You’re traveling to another dimension. A dimension not of sight or of sound but of mind. A dimension NOT hosted by Rod Sterling. Yes, fright fans, the Twilight Zone is probably one of the most well known horror/sci-fi anthology franchises in entertainment history. But did you know that there were two revivals of the original concept? One revival happened during the 1980s and another revival happened just over a decade ago in the early 2000s. Obviously, these new takes were not hosted by the late great Rod Sterling. Instead, the latest version was hosted by Forest Whitaker of all people. So, does this show have the same impact as the original or is it dead on the table? Let’s find out with the second episode, One Night at Mercy.
Dr. Jay Ferguson is a brand new doctor in the middle of his second day on the job. After saving the life of one person, he suddenly gets an odd case. A man has tried to kill himself by hanging… But he hung up for 22 hours and still isn’t dead. Furthermore, he says his name is Death. And he says he’s going to quit taking lives.
They really tried to modernize the Twilight Zone’s theme song and intro and it simply does not work. The original’s intro is timeless, strange, and even creepy. This one is full of rock and CGI. It’s really distracting and not very good. It doesn’t set the right mood for the Twilight Zone. Forest Whitaker, for his part, was… decent. But, honestly, nobody has the class that Rod Sterling had. Forest doesn’t even try, not even bothering to wear a suit. He’s just your average Joe Shmoe off the street and, again, it simply doesn’t work. If you’re going to host the Twilight Zone, give it your all. Forest doesn’t act poorly, he just… doesn’t really do much other than say his lines. He brings nothing to the table as a horror host.
The story is decent, though it’s really nothing we haven’t seen before with the Twilight Zone. There are many stories revolving the personification of Death and death wanting a day off. This one was an alright take if only because the characters were enjoyable to watch. The twist, honestly, was easy to see coming if you’ve ever seen any other “death” episodes of the old show. Still, I can’t fault the execution. (HA!)
The horror atmosphere is good, even if it goes a bit over-the-top with dutch angles and lightning at times. Even so, it made for a decent bit of atmosphere. The main focus of the episode is the conversations between Dr. Ferguson and death. And those conversations are very interesting. Sure, a little too much time is spent trying to convince Dr. Ferguson of the truth, but once that happens, it all takes a really intriguing turn. Of course, a lot of my enjoyment came from the great performances from our two lead roles.
Jason Alexander is damn good in the role. I’ve always respected his acting chops and the sass he brings to the role of Death is really refreshing and pretty funny. Tyler Christopher as Dr. Ferguson is interesting. At times, he comes off as a bit of a patronizing jerk, but you can chalk that up to being awake for 40 plus hours. Still, he’s likable for his entire run and you really feel sympathy for him when he feels like he’s losing his mind.
In the end, this was definitely worth my time. It was a good story well told and competently acted. Sure, this lacks the style and sophistication seen in the series from the 60s. But this still had a bit of class. If you’re interested in seeing what a modern take on this show looks like, I really do think it’s worth the time.