“Mr. Chambers! Don’t get on that ship!”- Pat (Susan Cummings)
How did Rod Serling do it? How did he provide such intelligent, compelling and timeless work on such a consistent basis? If ever a series should be in one’s DVD collection, it is “The Twilight Zone.” There are so many episodes that pose important questions and that force the viewers to another intellectual level while viewing. They stand the test of time so well because they rely on something so predictable and stagnant; human behavior.
“To Serve Man,” without question one of the most popular episodes is no exception. The premise surrounds a spaceship landing on earth. A nine-foot tall alien named Kanamit (Richard Kiel) descends and is able to communicate with the people via telepathic messages. Their intelligence surpasses man. At first, people are skeptical. They fear the visitors, but soon the aliens begin to make good on promises. They end famine and create vegetation where the soil had been to dry to ever produce before.
At an introductory conference Kanamit relays a message of positivity. He claims that the intention was enlightenment and that it would be up to the people to use the knowledge offered or to walk away. After leaving, Kanamit forgets a book on the table. Though encoded, a government formed team was able to decipher the title which read, “To Serve Man.” They begin to work on the rest of the book when the aliens offer to relocate the people to their planet. Noone protests and people even place themselves on waiting lists.
For the few who haven’t seen this tale I will not disclose the conclusion. The message however is too significant not to discuss. Human beings are susceptible to deceitful manners, especially when the apparent intention is to help them. Whether it be pyramid scams, or internet emails promising millions of dollars by doing a simple wire, more and more people fall hook-line-and sinker. They trust too easily when things are given freely. It’s not only naivete but it’s a simple sort of selfishness. The intellectual capacity to research and uncover the truth is there, but people are lazy and would much rather blindly accept that the fortune that falls upon them is goodwill rather than something more sinister. They ask too little questions and play the role of the fool perfectly and willingly. It comes down to the simple saying: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It goes without saying to state that the atmosphere, setting and dialogue delivered on every level. When does Serling disappoint? The acting was topnotch and the story was spectacular. Though I say this often I will say it again: where is the vision today? Why is nearly everything on television mind-numbing garbage that has no insight, no emotion and no message? And then viewers are supposed to care that writers are on strike???!! When they start dishing out something worthwhile, I’ll start empathizing with their cause.
On a side-note, it had never occurred to me that the alien in “To Serve Man,” was the same actor who played Mr. Larson in “Happy Gilmore.” He was excellent in both roles. Richard Kiel is awesome.
RSR Rating: 10/10