Inside Rod Serling(.com)
What's old—but may be new to you

"What's new on the website" was the original inspiration for this article, but I realized that what's new is fairly easy to find—just look under the title "News" on the home page.

So I'll employ a classic TZ twist by turning your expectations inside out. This is the first in a series of newsletter articles about what's old on the website—but may still be new to you. I've been webmaster for for over a decade, and I've put up nearly 300 web pages about Rod Serling, his colleagues, his family and his friends. I want to share with you things that might not catch your eye, but that I find interesting. The man's legacy can be surprising, in the way that he could touch us both collectively and individually.

For each newsletter, I'll write about a subject and salt it with links to relevant articles that are on our website. This time out, the subject is:


Rod Serling was drawn to controversy. As a keen observer of human nature and of the news, he saw controversy all around him—very often in the form of injustice. To employ a classic catch-phrase: "If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention!" Rod Serling paid attention.

The Golden Age of Censorship
William Shatner in Rod Serling's "A Town Has Turned To Dust"In perhaps the most famous example, Serling made multiple attempts in script form to express his outrage at the 1954 murder of Emmet Till, and especially the subsequent acquittal of men who later admitted committing the crime. One such script was remade in 1997, as an intriguing SF drama. Each of his efforts was met with controversy and censorship, reinforcing his desire for his own show. That desire led him to The Twilight Zone, which combined both his love of fantasy with his desire for creative control.

Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone itself was controversial during its Prime Time run on TV. CBS head programmer Jim "Smiling Cobra" Aubrey earned his fame with shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Lost in Space. Aubrey had little use for the intellectual content of Serling's series, and pointed to mediocre ratings whenever others talked up the show's critical acclaim. The Twilight Zone was nearly canceled more than once. This photo is from a 1963 TV Guide article, with cancellation hovering over the show like a storm cloud:
Twilight Zone in TV Guide 1963

Planet of the Apes

Rod Serling and Michael Wilson received joint screenwriting credit for the Planet of the Apes movie script. But the source of the Statue of Liberty ending has been much debated. Our own RSMF Board member Gordon Webb settled the question of who deserves credit definitively several years ago. It's worth noting that Rod Serling's use of a ruined Statue of Liberty was neither the first nor the last instance of its appearance in Science Fiction.

Planet of the Apes
And who wrote those silly ape jokes? Neither Serling nor Wilson, it turns out.

Walking Distance

Gig Young in "Walking Distance"And speaking of getting proper credit for writing, one of Rod's fan favorite scripts, "Walking Distance," drew accusations of plagiarism by some ordinarily distinguished writers: Ray Bradbury and Gore Vidal.

Chris Conlon, author of an article about the close-knit group of Southern California SF writers who Serling tapped for the Twilight Zone, puts that petty slander to rest effectively by examing the thin evidence in those claims. As they say, success has many fathers...

The same flying saucer appeared in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," "Death Ship," "On Thursday We Leave for Home," and the movie Forbidden Planet. Someone photoshopped a still of its crash site in "Death Ship" and then tried to pass the crude forgery off as a genuine UFO. No Serlingophile would be fooled.

Loyalty Oaths
Rod Serling at Moorpark College 1968Can you guess what happened when Rod Serling was required to sign a loyalty oath before making a speech at a Southern California college? Jeanne Marshall, a former student of Rod's who invited him to give the speech at Moorpark College in 1968, witnessed the drama close up.

Local Critics

Uncle Simon on stageControversy has at times gone local, with competing critics disagreeing about a late 1980s live staging of TZ episodes in Binghamton.

In 2000, a former student and an assistant professor at Ithaca College (where Rod taught), debated the city's devotion to Rod Serling's memory.

And a Binghamton columnist took issue with a biography that came out during the 1990s. If you want an entertaining, informative biography that is very nearly in Rod Serling's own words, rent the PBS American Masters episode, "Submitted for Your Approval."

Written by webmaster Steve Schlich