Director: Joseph M. Newman
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Cast: Lee Kinsolving, Shelly Fabares, Michael Forest, Denver Pyle, Tom Gilleran, Michael Conrad, and Irene Harvey
Composer: Van Cleave
Air Date: 1/31/1964
Production Code: 2628
Arriving in a peaceful town, three leather-clad, motorcycle-riding teenagers begin causing trouble for neighbors Stu (Denver Pyle), Martha (Irene Harvey), and Ellen Tillman (Shelley Fabares). Before long, Scott (Lee Kinsolving)—the most sensitive member of the trio—forms a relationship with Ellen and warns her of a deadly future.
Exploring the flaws of human nature within a sci-fi setting, “Black Leather Jackets” is a commendable entry of The Twilight Zone. Nevertheless, this episode suffers from a goofy atmosphere, a nihilistic ending, and a complete absence of character development.
Featuring alien invaders posing as teenage bikers, a plot to destroy the human race, and a fearless leader who appears as a giant eye on a computer monitor, “Black Leather Jackets” will likely appeal to fans of B-grade science fiction films. (In fact, sci-fi/horror buffs may observe many parallels between this episode and Teenagers from Outer Space—a 1950s cult classic.)
Lacking the poignancy of an organic romance, Ellen’s relationship with Scott is hampered by a hackneyed execution. Notably, Ellen fails to grow suspicious of Scott despite his monotone voice, robotic demeanor, and psychopathic gaze, instead falling in love with him for no apparent reason.
In addition to its uninspired romantic subplot, “Black Leather Jackets” may evoke criticism for its alien invasion premise. Rather than annihilate humans in order to harvest the resources on Earth, for example, the aliens wish to eliminate all people because of their “hate” for one another—a weak, if not paradoxical, motive for a genocidal plan.
“Black Leather Jackets” is a cheesy and poorly written offering. Certain viewers may, however, enjoy this episode for showcasing a variety of retro sci-fi tropes.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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