Recently my son has been delving more into classic Sci-Fi. A big Doctor Who fan, he’s been going back and rewatching the originals, including the old William Hartnell episodes. After watching the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies he went back and watched some of The Original Series and The Next Generation. It was inevitable, I think, that he’d express an interest in the original Twilight Zone.
So we sat one morning and watched Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. For twenty minutes a ten year old was enthralled by a black and white TV show with sub-par special effects and capital ‘A’ Acting. He was riveted, and actively concerned whether the gremlin was a figment of Shatner’s imagination or really there, and whether the passengers were all going to die.
O may have been primed by other classic shows and movies to accept fewer bells and whistles than he sees in today’s media, but his interest and enjoyment went well beyond just liking or tolerating it, he was locked in on it. It takes a master to craft something that holds up as well as that episode does. It takes the same master who’s Duel launched Spielberg’s career, and who’s Bid Time Return was the basis of a movie still so beloved it still brings devotees to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan for a yearly convention. Richard Matheson’s contribution to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres was immeasurable. He’ll be sorely missed.