This year SyFy cancelled its Twilight Zone marathon for July 4th in favor of airing a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon. Twilight Zone on SyFy has been an annual event for years. Those that hadn’t seen the Rod Serling series in its heyday could watch it and see some great science fiction. And, of course, they could spot people who went on to fame and fortune after appearing on the series.
Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Ron Howard and Carol Burnett all made appearances before going on to have amazing careers. There is another group of actors that continued the association with science fiction after their stint on the Twilight Zone. Cast members and guests on a little show from the late 1960s, Star Trek.
Even though the show is over 50 years old there are SPOILERS!!!!
The most well-known of them is, of course, William Shatner. Best known for his role of Captain Kirk, the Shat appeared in two seminal episodes.
In 1960, Shatner appeared in “Nick of Time.” This episode was about a newlywed couple, Don (Shatner) and Pat (Patricia Breslin) whose car breaks down and they have to wait on its repair in a diner in Ridgeview, Ohio. The diner has a fortune teller machine that gives “yes” or “no” answers for a penny each.
Don asks about a possible promotion at work and the machine says he will get it. He calls his office and finds the machine was correct, he has been promoted. Intrigued, he asks if their car will be fixed on time. The answer is that he may never know and that leads to the further revelation that it is unsafe for them to leave the diner before 3pm.
Pat manages to convince him to leave and they are almost killed by a passing car. After Pat tests the seer with trick questions that still turn out accurate, the couple manage to leave in their repaired vehicle while another couple asks if they will ever be able to leave and gets a negative answer. They escape while these other people are stuck there forever.
However, when you say the words Twlight Zone and William Shatner, most people remember his other appearance in 1963, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
Bob (Shatner) thinks he sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane he is on. Apparently, this is his first flight since a nervous breakdown 6 months earlier, so no one takes his fears serious. No one else sees the gremlin, who hides when he tries to prove it exists. The gremlin is tearing apart one of the engines on the plane.
He pretends to take the sedative his wife Julia (Christine White) and the flight crew force on him. Then, he steals a sleeping officer’s gun and opens the emergency exit to shoot the creature. As he is taken away in a straightjacket, a shot of the plane reveals that the damage was real.
In 1983, a Twilight Zone movie was made which included a remake of this episode with John Lithgow playing Shatner’s part.
When Shatner joined the cast of 3rd Rock from the Sun in 1999, that starred Lithgow, the writers couldn’t resist acknowledging this connection.
The next cast member who also appeared in Serling’s series is Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.
In “A Quality of Mercy,” Nimoy plays Second Lieutenant Katell, a gung-ho American fighting in the World War II theater of the Pacific. His platoon has trapped Japanese soldiers in a cave. He orders an attack that serves no real purpose and despite resistance from his men prepares to decimate the Japs.
While preparing, he drops his binoculars and when he goes to retrieve them suddenly finds himself transformed into Lt. Yamuri, a Japanese soldier that had trapped American soldiers in a similar situation 3 years earlier.
He argues against attacking, and is relieved of command. As that attack begins, he finds himself back as Katell. His men report that the A-bomb has been dropped and the attack on the cave is called off. He is relieved and voices hope that he won’t be in that position again.
The next cast member to appear on both shows only played a bit part in the 3rd Season episode titled “Valley of the Shadow” but played a big part on Trek, that of Montgomery Scott.
James Doohan only appeared in two minutes of this episode (started about five minutes in) and while he did move along the narrative, his character was not really integral to the story.
The episode tells the tale of a reporter who gets lost on the backroads in New Mexico and ends up in Peaceful Valley. The small town is not very inviting even if it is idyllic in setting.
His dog suddenly disappears into thin air when it chases a little girl’s cat. The girl’s father (Doohan) comes out and surreptitiously uses a device to re-materialize the dog his daughter made disappear. The reporter finds out the town has technologies far beyond those of man and finds himself a prisoner. The residents won’t share their tech with the world because they fear it would be used to make weapons.
He attempts to escape and take the tech with him and proves the town elder’s fears about man are correct when he uses the technology to make a revolver. They blank his memory and let him go.
This episode also has the wonderful David Opatoshu who played Anan 7 in the Trek episode “A Taste of Armageddon.”
The last of the regular cast of Star Trek to appear in the Zone, is George Takei.
Uncle George appeared as Arthur Takamon in the episode “The Encounter.”
It is the story of a World War II vet named Fenton (Neville Brand), who finds a samurai sword in his attic right before a young Japanese-American (Takei) comes looking for work. Fenton invites the youth to share a beer in his cluttered attic. When Fenton leaves to get more beer, Arthur holds the sword and exclaims, “I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him. Why?”
They end up locked in the attic as Fenton recounts how he got the sword and Arthur catches him in the lie that he killed the sword’s owner in combat. In truth the owner had surrendered and Fenton killed him anyway.
They fight for the sword and Fenton is accidentally impaled on it. Arthur grabs the sword and yelling, “Banzai!!!” leaps out the window to his death.
Besides regular cast members there are several guests of Trek that made appearances on the earlier show that deserve mention.
William Windom, who played Matt Decker in “The Doomsday Machine,” appeared in two Zone episodes, “Miniature” and “Five Characters.”
John Hoyt, who played Dr. Phillip Boyce in “The Cage,” appeared in “Will the Real Martian Stand Up?” and “The Lateness of the Hour.”
Robert Lansing, who played Gary Seven in “Assignment: Earth,” was in “The Long Morrow.”
Stanley Adams, who played Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble With Tribbles,” appeared in both “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” and “Once Upon a Time.”
Did you find any other famous sci-fi actors on Twilight Zone? What is your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments below.