From childhood, I’ve loved The Twilight Zone, the sci-fi TV show (1959-64). Most episodes were only 24 minutes long, but with a different premise and characters in each, like the short stories in science fiction magazines of the time. Some of the stories were adapted for the show.
Richard Matheson was a prolific author whose writing included sci-fi short stories, but I first heard of him when I watched every Twilight Zone episode on Netflix, one per day.
Matheson wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of the aircraft. This is sometimes spoofed, maybe because the creature looks like a man in a hairy costume, but the frustration felt by William Shatner’s character is what makes this a classic: what if you saw impending doom, and nobody believed you?
You can watch Richard Matheson’s Twilight Zone episodes for free by clicking here. They are easy to view — no signing up for anything. They have modern commercials.
Later, Matheson wrote the novel and screenplay for “Somewhere in Time,” a wonderful time-travel romance. Blending science fiction and a powerful romantic love, the film is beautiful, as are its stars, Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve (heart-breakingly beautiful to me because of his tragic real life). Click here to see the trailer. It was filmed on location at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
7 thoughts on “Writer Richard Matheson — Sci-Fi and Historical Romance”
I recall watching many weekly episodes of Twilight Zone years ago. The presentations were the electronic equivalent of a “page-turner.” The show definitely made an impression on my young brain. So Mr. Matheson may have been the true originator of magical realism?
Matheson was known for magic or horror in everyday situations. There were other screenwriters in Twilight Zone. I’ve got to finish Earl Hamner, Jr.’s episode where two kids disappear at the bottom of their pool and go to a different place (I don’t remember). That would have intrigued us as kids watching it.
I couldn’t resist. I’m watching the Shatner episode right now.
Ah, The Twilight Zone ! When I was a child, Rod Serling himself caught my imagination. I memorized his introductions and lingered over each phrase. Later, as a college student, I appreciated the episodes for the way they studied an Idea (equality, greed, fear of strangers, magic, beauty). Although the professors thought it was all “pop culture” I kept silent on my own opinion that sci-fi writers were bolder than the literary, who were caught in academic net called Man vs Nature/Man vs Himself (after all, what was Woman vs Nature/Woman vs Herself???). Thank you for the reminder of Richard Matheson for so many of those episode stories. If you don’t have it already, you may like to read The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. OMG it’s so old it does not have an ISBN; 1982, eons ago and a relic of another dimension, the book publishing empire, where cauldrons of cardboard, paper and ink stirred the imagination in a heady writers brew.
These stories and shows captivated us as kids and still do. So imaginative, and they meet any standard of quality, as you point out.
Speaking of Rod Serling, my children watched these when they were college age, and they were surprised and impressed when I said the narrator was the creator and wrote many of them. They thought he was an actor only.
I heart the TZ. I guess my favorite episode was the one where the 3 astronauts disappear from radar, return to earth, and then each disappears, with no one knowing he had ever existed. As for the Shatner episode, all I can say is, “Of course, Mr. Wilson, we’ve seen it too, but we didn’t want to alarm the other passengers.” Classic.
And Shatner’s face after that. Oh, I get it.
I barely remember that astronaut episode, which is exciting. I’ll watch it and it’ll be almost new to me. Got the series on Netflix.