Original Air Date: May 29, 1964
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Ted Post
“Maybe the next place they land, they can be the giants.”
A state trooper named Robert Franklin (Mark Richman) arrives at a remote mountain cabin in the woods. He is responding to reports of strange lights which were made by Charlotte Scott (Hazel Court), a New York fashion magazine editor who is recovering from a nervous breakdown at her cabin.
“The major ingredient of any recipe for fear is the unknown. And here are two characters about to partake of the meal: Miss Charlotte Scott, a fashion editor, and Mr. Robert Franklin, a state trooper. And the third member of the party: the unknown, that has just landed a few hundred yards away. This person or thing is soon to be met. This is a mountain cabin, but it is also a clearing in the shadows known as the Twilight Zone.”
Shortly after Trooper Franklin arrives, a blinding light appears and Franklin’s car radio goes dead along with Ms. Scott’s landline. After exhausting all other options, Franklin decides to stay the night and sleep on the couch while strange noises are heard on the roof and enormous fingerprints can now be spotted on the side of his car.
In the morning, Franklin and Ms. Scott discover a giant footprint which leads them to an open plain where they spot a huge, 500 foot tall, one-eyed alien. Ms. Scott screams in terror. However, the alien appears to be unresponsive, thus rather than running away Franklin (a World War II and Korean War veteran) decides to shoot his gun at the creature. The bullets merely pierce the skin of the alien causing its skin to deflate. It turns out the alien was little more than a large, inflatable balloon. Franklin and Ms. Scott then discover a tiny spacecraft parked nearby. Inside are a cohort of terrified miniature aliens who are radioing back to their superiors, notifying them that the humans have failed to be frightened of their ruse and they beg for the chance to return home or else face being crushed. Their ship takes off and departs earth’s atmosphere as Franklin wonders if the aliens’ next destination will allow them to become the giants. Ms. Scott wonders what might happen in the future if truly giant aliens arrive on earth, but Franklin bets she will simply spit in their eyes. The episode ends as they smile at one another.
“Fear, of course, is extremely relative. It depends on who can look down and who must look up. It depends on other vagaries, like the time, the mood, the darkness. But it’s been said before, with great validity, that the worst thing there is to fear is fear itself. Tonight’s tale of terror and tiny people on the Twilight Zone.”
These scenes of gigantic inflatable aliens have since become iconic images of The Twilight Zone, however this episode clearly shows a fatigued Rod Serling at the end of his signature series. “The Fear” recycles certain themes found in earlier episodes, such as the idea of miniature aliens invading earth as found in “The Invaders” or even “The Fugitive” to an extent. Nevertheless, I thought it was a unique installment despite bearing certain shortcomings.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was the last episode Rod Serling wrote for The Twilight Zone marking an incredible run as the lead writer and host for the program.
- The original working title for this episode was “The Fear Itself.”
- Mark Richman (1927-2021) was a celebrated television actor who appeared in many different shows such as The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and later Star Trek: The Next Generation. His true name was Peter Mark Richman. He died in 2021 at the age of 93.
- Hazel Court (1926-2008) was a celebrated horror actress. She was the wife of actor and director Don Taylor (her second husband) whom she met on the set of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Rod Serling initially met Ms. Court in 1959 (he wrote to his brother about it) with plans to hopefully work together in the future.
- The police car in this episode was the same prop used in the earlier Season 5 episode “I Am The Night – Color Me Black.”
- Trooper Franklin’s state is never actually acknowledged, though it is strongly implied to be New York state.