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Home > TV > 31 Monstrous Failures #20: The Nature of the Enemy

31 Monstrous Failures #20: The Nature of the Enemy

October 20th, 2011

Writer/producer Rod Serling famously said of his Twilight Zone series that one-third of the episodes were good, one-third fair and one-third lousy. That may have been humility, but it was also a pretty accurate assessment. When Serling and his writers were good, they were very, very good, but when they were bad… (Watch any of the Serling-written “comedy” episodes, such as “Cavender is Coming,” for a taste.)

It was much the same on Rod’s follow-up series, Night Gallery. And Serling, for all of his well-founded complaints about network interference, was quite capable of delivering a stinker on his own.

Submitted for your approval (sorry, wrong series), this short tale about mysteriously missing astronauts. Serling’s introduction:

“This offering is a landscape, lunar and low-keyed, suggestive perhaps of some of the question marks that await us in the stars … and perhaps pointing up the moment when we’ll collect something other than moon rocks. This item is called…”

The Nature of the Enemy!

The story is set in Mission Control, a week after a pair of U.S. spacecraft arrived on the moon. “Project Settlement” was intended to establish a base of operations for future astronauts. Unfortunately, one ship crashed on touchdown and the last transmission from the other said that it was “under attack.”

Mission Control personnel watch on their monitor as “Project Rescue” lands to search for survivors. Meanwhile, reporters inquire who might be “the enemy.” All that the lone astronaut finds is a kitbashed platform about 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and sporting a large metal arm. As speculation mounts as to the purpose of the device, the rescue astronaut is himself attacked by something off-screen.

One of the reporters has a moment of clarity about the platform. “It looks like…a mousetrap!”

And, sure enough, “the enemy” soon scampers into view. And washes its furry face with its paws.

To be honest, I have no idea what Serling was trying to accomplish. If he was telling a twisted joke about the moon being made of cheese, the legitimately creepy atmosphere of the garbled moon transmissions undercuts it. If he was offering an essay on the unknown entities that await us beyond the embrace of Mother Earth, well, it’s a fucking rat.

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