Is “The Twilight Zone” everything we hoped for?

Screen Capture: A scene taken from the Jakob Verbruggen directed episode of "The Twilight Zone" titled 'Six Degrees of Freedom.'

Does “The Twilight Zone” meet with your expectations or your contempt? In the latest incarnation of “The Twilight Zone,” with a cloak of either fantasy and or science fiction, there is a pattern of morality tales which challenges present day anxieties, fears and social norms. The same is true of the original series. The 1960s series frequently brought to our television screens narratives no other series producer would contemplate televising. This is what makes the series so compelling. It forces viewers to think beyond their respective comfort zones.

Another aspect of both productions we should not forget is that not all episodes resonate with viewers the same way. The latest instalment, “Six Degrees of Freedom,” is such an episode. Written by Heather Anne Campbell and Glen Morgan, this sixth episode is the closest we have come thus far in the series to exceeding our expectations. Misdirection is a key element of episodes. With a twist of the knife, Jordan Peele’s production reminds us of where we are, “here, in ‘The Twilight Zone’.”

“The Twilight Zone” promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb.

Brief Episode Synopsis: “Six Degrees of Freedom

A space crew of five is preparing for the first human flight to Mars must face a life-altering decision … and its many consequences.

SPOILERS ALERT: It is immensely difficult to write about “Six Degrees of Freedom” without referencing aspects of the episode narrative which are most definitely spoilers. If you have yet to watch this episode, please feel free to stop reading at this point in the article. Continue reading after you watch the episode.

An aspect of “The Twilight Zone” producers of this new series do exceedingly well is pulling audience members into the story. As viewers, there are times, we are left guessing as to the motives behind certain actions and or the incorporation of plot devices. This is an element the 2019 series draws from the original incarnation.

“Six Degrees of Freedom” revolves around a group of astronauts, to paraphrase Star Trek, boldly going where no one has gone before. From millions of applicants, these five individuals are on the first mission to Mars.

With just under nine minutes until launch, there is confirmation five long range missiles out of the North Korean peninsula are in the air. Should they abandon the mission or launch? Balance the options. Live on a world drastically hit by nuclear devastation or complete the mission. The crew makes the decision to launch and move forwards with the Mars mission.

Personal Relationships

When it close quarters, men and women are likely to engage in some form of sexual activity. The way the hand touches the window immediately makes one think of that scene in the 1997 James Cameron written and directed “Titanic.” You know the one I mean.

Screen Capture: A scene taken from the Jakob Verbruggen directed episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled ‘Six Degrees of Freedom.’

With the inclusion of personal relations between crew members, there is an implication of possible over population and the early depiction of food rations. Despite the consequences of such behaviour being marginally touched upon, especially considering their situation, this aspect of the episode narrative is unfortunately fleeting. It is gone before anyone realises it.

Seeds of Doubt

Did they do the right thing? Was launching their only choice? It does not take long for the seeds of doubt to take root. The crew find it difficult to not think about what it is they left behind. For these characters, except what they experience during the journey, there will be nothing new under the sun.

Philosophical Thought

Philosophical though plays a significant role in this episode. The characters engage in conversations revolving around their circumstances.

There is a reference to the radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds.” It is correctly referenced, when it was broadcast, many radio listeners missed the beginning of the transmission because they were tuned into other radio stations. As a result, these listeners were unaware it was a radio dramatization of a fictional novel rather than actual news.

The Tail End of the Episode

To usurp Robert Downey, Jr.’s line from the recently released “Avengers: Endgame,” “The end is part of the journey.” In the case of “Six Degrees of Freedom,” the journey is far more satisfying than the episode resolution.

Screen Capture: Jefferson White in the Jakob Verbruggen directed episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled ‘Six Degrees of Freedom.’

The astronauts are in a simulation operated be a mysterious alien species we do not see on screen. While we do not see this species, we do hear insect-like sounds. Are we worth saving?

Screen Capture: A scene taken from the Jakob Verbruggen directed episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled ‘Six Degrees of Freedom.’

What is the difference between a great episode and a good one?

Do you know the difference between a great episode and a good one? I would normally say persecution is a key aspect of determining this difference. Right or wrong, it is my perception that saw my arrival at this point. There are however schools of thought which suggest that the difference between great and good is comparable to invent verses execution. While the intent might be to produce a great episode, the execution might be up to par.

Is there a trailer?

Final Thoughts

If social commentary is not an aspect of television production you look for in the shows you watch, “The Twilight Zone” is not one for your viewing pleasure. Social commentary is one of the principle aspects of “The Twilight Zone” that makes it so compelling. This is this very aspect that sees the new series resonate with such a large audience. If it were not for social commentary, addressing the harsh realities of the current socio-political-climate, “The Twilight Zone” would not have the lasting impact on society.

As someone which enjoys greatly what Peele presents, I feel social commentary must be the basis for episode narratives rather than the stories themselves. The people responsible for writing the teleplay for “Six Degrees of Freedom,” Campbell and Morgan, have done an excellent job making their narrative reflect social commentary but not make it the defining aspect.

The narrative we see in “Six Degrees of Freedom” is reminiscent of the classic episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” If you think I am wrong, please tell me why. In the 1962 episode, the story revolves around five strangers that find themselves trapped inside what appears to be a large metal cylinder. Throughout the episode, various theories are offered as potential explanations for their predicament. Similarly, in “Six Degrees of Freedom,” the characters are heading towards an uncharted destination. They therefore must work as cohesive a team to escape the situation. The resolution for the classic episode reveals the individuals trapped were actually toy figures which had been discarded.