This Twilight Zone review contains spoilers.
The Twilight Zone Episode 7
Watching the newest episode of The Twilight Zone— “Not All Men” — it will be impossible for a viewer not to associate the subject matter with the #MeToo movement. The evil that men do, and the evil that lurk in their hearts is something that isn’t just a science fiction premise; it’s a fairly obvious mirror for the real-world, too. That said, there’s something in this outing to the Zone that feels like it needed a smile from Captain Jack from Torchwood or even a touch of Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek.
After mysterious red asteroids shower a small town, a woman named Annie (Taissa Farmiga) starts noticing certain people behaving oddly. For fans of old-school sci-fi, this set-up recalls everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Robert Heinlein’s novel, The Puppet Masters. But, perhaps most obviously, the essential premise seems lifted from one of the most beloved Zone episodes ever; the 1960 story “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” The biggest difference here is that the twist is made a little more damning and specific. It’s just the men who are acting crazy.
In both “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street,” and the new episode, “Not All Men,” a meteor shower is blamed for strange, behavior. In “Maple Street,” this caused paranoia, whereas in “Not All Men,” it causes the males of the species to behave like violent, murdering assholes. In “Maple Street,” the humans are being manipulated by aliens, even though their decisions are their own. Ditto for “Not All Men,” but minus the aliens. After Annie and her sister are nearly killed the the suddenly rioting men, it’s eventually revealed that there was no spooky extraterrestrial influence from the space rocks; instead, it just created a pretense for these men to act terrible.
Annie’s nephew puts it like this: “I chose not to.” What he means is that he chose not to give into the rage and hatred inside of him, even though he felt it, too. The episode casually floats the idea that human beings (and men in specific) might all be inherently bad, but that our ability to choose to act against our nature is what makes us civilized. This sentiment was put more cheerfully by Captain Kirk in the classic Star Trek episode “A Taste of Armageddon” when he said that every day a human being could “choose not to kill…TODAY!” The implication is that evolved humans make that choice over and over and over again, and that is the definition of progress.
Written by Heather Anne Campbell (she co-wrote last week’s episode, “Six Degrees of Freedom”) “Not All Men,” seems to split the difference between a dark-but-happy Captain Kirk sentiment, and lands somewhere a little closer to Captain Jack from Torchwood.
For those who remember, the Doctor Who spin-off briefly featured all sorts of X-Files-esque adventures, including an episode called “Countrycide.” In it, the Torchwood team discovers some weird butchering of humans happening in the English countryside and just assumes it’s the work of aliens. Turns out: NOPE! It’s not aliens at all, but just really screwed up humans who live in really big houses in the country. Whereas Torchwood made a weird classist argument against being isolated from society, “Not All Men” suggests that many males of the human species are simply or one or two asteroids (or drinks) away from becoming monsters.
Anecdotally, this assertion from the Zone is pretty accurate. The real news is replete with terrible crimes perpetrated by men, many of whom we assumed were “good guys.” In other words, it’s hard to disagree with the essential premise of the episode, particularly because the twist lands pretty damn well.
The only problem then, is the fact that the episode doesn’t leave the viewer with much hope. Sure, we know that Annie’s nephew is a good guy, but it’s not quite as comforting as say, the pansexual Captain Jack Harkness telling us everything is going to be okay. If you’re a dude, and you’re made uncomfortable by the latest Twilight Zone, you might want a hug after it’s over. But, this time, Captain Jack a Captain Kirk aren’t there to give it to you.