TV Science Fiction & Fantasy

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

“NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET.” Episode 123 of The Twilight Zone (CBS TV). Original air date: October 11, 1963. Starring William Shatner. Written by Richard Matheson. Directed by Richard Donner.

TWILIGHT ZONE Nightare at 20000 Feet

   Much has undoubtedly been written about “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” an iconic Twilight Zone episode. The show, however, is well worth revisiting, particularly in light of writer Richard Matheson’s passing last year and of director Richard Donner’s recent announcement that he hopes to film a sequel to his 1985 cult classic, The Goonies.

   This 25-minute black & white episode is not merely a vivid small screen representation of psychological torment. It also serves as an excellent reference point for those seeking to connect seemingly disparate elements of twentieth-century science fiction, horror, and popular culture, from airplanes to zombies.

   The plot of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” based on a 1961 Richard Matheson short story of the same name, unfolds as follows. A salesman named Robert Wilson, portrayed with great dramatic effect by a youthful William Shatner in his pre-Star Trek days, spots a bizarre creature — a gremlin — tampering an aircraft’s engine while the plane is in flight.

TWILIGHT ZONE Nightmare at 20000 Feet

   It’s a Twilight Zone episode, so of course there’s a twist. Months earlier, Wilson had experienced a “nervous breakdown” while on an airplane. Now, he is back on a plane for the first time since his stay in a sanitarium. Accompanying him is his wife, played by Christine White. But who is going to believe a man who has suffered from mental illness, especially when he’s the only one who sees the gremlin (Nick Cravat in furry suit that now looks more silly than scary) out on the wing, attempting to tamper with the plane?

   Gremlins, of course, have not been the most prominent of monsters in twentieth-century popular culture. Unlike vampires and demons, which have a long pedigree, the notion of creatures called gremlins likely originated in the 1920s as the figment of British pilots’ collective imaginations. They were prone to mechanical mischief and blamed for tampering with aircraft.

   The best-known literary work about these modernist monsters is Roald Dahl’s children’s book, The Gremlins (1943). Dahl, of course, would go on to write numerous children’s books, screenplays, and short stories.

TWILIGHT ZONE Nightare at 20000 Feet

   Gremlins, of course, had their moment in the sun (pun intended), in the 1984 film, Gremlins. Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, with Steven Spielberg as the film’s executive producer, Gremlins went on to become an American cult classic.

   In the Twilight Zone episode, the character of Wilson mentions gremlins during the flight and alludes to their role in tinkering with aircraft “during the War.” But the gremlin in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is, in many ways, peripheral to the episode. It’s a human story, one that remains compelling to this day. It touches on the deep-seated human fear of being, or feeling, completely alone in the midst of chaos.

TWILIGHT ZONE Nightare at 20000 Feet

   Sure, Wilson is with his wife, the pilot, and other passengers. But no one believes him. That’s when, of course, he decides to take matters on his own hands. Without giving away how the story ends, I’ll just mention that there’s an easily accessible gun on the airplane and the emergency window gets opened. Matheson’s story is still incredibly fresh. Optimists take note: there’s a redemptive aspect for Shatner’s character at the very end.

   This leads me to the March/April 2014 issue of Famous Monsters, which includes an extensive tribute to the episode’s writer, Richard Matheson. In a compelling passage, Richard Christian Matheson, the author’s son, wrote as follows:

   “My father could almost see to the core of others in a blink, undistracted by their presented selves. With a sleuth’s calm, he listened, and asked polite questions, until they wandered into the light, often relieved to finally be seen. That genuine curiosity didn’t judge, his empathy for human drama boundless. As a writer, his respect for mazes of human psyche deepened his characters, made them real.” (Page 7)

TWILIGHT ZONE Nightare at 20000 Feet

   Although Richard Christian Matheson doesn’t specifically allude to any particular characters, I can see how this characterization of Matheson’s thinking could apply to the aforementioned Robert Wilson. Indeed, one can hardly watch Shatner’s performance without feeling for his character.

   In conclusion, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is more than just a singular episode in the Twilight Zone corpus. It is a cultural artifact in its own right. Aside from Rod Sterling, a legend all his own, the three main men involved in this particular episode’s creation — Shatner, Donner, and Matheson — collectively went on to create a vast body of work that includes some of the best late twentieth-century works in science fiction and popular culture.

   And even though the episode is over fifty years old and the gremlin looks a bit goofy, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is an extremely well-written story and an episode worth watching again, if you haven’t done so recently.

Reference: Famous Monsters #272, March/April 2014.

by Michael Shonk



ABC: CASTLE returns for its sixth season in its same time slot at 10pm starting September 23rd.

CBS: HOSTAGES begins its limited series run starting September 23rd at 10pm. The series is about a Doctor who is scheduled to operate on the President of the United States when she learns kidnappers have her family and demand the President dies or her family will. February 24th the promising cyber-thriller INTELLIGENCE is scheduled to take over the time slot.

CW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST returns on October 7th for its second season as cop (Beauty) and Doctor (Beast) continue their romance while trying to solve the murder of her mother without attracting the attention of Muirfield, a mysterious organization.

FOX: BONES returns September 16th for its ninth season at 8pm but will stay only until November 4th when it moves to Friday and new buddy cop show ALMOST HUMAN takes its place. From the people behind FRINGE, ALMOST HUMAN teams a reluctant human cop with an android cop that has feelings. Starting September 16th at 9pm will be the hour-long SLEEPY HOLLOW (which will be repeated on Friday). Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman adjust to the 21st Century as they resume their fight, while Crane’s new partner, a female black sheriff, tries to find out who is behind their return and why.

NBC: THE BLACKLIST debuts on September 23rd at 10pm, starring James Spader as a super criminal who has turned himself into the FBI to help stop another super criminal, but he will only deal with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a rookie FBI agent.


ABC: MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres September 24th at 8pm. A special team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, lead by Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who was last seen dead in the hit movie THE AVENGERS, solve strange cases.

CBS: NCIS returns for its eleventh season September 24th at 8pm, last year’s top rated series will bid farewell to character Ziva David (Cote de Pablo). The same night has NCIS–LA back at 9pm for its fifth season. Followed at 10pm by my personal favorite PERSON OF INTEREST beginning its third season.

CW: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES spinoff THE ORIGINALS will premiere on Thursday October 3 then move to its regular spot Tuesday at 8pm on October 8th. SUPERNATURAL will start its ninth season on October 8th at 9pm.

FOX: BROOKLYN NINE-NINE premieres September 17th at 830pm. The new half-hour ensemble comedy focuses on the conflict between irresponsible but great cop (Andy Samberg) and his new by the book boss (Andre Braugher).

NBC: CHICAGO FIRE second season begins September 24th at 10pm.


CBS: CRIMINAL MINDS returns for its ninth season on September 25th and will air at 9pm. The same day CSI: CRIMINAL SCENE INVESIGATION will air at 10pm. Its fourteenth season will be highlighted by a special 300th episode.

CW: ARROW, based on a comic book superhero begins its second season on October 9th at 8pm followed by new SF action series THE TOMORROW PEOPLE based on British TV series, about paranormal teens on the run from paramilitary group of scientists.

NBC: REVOLUTION debuts September 25th at 8pm where it hopes to find that spark that made it an early hit last season before it began to fade. LAW AND ORDER: SVU will begin its fifteenth season on the same day at 9pm. New remake IRONSIDE will join the schedule on October 2nd at 10pm.


ABC: ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND begins its limited series run at 8pm. The first eight episodes of the hour-long fantasy adventure start October 10th. January 2nd new reality series THE QUEST takes over the time slot until WONDERLAND returns for its final four episodes of the season. At 10pm the political thriller SCANDAL is back for its third season October 3rd where it will air 12 to 13 episodes, be replaced by another to-be-named limited series, and then return for its final 12 to 13 episodes.

CBS: ELEMENTARY, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson return for a second season on September 26th at 10pm.

CW: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES rises for its fifth season on October 3rd at 8pm.


CBS: HAWAII FIVE-O will start its 4th season on September 27th at 9pm. BLUE BLOODS return for its 4th season at 10pm.

FOX: BONES will move from Monday to Friday at 8pm on November 8th. SLEEPY HOLLOW reruns end (original episodes continue on Monday) and is replaced by comedies.

NBC: GRIMM third season debuts October 25th at 9pm with new limited series DRACULA on at 10. When DRACULA run finishes, period pirate limited series CROSSBONES will take over.


CBS and NBC will feature repeats on Saturday, with CBS 9 to 10pm called ENCORE CRIMETIME.


ABC: ONCE UPON A TIME is back for its third season beginning September 29th at 8pm with the third season of REVENGE following at 9pm. Both will air 12 to 13 episodes then be replaced by a limited series to-be-named and return March 9th for another 12 to 13 episodes. Also on March 9th new series RESURRECTION about the dead from Arcadia Missouri beginning to return alive at the age they died, starts its 12 to 13 episodes run.

CBS: THE GOOD WIFE starts its fifth season on September 29th at 9pm. THE MENTALIST follows with its sixth season at 10pm. The cop show will return with major cast changes and some suspects, one of who is (maybe) the Red John.

  Confused yet? Wait until the networks start cancelling shows and shuffling series around.

  As you can tell the limited series (aka mini-series) is back on the major networks. The reasons range from movie actors such as Kevin Bacon (THE FOLLOWING) and Greg Kinnear (RAKE) willing to do a TV series but only 15 episodes rather than the usual 24 to the networks wanting to eliminate rerun breaks during serial series as well as extend original programming for the entire year. Oh, just because it is a “limited series” doesn’t mean there are not plans for a second season (even with HOSTAGES).

  Among the yet to be scheduled limited series are CW’s NIKITA (final six episodes), FOX’s THE FOLLOWING and new lawyer series RAKE




CW: THE 100 is a post-apocalyptic adventure based on Kass Morgan’s book.


NBC: HANNIBAL (returns for season two), BELIEVE, CRISIS, and CHICAGO PD.

      CABLE TV

ABC FAMILY: RAVENSWOOD, spin-off from PRETTY LITTLE LIARS about a town under a deadly curse. Premieres in October.

A&E: BONNIE AND CLYDE, mini-series airs over two nights sometime in October on A&E, History and Lifetime network.

AMC: WALKING DEAD season 4A begins Sunday October 13th at 9pm, followed by the recap show called TALKING DEAD at 10pm.

BBC AMERICA: LUTHER returns for a short third season airing September 3rd through 6th at 10pm. ATLANTIS, a fantasy series based on Greek mythology, airs Saturday starting November 23rd, the same night the special DOCTOR WHO episode celebrating fifty years of the time travel adventure series airs. RIPPER STREET second season begins Sunday, December 1st at 10pm.

FX: SONS OF ANARCHY season six starts Tuesday, September 10th at 10pm. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN season three airs at 10pm starting Wednesday, October 9th.

HBO: BROARDWALK EMPIRE season four airs Sunday, September 8th at 9pm. TREME begins it fourth and final season December 1st, Sunday at 9pm.

LIFETIME: WITCHES OF EAST END, based on the book by Melissa de la Cruz, starts Sunday, October 6th at 10pm.

PBS: FOYLE’S WAR season seven airs on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY at 9pm, September 15th through 29th.

SHOWTIME: HOMELAND season three airs Sunday at 9pm beginning September 29th.

SYFY: HAVEN season four starts Friday, September 13th at 10pm.

TNT: COLD JUSTICE, Dick Wolf’s reality show about solving real unsolved cases, begins Tuesday September 3rd at 10pm. MAJOR CRIMES is back for season 2B Monday November 25th at 9pm. BOSTON’S FINEST returns for its second season Tuesday at 9pm on November 26th. MOB CITY debuts December 4th Wednesday at 10pm. Based on the book, L.A. NOIR: THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA’S MOST SEDUCTIVE CITY by John Buntin, the series is developed by Frank Darabont (WALKING DEAD).

USA: WHITE COLLAR returns for season five on October 17th Thursday at 9pm. COVERT AFFAIRS season 4A ends September 17th and returns with season 4B Thursday at 10pm on October 17th. PSYCH: THE MUSICAL, a special episode of the series PSYCH airs Sunday December 15th at 9pm.


LINK TV: BORGEN season three begins October 4th.

MHz NETWORKS: Every night in September the network offers a different international mystery:

  Sunday: DETECTIVE MONALBANO, Italian mysteries.

  Monday: HALF BROTHER a Norwegian family drama.

  Tuesday: ANTIGONE 34, a French action series

  Wednesday: SEBASTIAN BERGMAN is a Swedish series about a police profiler.

  Thursday: DOLMEN is a French gothic drama.

  Friday: BLOOD ON THE DOCK, a gritty French police procedural.

  Saturday: ARNE DAHL, Swedish thriller.


Network websites


“Collateral Damage.” From Stargate SG-1: Season 9, Episode 12 (185th of 214 installments). First aired: 13 January 2006. Regular cast: Ben Browder (Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell), Amanda Tapping (Lt. Col. Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (Teal’c), Beau Bridges (Major General Hank Landry), Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson), Gary Jones (Chief Mst. Sgt. Walter Harriman). Guest cast: Anna Galvin (Dr. Reya Varrick), Warren Kimmel (Dr. Marell), Benson Simmonds (Dr. Amuro), Ian Robison (Frank Mitchell), William Atherton (Emissary Varta). Writers: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie. Director: William Waring.

STARGATE SG-1 Collateral Damage

   Our galaxy is on the verge of complete destruction, as a race of super-powerful beings called the Ori equipped with hypertechnology have begun their campaign to force all sentient beings to succumb to their will or be exterminated . . .

   . . . but you’ll see none of that in this particular show. Instead, “Collateral Damage” is one of those series episodes which back away from the main story arc to do a little character building. The character being built in this case is Colonel Mitchell. He is, in fact, the focus of the entire show.

   Mitchell and his SG-1 team are on another planet trying to establish diplomatic relations in hopes of stopping the Ori advance. These people have developed an educational device which could drastically reduce learning times — and its potential for military use against the invasion isn’t lost on the Earthmen.

STARGATE SG-1 Collateral Damage

   The very first scene, a flashback, however, shows Mitchell committing a cold-blooded murder and being arrested for it. The victim is the very research scientist who developed the learning device, only to have it taken away from her by her government — specifically, by the military. Mitchell is sympathetic to her situation, and it isn’t long before he and this woman become romantically involved.

   The next morning the SG-1 team is informed that the colonel has been taken into custody, with the victim’s blood on him, his fingerprints on the murder weapon, and a confession on his lips.

   Although Mitchell instinctively knows better, he must reluctantly admit that he remembers killing her, but his hosts want only to send him back home to Earth. Incensed, he stubbornly refuses their offer to sweep the whole disruptive thing under the rug and demands the matter be cleared up, one way or another.

STARGATE SG-1 Collateral Damage

   Exactly how the crime was committed and how well the actual killer’s identity is submerged will come to light only when, in a nice bit of irony, the victim’s learning machine is employed to ferret out the real murderer.

   The whole plot of this show is an ingenious riff on detective fiction’s Golden Age trope of “the least likely suspect,” and in this instance could only be played out in a science fictional setting.



Transcript with SPOILERS:

And here is a review by someone who didn’t like it, also with a SPOILER alert:


“All the Time in the World.” An episode of Tales of Tomorrow (ABC-TV, 1951-1953). Season 1, Episode 37 (37th of 85). First broadcast: 13 June 1952. Cast: Esther Ralston (The Collector), Don Hanmer (Henry Judson), Jack Warden (Steve), Lewis Charles (Tony), Sam Locante (Bartender), Bob Williams (Narrator). Writer: Arthur C. Clarke (story, 1951). Director: Don Medford.

TALES OF TOMORROW All the Time in the World

    “No criminal in the history of the world had ever possessed such power. It was intoxicating…” — From the original short story.

   In his stuffy office Henry Judson does no apparent work — which is understandable, since Henry is a mid-level criminal sometimes referred to as a fixer. Like middle management in legitimate business, Henry arranges for things to be done, usually without much personal involvement on his part. Whenever he sees an opportunity for criminal “enterprise,” he fixes things with still lower-level thugs who then do the dirty work.

   But on this hot afternoon, he gets very personally involved with a strange but beautiful woman who is willing to give him a hundred thousand dollars to do a job, with another hundred thousand when he completes it.

   The job? She gives him a laundry list of things to steal, which includes not only rare books but also some of the most valuable paintings in the world. Just walk in, pick them up, and walk right out. Piece of cake.

TALES OF TOMORROW All the Time in the World

   Henry’s skepticism is understandable, of course — until the woman, who insists on being called “The Collector,” shows him how it’s done.

   When Henry woke up that morning he never remotely suspected that before the day was through he would be using a bracelet to break into a museum and — even more importantly — agonizing over how to spend the last few precious moments of his life.

   Along the way, this story quietly raises a question: Can it be regarded as a crime if someone steals something in order to save it?

   Retrovision has “All the Time in the World” archived here.

   Arthur Clarke’s original story is online here. In his book, The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, he writes: “This was my first story ever to be adapted for TV — ABC, 13 June 1952. Although I worked on the script, I have absolutely no recollection of the programme, and can’t imagine how it was produced in pre-video-tape days!”



DARK SHADOWS 1991 Revival

DARK SHADOWS. NBC; January 13-14 1991. Premiere of TV series: 4-hour mini-series. Ben Cross, Joanna Going, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jim Fyfe, Barbara Steele, Ron Thinnes, Barbara Blackburn, Jean Simmons. Director: Dan Curtis.

   Part Two of the continuing saga of Barnabas Collins, the 200-year-old vampire whose release from a coffin chains means dire things for the village of Collinsport, Maine. I only occasionally watched the previous TV serial, not making much heads or tails of it when it was on originally. Picking the story up in the middle tends to do that to you.

   Coincidentally, if you remember reading my review of Barbara Hambly’s SF-Fantasy novel, Those Who Hunt the Night, which was posted here on this blog a short while ago, you will recall that the basic premise is the same: that vampirism is a blood disorder that might be curable. Ben Cross plays Barnabas to the hilt, agonized and tortured (and possibly sensuous, but I have seen anything romantic about vampires), while former Italian horror movie starlet Barbara Steele is Dr. Julia Hoffman, the physician who thinks she can cure him. (It looks as though she speaks through clenched teeth.)

DARK SHADOWS 1991 Revival

   The other major plot thread (there are a few other minor ones, mostly of sexual affairs and liaisons yet to come) is the budding romance between Barnabas and the new governess to the mansion, Victoria Winters, played by Joanna Going, who is beautiful, innocent and charming.

   There is a lot of blood — “Where did it all go? If she lost all that blood, where did it go?” — there is at least one stake to the heart, lots of moody atmosphere — caused by lots of fog — and spooky music. Or in other words, the works.

DARK SHADOWS 1991 Revival

   If released as a theatrical movie, this new series would probably be given a PG rating, but it’s not impossible it would be given a PG-13. This may be why, when the series itself started [the following week], it was switched at the last moment to ten o’clock instead of nine. Which is why I missed it, and so (missing an episode) why I probably won’t be watching it on a continuing basis.

   (Network shows are losing viewers left and right, and it’s really no wonder, when you consider that with all the stunting around, no one knows when anything is on for sure.)

   A brief word on the behalf of Jim Fyfe, who plays the semi-demented handyman Willie Loomis. You have never seen a more perfect example of small-town inbreeding, straight from an H. P. Lovecraft novel, perhaps.

   By the way, in case you’re interested, the mini-series is not complete in itself. If the people in charge have their way, the series may never end. I enjoyed it for the two nights it was on, and I may sample the series now and then, but for now, it simply left me — shall I say it? — hanging.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 28,
       February 1991 (slightly revised).

DARK SHADOWS 1991 Revival

[UPDATE] 08-25-12. I have been trying to match up the comments I wrote at the time with the episode list found on IMDB. I think what NBC did was to show the two-hour pilot on January 13th, then combined episodes #2 and 3 and aired them on January 14th.

   The series itself began on January 18th. Interest in the series seems to have faded quickly. There were only 12 episodes in all, including the three that were shown as part of this introductory mini-series. The final one was shown on March 22, 1991.

by Michael Shonk

STAR TREK. NBC / Paramount Studios, 1966-1969. Created by Gene Roddenberry. Cast: William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, and DeForrest Kelley as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy

   While Star Trek is TV’s most famous science fiction series, many of its episodes can be considered part of the mystery genre:


  ●   “Journey to Babel.” (11/17/67) Written by D.C. Fontana. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Guest Cast: Mark Lenard and Miss Jane Wyatt

   While the episode focuses on the relationship between Spock and his parents, the story’s backdrop of political intrigue, spies, and murder will appeal to those seeking a good TV thriller. The Enterprise is escorting a group of diplomats on their way to an important conference when one of them is murdered and Spock’s Dad (Mark Lenard) is the chief suspect.

  ●   “Conscience of the King.” (12/8/66) Written by Barry Trivers. Directed by Gerd Oswald. Guest Cast: Arnold Moss, Barbara Anderson, and Bruce Hyde.

   A friend tries to convince Kirk that an actor in a touring troupe of Shakespearean actors is the long sought after mass murderer, Kodos the Executioner. When the friend is murdered, Kirk investigates the troupe further. The acting and dialog are too much over the top for my taste, but the final confession scene is worthy of Perry Mason.


  ●   “Court Martial.” (2/2/67) Teleplay by Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos. Story by Don M. Mankiewicz. Directed by Marc Daniels. Guest Cast: Percy Rodriguez, Elisha Cook and Joan Marshall.

   Speaking of lawyer Perry Mason, the courtroom was featured in more than one episode of the series. In this episode, Kirk is on trail for causing the death of a crew member. The lawyer (Elisha Cook) was right out of the Perry Mason’s school as he pulled one dramatic trick after another.

  ●   “The Menagerie, Part One.” (11/17/66) Written by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Marc Daniels (*). “Part Two.” (11/24/66) Written by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Robert Butler (*). Guest Cast: Malachi Throne and Sean Kenny; from the series pilot, “The Cage”: Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver and M. Leigh Hudea.


   Spock kidnaps invalid Christopher Pike, his former Captain and forces the Enterprise to travel to the off limits planet Talos IV. During the trip Spock is put on trail for mutiny. The courtroom is used as a framing device so the series can save some production time and money and show the series original pilot, “The Cage.”. Spock’s motives and what happened on the original mission supply the mystery for this Hugo award winning two-part episode.

    (*) Robert Butler directed the pilot “The Cage” but was not interested in returning. Marc Daniels directed the new footage and the two split the credit with Daniels getting screen credit for Part One and Butler getting screen credit for Part Two.

  ●   “Wolf in the Fold.” (12/22/67) Written by Robert Bloch. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Guest Cast: John Fiedler, Charles Macauley and Pilar Seurat.

   This is the series’ attempt at a police procedural. During a visit to a planet, Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan) is accused of being a serial killer. The chief investigator uses the typical procedural methods of fingerprints (Scotty’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon), and questioning witnesses and other suspects, but the story does take a supernatural turn or two CSI might not have taken.


  ●   “The Enterprise Incident.” (9/27/68) Written by D.C. Fontana. Directed by John Meredyth Lucas. Guest Cast: Joanne Linville, Jack Donner and Richard Compton.

   Inspired by the real spy drama of the Pueblo incident. Kirk takes the Enterprise into Romulan (the series other bad guys) Neutral Zone where the ship and crew are captured. Fans of Spock like this one as the female Romulan Captain seduces our hero of logic. The spy thriller plot of obtaining military secrets from the enemy is a strong one.


  ●   “The Trouble with Tribbles.” (12/29/67) Written by David Gerrold. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Guest Cast: William Schallert, Stanley Adams, and William Campbell.

   Perhaps the series’ most beloved episode was also the cutest TV episode ever to be about a terrorist plot to kill millions. Who can forget those non-stop reproducing adorable balls of fur called Tribbles? Love by all, well almost all. And that was the key to foiling the evil scheme and uncovering the villain responsible.


  ●   “A Piece of the Action.” (1/12/68) Teleplay by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon. Story by David P. Harmon. Guest Cast: Anthony Caruso, Vic Tayback and Lee Delano.

   The Enterprise’s visit to a planet “contaminated” a century earlier by visiting explorers from Earth leads to a fun comic caper. The planet had adopted an Earth history book on 1920’s Chicago mobs as the basis of their civilization. Someone took a Tommy gun and shot the story full of plot holes, so try not to think too hard and just enjoy this humorous nod to great gangsters movies (there is a scene that mimics Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar).

   Sadly, Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek world was too perfect for any true noir unless you wore a red uniform or was a beautiful woman one of the guys fell in love with, then you were as doomed as any noir character.

NOTE: For more information and endless spoilers I recommend a visit to Memory Alpha at

A TV Review by Mike Tooney

UFO The Square Triangle

“The Square Triangle.” An installment of UFO: Season 1, Episode 10. First broadcast: 9 December 1970. Ed Bishop, Michael Billington, Ayshea, Gabrielle Drake, Adrienne Corri, Dolores Mantez, Antonia Ellis, Allan Cuthbertson, Patrick Mower, George Sewell, Anthony Chinn, Keith Alexander, Gary Myers, Hugo Panczak, Godfrey James, Norma Ronald, Mel Oxley (the voice of SID, uncredited). Producers and format: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, and Reg Hill. Writer: Alan Pattillo. Director: David Lane.

    From Wikipedia: “The basic premise [of UFO] is that in the near future – a fictional version of 1980 (a date indicated in the opening credits) — Earth is being visited and attacked by aliens from a dying planet and humans are being covertly harvested for their organs by the aliens. The show’s main cast of characters are members of a secret, high-technology international agency called SHADO (an acronym for Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) established to defend Earth and humanity against the mysterious aliens and learn more about them.

    “SHADO is headed by Commander Edward Straker (played by Ed Bishop), a former United States Air Force Colonel and astronaut…”

UFO The Square Triangle

   It’s been a hard day’s night for our blue-skinned alien: He has just flown almost thirty trillion miles from his home planet to Earth (which his race is anxious to colonize) without being detected — until the last few thousand miles of his journey.

   An Earth-orbiting space detector (a posh-voiced computer system named SID) picks up his saucer-shaped spacecraft and directs a Moon-based rocket fighter to intercept him just outside Earth’s atmosphere.

   Although he manages to avoid destruction, the alien must still make an emergency landing somewhere in rural southern England. Leaving his ship behind, he wanders through the woods more or less aimlessly — until he finds a small cottage. As he stealthily pushes the door open, the last thing he would expect to find on the other side is a woman with a gun.

UFO The Square Triangle

   And a space alien is the last thing the woman with the gun would anticipate seeing — because for some time now she and her lover have been waiting nervously for her husband to come home and walk through that door….

   This episode of UFO seems to be one of those “high concepts” — in this case Earth vs. the Flying Saucers meets Double Indemnity.

   However, don’t dismiss this one too hastily. If you accept the show’s “reality” (sometimes called “willing suspension of disbelief”), then “The Square Triangle” actually succeeds.

   The man in charge of hunting down alien intruders (Bishop) has his hands full with this case, and because of it he is impaled on the horns of an ethical dilemma. He has uncovered a foiled murder plot. What actions should he take? He can’t arrest them because they’ve killed an alien who officially doesn’t exist — if he does he’ll have too much explaining to do, thereby exposing his super tip-top secret operation to the world. However, if he lets the plotters go, they may try it again.

UFO The Square Triangle

   His decision, a tough one, might not sit well with some viewers, but it’s what makes “The Square Triangle” one of the best episodes of the otherwise mediocre UFO series.

   …and if you happen to watch this particular show, stay with it through the final closing credits, where you’ll see the ultimate resolution of the plot line.

   Gerry Anderson (born 1929) will always be fondly remembered for his children’s shows featuring brilliant marionette and scale model work: Supercar (1961-62), Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964-65), Thunderbirds (1965-66), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68, with a CGI reboot in 2005), and Terrahawks (1983-86).

UFO The Square Triangle

   Anderson is also infamously and perhaps unfairly known for his two live-action SF series UFO (1970-71) and Space: 1999 (1975-77), but he was also responsible for a fairly entertaining crime-adventure show called The Protectors, starring Robert Vaughn (1972-74, 52 episodes). He also produced one fascinating science fiction feature film, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969, a.k.a. Doppelganger).

   Finally, some trivia: Col. Virginia Lake, a continuing character in the UFO series (but absent from “The Square Triangle”), was played by Wanda Ventham, who would become the mother of Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor currently making a big splash as Holmes in the Sherlock series.

NOTE: This episode may be seen on YouTube in five parts, beginning here.