meandering dialogue and a generally listless atmosphere, its characters are empty, and its special effects are inept even by the low standards that the series set.) Serling was more subtle and evocative in his fantasy scripts, like "A Passage for Trumpet," "Twenty-Two," and "In Praise of Pip." Serling was not happy writing for his second series, Night Gallery, as producer Jack LAIRD effectively controlled the series and Serling vocally disliked its accent on the occult, but he did write one of his best scripts, the haunting "They're Tearing Down O'Riley's Bar," for the series. Serling also scripted the television movie The Doomsday Flight, an effective suspense thriller (even if the location of the concealed bomb is painfully telegraphed in an opening scene), but it is rarely seen since its original airing triggered a rash of copycat bomb threats; he produced a better-than-it-should-have-been adaptation of Irving Wallace's The Man; and he inexplicably collaborated with Irwin ALLEN on the story for the pilot film The Time Travelers. Serling might be better celebrated for the imaginative opportunities that his series provided for other talented writers—including Richard MATHESON, Charles BEAUMONT, and George Clayton JOHNSON—and neophyte directors like Steven SPIELBERG, John BADHAM, and Jeannot SZWARC.

And one cannot neglect Serling's distinctive power as a performer. He served as the perfect host for The Twilight Zone, standing in the darkness behind the fog machine, lighted cigarette perpetually in hand, as he wrapped his arms around his chest and deftly epitomized each episode's story. (While the revived Twilight Zone was in many ways superior to the original, the series suffered greatly from Serling's absence.) He did not seem quite as impressive making his introductions in Laird's surrealistic art gallery, but it is worth noting that plans to add episodes of an unrelated series, The Sixth Sense, to the syndicated version of Night Gallery were carried out only when Serling agreed to film introductions to them. Unfortunately, Serling wasted his charisma on a number of unworthy projects in the 1960s, including numerous commercials and, of all things, a game show, and later he unwisely lent his authority to three dubious documentaries about ancient aliens and UFOs by reading their narration. Years after his death, Dan Ackroyd was still parodying Serling in Saturday Night Live sketches, and it is possible that Serling's appearance will have a more enduring impact than his words (though his words are hanging in there too, largely in various revivals of The Twilight Zone).

Serling smoked incessantly and, no doubt as a result, died suddenly of a heart attack. It was an anticlimactic ending to an unsatisfying story that would have made a lousy Twilight Zone episode; but if it had been the only script available, Serling would have done his best to give the story some punch in his closing comments: "Consider the case of Rod Serling, a writer with just enough talent to be a success, but not enough talent to go beyond conventional success. Unwilling to retreat, unable to advance, he worked at whatever project was presented to him, all the while dreaming of the great achievements he might, but could never, accomplish. Although death is a tragedy, it may come as a blessed relief to a person trapped in—The Twilight Zone."

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