Directed by: Lamont Johnson
Written by: Rod Serling
An announcement is made: UFOs are flying overhead. It’s time to hit the grocery store, stock up and then head back home and hole up in the basement. Those aliens… they don’t play. They probe, especially in the Twilight Zone.
The small suburban community panic. But one fellow in town has a bomb shelter, so he knows he’s covered. As for his neighbors, well, they can lose control of themselves and show the truth of who they are. The racism boils to the surface in two scenes that feel remarkably taboo. Those not inside the bomb shelter adopt a mob mentality. There’s war brewing among the residents of this quaint little neighborhood.
Frankly, it’s sad. But wisely, that sadness is explored within the episode itself. That was an intelligent move from Serling, who seemed to have a knack for making people listen closely.
This is a strong episode, no two ways about it. My only real problem with it is there isn’t much in the way of visceral fear. It’s more character study than hardcore sci-fi or off-kilter horror. That may deter some viewers. I can get into a nice psychological tale, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t love me some aliens and monsters, too.
The episode, like the first few in this season is neither spectacular nor terrible. What it was however, was profoundly dangerous. Openly addressing extremely touchy subjects no doubt represents a problem for anyone. It’s hard to imagine Rod Serling not having to walk through a little fire with the studio after he faced some risque beliefs head on. Rod Serling had fortitude, and that is more than proven by The Shelter.