Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday TV - One Step Beyond - S3 E12 - Where Are They?

I suppose any late-fifties/early sixties black-and-white anthology show, especially one that deals with possibly supernatural or science-fictional topics is inevitably going to be compared to The Twilight Zone. The biggest difference between that show and the one we're taking a look at today however, is that while the success or failure of The Twilight Zone was based largely upon the incredible ideas and writing of  Rod Serling and his stable of wordsmiths, One Step Beyond looked for its ideas in the newspapers of the day and the past. It claimed that its stories were based in fact, and often John Newland, who served as both director and host of the show, would end the show by reading from contemporary accounts of whatever story they were dramatizing.

This approach, of course, was not really a new one. Stories had been "ripped from the headlines" for years before, and would be long after this show's three season run. However, this docu-drama style did at times lead the show into some interesting territory. There is one legendary show in which Mr. Newland actually traveled to Mexico to investigate a shaman using "magical mushrooms" and actually ingested some of the mushrooms and had his crew film his reactions for broadcast. Usually, however, they were content with merely re-creating the fantastic events they were describing, as in today's episode.

Actually, this particular episode is rather an odd one, too. Instead of just one story, it presents two, and neither of them have a particularly satisfactory ending. The first story deals with rocks seemingly falling from nowhere in the skies of Chico California. We are set up with a rivalry between the local newsman who has called in some reporters from "big city" newspapers to witness and investigate these goings-ons, and the local sheriff who, though perplexed, feels it's simply a local phenomenon he'd rather keep quiet. The journalists do arrive, they ae shown a note received by the paper from someone calling himself "The Ghost" who claims to be behind the falling stones,they go outside and actually witness the stones falling at the exact place and time "The Ghost" predicted, and then...

Well, actually, and then nothing. We cut back to Mr. Newland who intro'd the story, and he tells us that this was the last communication from "The Ghost" and the last rockfall. And though there was a suspect who left own at the same time, he s never tracked down. He then goes on to read articles from different newspapers and different times describing other oddities falling from the skies over Chico. However we are never given even a possible explanation for these occurrences, or any other type of conclusion.

The second story concerns Charles Elton and his supposed gasoline pill, and it, too, has a similarly unsatisfying conclusion. But I'll leave it to you to watch this one for yourself.

All-in-all, One Step Beyond was actually a high-quality show with an intriguing premise that has unfortunately been overshadowed by its more famous cousin. But don't take my word for it, have a look for yourself:

This and many other episodes of One Step Beyond are available at the Internet Archive.
An "official" collection of the first season is available on DVD from Amazon: One Step Beyond: The Official First Season. There are also a number of other collections, so take a look around.
There are also a number of collections available from Netflix such as this one: One Step Beyond: Season 1.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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