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LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 20: Opening credits of THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode, 'Time Enough At Last.' Original air date, November 20, 1959. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Science fiction is a movie/television genre that has a cult-like following. It is the idea that although something is improbable, doesn’t mean it is impossible. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality. It is said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things. Science fiction is the improbable made possible, and fantasy is the impossible made probable.
Rod Sterling was an American screenwriter, playwright, television producer who was well known by the time The Twilight Zone, science fiction television show, was released in 1959. He was a genius at his craft as well as having strong political interests. In Hollywood, Sterling was known as the “angry young man;” often butting heads with television sponsors and executives regarding everything from censorship and racism to war.
After being involved in radio programs while in college, Sterling realized that it had given him a voice and he intended to use it. Much of what he wrote and broadcast was socially controversial, and he often found himself struggling with conservative minds over scripts.
The familiar voice of the narrator of The Twilight Zone was Rod Sterling’s own voice. The first season’s opening monologue went as follows:
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Rod Sterling had suggested to his audiences that there were things out there that were of another world. That idea alone terrified us, but we couldn’t look away; similar to a train wreck. After audiences got on board with the program, it took off and we couldn’t get enough!
Besides the other world he spoke of, Sterling made it clear that forces of defeat are not only tangible but also included thoughts, attitudes and prejudices found in the minds of men. All of those things have the capacity to be as deadly as any weapon of mass destruction. Typically, we think of weapons as bombs and guns and other similar things. The truth is that when people allow their fears to dictate their lives, it can be just as devastating.
Rod Sterling was hugely influential in shaping television standards and often pushed the proverbial envelope. He challenged his audiences to think outside of the box and to open their minds up to new things. He was truly a poster child for change. Rod Sterling was a progressive thinker and introduced audiences to the fact that sometimes, “truth is stranger than fiction”.
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