The X-Files, for one, owes it a great debt. A theatrical version of a television series, especially one that transports the viewer to a “fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man”, is a difficult trick to pull off, though not impossible.
This is the first stage adaptation of the series sanctioned by CBS.
The monochrome set and night sky design is impressive and the opening scene in a roadside diner where seven bus passengers, one of whom is an alien incognito, are stranded in a snowstorm seems alive with potential.
But it is clear from the performances that this is more pastiche than a recreation and some of the cast seem to take it more seriously than others.
There are eight stories here but Anne Washburn’s adaptation jumbles them up, shuttling back and forth from one to the other like a William Burroughs cut-up novel.
It is a wholly unnecessary complication and the resulting loss of tension and suspense is almost fatal. Stranger still, the second half ladles on the morality and social import with a JCB.
The narrator’s soliloquy at the end (John Marquez doing an impersonation of Serling himself, who topped and tailed each episode) is woefully long-winded.
A song and dance number is totally gratuitous. The running gag about cigarettes runs out of puff long before the finish line.
There are good moments. The ventriloquist’s dummy that continues to move after his owner has departed is creepy.
The moment when a man pokes a biro into thin air and it disappears is also a neat trick.
And there is a rare sequence of affecting emotion in the doomed romance between a Nasa scientist (Franc Ashman) and an astronaut.
However, the inconsistency of tone and the constant movement of props by semi-invisible, camouflaged beings conspire to reduce the production to theatrical porridge.
There is only one explanation: director Richard Jones has been taken over by aliens.
Certainly his customary ability seems to have deserted him. Perhaps it got lost in The Twilight Zone.