Director: Mitchell Leisen
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Susan Oliver, Paul Comi, Byron Morrow, Vic Perrin, and Vernon Gray
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/25/1960
Production Code: 173-3613
Biologist Sam Conrad (Roddy McDowell) travels to Mars with astronaut Mark Marcusson (Paul Comi), who dies from an injury sustained while landing. Though initially afraid to confront that which lies beyond the confines of his spacecraft, Conrad soon discovers that the Martian people are identical to humans living on Earth; or so it would seem.
A possible study on mankind’s inability to reconcile primitive instincts with logical decision making, “People Are Alike All Over” should be requisite viewing for fans of The Twilight Zone. Especially praiseworthy is the bait-and-switch employed in this episode, which serves as a testament to Rod Serling’s talent for lulling the audience into a false sense of security.
It should be noted that the premise for Serling’s narrative remains both simple and ambiguous throughout; particularly unusual is that few if any details are provided to enlighten viewers on the purpose of Conrad’s mission. “People Are Alike All Over” nevertheless maintains a captivating atmosphere from start to finish, likely due to the fact that Conrad—an ordinary scientist violently plunged into the most terrifying situation imaginable—embodies all the worst qualities known to humanity (e.g. cowardice, selfishness, etc.); but does so in a realistic fashion (no doubt a result of Roddy McDowell’s exceptional performance), thereby allowing others to relate with his otherwise fantastic, albeit strangely vague, adventures.
Ostensibly a commentary on the xenophobic attitudes that plagued 1960s America, “People Are Alike All Over” would appear to suggest that a balance between unbridled charity and sensible caution should be exercised when dealing with people or situations of an “alien” nature—a theory supported by Conrad’s inability to reconcile two extreme reactions to a potential threat (i.e. an unhealthy fear and distrust of strangers followed by a reckless, if not thoroughly dangerous, naivety when first encountering his new hosts), neither of which prevent him from avoiding a most unpleasant outcome.
By using science fiction as a vehicle through which to analyze the human condition, “People Are Alike All Over” will appeal to those of an intellectual disposition. Also worth commending, a surprise revelation in the final scene puts a harrowing twist on the people-in-a-zoo trope—a concept later explored in Planet of the Apes, another classic contribution from Serling.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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