Just in time for the Easter weekend, The Twilight Zone releases a Christmas episode, and it’s the strongest of the first four episodes. If you haven’t been watching the show, consider starting with this one.

Title: “The Traveler”

Cast and Crew
Director: Glen Morgan
Writer: Ana Lily

Steven Yeun as The Traveler
Marika Sila as Sergeant Yuka Mongoyak
Greg Kinnear as Captain Lane Pendleton
Patrick Gallagher as Jack
Jill Teed as Dotty Matheson
Eric Keenleyside as the Mayor
Trevor Lerner as Trooper Samuels
June B. Wilde as State Trooper
Babak A. Motamed as Jacques
Robert Leaf as The Drunk
Tanja Dixon-Warren as Ida Lupino
Jordan Peele as our host

Premise

It’s Christmas Eve in Pendleton, Alaska, and a stranger arrives in town.

He’s not spreading holiday cheer.

High Points

This episode ranks with the better episodes of the original series– but it pushes its implications a little further than even Serling would have managed in the 1960s.

Low Point

With the exception of Yuka, everyone seems remarkably accepting of the Traveler’s presence where he should not logically be (one character suggests an explanation, but after some time has passed). Only after things turn dark does the Captain start asking questions.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 This episode certainly echoes the show’s past. At the same time, it travels in a direction even the original Twilight Zone would not, even if the Monsters are Due in Iglaak, Alaska. Be wary when when someone tells you they hold the truth, and evidence be damned Be especially wary when your culture has settled on someone else’s land..

Effects: 5/6 This episode requires actual special effects, apart from a beautiful opening shot of the Aurora Borealis (which may or may not be CGI). These effects have been done cheaply but effectively.

Acting: 6/6 This episode features some standout performances, most notably Stephen Yeun as the enigmatic traveler, and Marika Sila as a suspicious sergeant. The Tuktoyaktuk-born actor, activist, and hoop-dancer has only two other screen credits to her name, but she’s obviously someone to watch. Veteran actor and Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear may seem a little artificial at times as Captain Pendleton, but that’s entirely in character.

Story: 5/6 We have a strong and frequently creepy, but, once again, somewhat protracted story.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The episode has been tailored for an era of manipulative fake news, but it reaches further, and will remain relevant so long as people use myths and lies to further their own ends.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 This episode, like the previous ones, uses its budget to create brilliant shots and developed settings. The story, however, could have been stripped back and shot on an (equivalent) original-series budget. Most of it takes place on a single set.

In total, “The Traveler” receives 35/42

Lingering Thoughts

The T-Zone has always addressed mature themes. The new show carries a “Mature” rating, even though the episodes thus far have been short of what normally gets called “Mature Content.” For the most part, people swear. I’m torn between asking why they bother with the obscenities when it may limit the younger audience in some households (anyone at a site like this who didn’t watch reruns of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits when you were a kid?), and wondering if obscenities really matter in the era of the Internet– and the week when the most-read political document has the American president declaring himself “f—ked” and one of his aides expressing concern that the president asked him to do some “stupid sh-t.” And yes, I am aware that Nixon and LBJ, for example, also managed the odd expletive in private discussions. My point here is that this language is both ubiquitous and unnecessary… even in the Twilight Zone.

Appropriately, we have a number of Easter Eggs this week, including a cameo by that f–kin’ creepy Talky Tina doll from the original series.