The Twilight Zone Companion, Second Edition (1982/1992) Marc Scott Zicree
Trade paperback, 466 pages
When the first edition of The Twilight Zone Companion was published in late 1982, I bought a copy and immediately wore it out. At the time, WGN in Chicago was airing reruns of The Twilight Zone every night and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss a single episode. Zicree’s book was invaluable. So how well does it hold up in 2015?
The book’s second edition mirrors the first in that it contains much of the same material: creator Rod Serling’s inception of the show, it’s creation, production, successes and failures, and its ultimate cancellation. Each episode includes the Serling narrations, a plot synopsis, some behind-the-scenes stories, and frequent commentary. The second edition also adds information on Twilight Zone: The Movie from 1983 as well as the 80s revival of the TV series.
At the time, The Twilight Zone Companion was practically all fans had to go on if they wanted solid information on the show. More books are available these days, such as The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (2008) by Martin Grams, Jr. – an in-depth 800-page look at the show’s production information – and Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television’s Groundbreaking Series (2007) by Stewart T. Stanyard, which includes many interviews and behind-the-scenes photos. Yet Zicree’s book was the first readily available book on The Twilight Zone and as such, it still holds up well in many ways and is a bit lacking in others.
The Twilight Zone Companion does a good job of covering Serling’s triumphs and frustrations with the show, giving readers a good feel for who Rod Serling was, mainly through interviews and anecdotes. The narrations are as they appeared on the show, and the plot summaries are generally good, yet the commentaries are inconsistent. Some of the best commentaries include behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes from the actors, directors and/or crew, along with critiques from Zicree. Generally, the more successful the episode, the more Zicree has to say about it, which is somewhat as you might expect. Yet even the worst episodes probably deserve more than just a few sentences.
The fifth season – generally considered by most fans to be the weakest – gets the least amount of commentary, but perhaps that’s as it should be. Still, in many instances it would’ve been nice to have had a bit more information.
Yet you have to give Zicree credit. He wrote the book before the episodes were available on videotape and well before the Internet. He must’ve done some serious work just to be able to view the all, especially the four episodes that were never included in syndication packages. That in itself is impressive. Although there’s no list of interviews, Zicree undoubtedly interviewed many people associated with the series. (You can find evidence of this in the extra features on The Twilight Zone DVD and Blu-ray editions.)
Apparently the first edition of the book contained several errors that were not corrected in the second edition, but were addressed in the Grams book, which I have only perused. Although it’s not perfect, The Twilight Zone Companion still stands as an excellent resource for anyone interested in the show or television in general. Recommended.