CBS has given interested pop culture websites a look at the first four episodes of the new take on The Twilight Zone. TrekMovie has seen them and we will be reviewing them in more detail when they debut, starting with two episodes on April Fool’s Day (April 1). For now, we can talk about the broad strokes of the episodes. As one might expect from an anthology series, each episode brings something different to the table. Taking advantage of being on a streaming platform, they each run as long they need to. These four each have a runtime between roughly 35 to 50 minutes.
The (Black) Mirror in the room
It’s very hard for a new show to live up to the hallowed place the original Twilight Zone holds in the legacy of classic TV. In fact, it can’t. So you’ll need to take this new version as it is: a modern anthology series, influenced by its peers like Black Mirror and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, among others.
Executive producer Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) recently spoke to Entertainment Weekly about getting out of Black Mirror‘s shadow:
One of the easy rules that we made for ourselves is that we don’t have to explore technology—Twilight Zone covers everything else the imagination can think of.
This new version has to distinguish itself, and from the first few episodes it seems to have found a place, maybe not fully in—but at least somewhere along the border of—that well-known dimension. There’s a signpost up ahead—your next stop, The Twilight Zone.
A dimension of sight
The first four episodes are “The Comedian,” “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” “Replay,” and “A Traveler.” Each of these has a unique flavor. The first three episodes take the point of view of our main character and are intensely driven by their point of view. The lead-off episode is “The Comedian,” starring Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley). The episode is a bit less compelling than the next two entries, which primarily comes down to pacing. It’s the longest of the four and really could have been trimmed by 15 to 20 minutes. I’m one of the folks that agree with the common opinion that The Twilight Zone works best being closer to 30 minutes, and I think this episode bears that out.
For those wondering about “Nightmare” being a remake of the classic episode (which was already retold in the 1983 movie), it’s not. It has its own unique take on the same basic premise of a man (originally William Shatner) who had a mental breakdown and now has to travel via airplane; beyond that premise, it’s quite different. Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation, The Good Place) nails the performance of a freaked out traveler, and the episode direction is claustrophobic and makes the mundanities of air travel nerve-wracking, heightened by some well-done sound mixing that raises normal plane sounds to let us really get into the mindset of our main character. This one comes in at a reasonable 35 minutes.
“Replay” with Sanaa Lathan (Shots Fired, The Affair) is a standout for the relevant story, which has both a classic TZ feel (the episode starts with a highway patrol officer walking into a backroad diner), and yet is quite modern and in keeping with Jordan Peele’s other work. A smidge heavy-handed at times, it is still gripping and has some important points to make.
Lastly, we have “A Traveler,” which is more of an ensemble work. The big name in the episode is Greg Kinnear, but the focus is usually on Inuit actress Marika Sila, and later, The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun. This one has classic TZ trappings: a remote area (very rural Alaska in this case), unsuspecting and narcissistic small town folk, and a surprise visitor appearing on Christmas Eve. This one is also a weaker entry, and the outcome may be a bit predictable for TZ fans, but it’s well executed and keeps you interested in both the characters and the exact outcome of the mystery, if only to see if your guess is correct.
A journey into a wondrous land
In a fun a bit of fan service, visual nods to classic Twilight Zone appear somewhere in each episode. The gremlin from the original “Nightmare” appears as a plush toy, at the diner in “Replay” we briefly see the Mystic Seer (the fortune-dispensing machine) from “Nick of Time” at another booth, and around a Christmas tree we catch glimpses of a Talky Tina (“Living Doll”), and some bizarre wrapping paper that features a ventriloquist dummy (“The Dummy”).
These first few episodes show promise, and I was reminded of a number of classic episodes while watching them. A bit uneven—in all honesty, just like the original—the first four episodes show that this new take on The Twilight Zone should be able to find a niche for itself. Hopefully, the rest of the 10-episode season is more like the middle two episodes in this preview group. I also really hope that the writers and producers don’t forget that The Twilight Zone can be funny as well as nostalgic, insightful points can be made without everything having to be so darned serious.
In anticipation of the first two episodes debuting on Monday, CBS has released a trailer that includes quite a bit of new material from later episodes.
How to watch The Twilight Zone
The first two episodes “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” will be released together next week. Then “Replay” will premiere on April 11, and “A Traveler” on April 18.
In the USA The Twilight Zone will debut two episodes on CBA All Access on Monday April 1. After this special event, a new episode will be released weekly on Thursdays, starting April 11.
In Canada The Twilight Zone will be carried by Citytv, it will premiere on Thursday April 4 at 9:00pm ET with the first two episodes, and then a new episode will be released weekly on Thursdays, starting April 11.
So far there is no information about other markets offering the show.
Keep up with The Twilight Zone news here at TrekMovie.com.