“The Night Gallery” was created by six time Emmy winner Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone). The series, which was nominated for two Emmys, was broadcast on NBC (National Broadcasting Company), from its premier on December 16, 1970, until its final episode aired on May 27, 1973. The series was preceded by the television pilot, which aired on November 8, 1969. The 43 episodes of the series three year run, taken collectively, comprised the genres of drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, sci-fi, and thriller. Each episode was introduced by Rod Serling, who would stand in front of a painting, which was representative of the episode. Serling had originally pitched the idea to studio executives for a show where he would walk around a wax museum. He would talk to the viewer, until he came upon the wax figure that the particular episode pertained to. The networks passed, so he reworked it, and incorporated the idea of hosting from an art gallery. (As an aside artist Thomas J. Wright (NCIS), painted all of the paintings that were used by Serling to introduce the episodes. Furthermore, sculptors Logan Elston and Phil Vanderlei created all of the show’s sculptures).
“Camera Obscura” co-starred two time Emmy nominee Rene Auberjonois (Benson). On 173 episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which aired from 1993 through 1999, he portrayed Odo. The character was referred to as a changeling. Odo could change his shape at will. He was also the head of the space station’s security.
In the episode, Auberjonois plays William Sharsted. He is a seemingly heartless moneylender. At the beginning of the episode, Sharsted arrives at the home of Mr. Gingold, a role acted by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Ross Martin (The Wild Wild West). Gingold has a vast collection of valuables in his home. Sharsted has come to remind him, that if he doesn’t pay the money he owes, he will begin taking Gingold’s collectables, until he has recouped the financial equivalent, he is owed.
Gingold seems unfazed. All he seemingly is interested in, is showing Sharsted an unusual camera that has the ability to show the town they live in from a high above angle. The camera allows the viewer to see the town the way it looks at the present moment, but it also allows the user to view the town, the way it appeared in the past.
After Gingold impresses Sharsted with his unique camera, he implores him to forgive the debts of another person, who will become homeless if he doesn’t. Sharsted scoffs at the idea. He turns to leave, but as he attempts to navigate his way out from the room where the camera is stored, Sharsted inexplicably finds himself back in the town of his youth. It is on those unforgiving streets, that Sharsted will learn, primarily through the people he meets, or who scare him for that matter, that a little forgiveness and sympathy can go a long way. Will the realization, however, come too late?
“Camera Obscura” was directed by two time Emmy nominee John Badham. The teleplay was written by three time Emmy nominee Jack Laird (Kojak), based off of a short story written by Basil Cooper. The story was first published by Pan Books, in the anthology “The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories,” on January 1, 1965. The episode aired on December 8, 1971.
“She’ll Be Company for you,” stars four time Emmy nominee Leonard Nimoy Fringe). Nimoy portrayed Spock, the logic minded Vulcan, one of the three central characters along with Kirk (William Shatner), and McCoy (DeForest Kelly), on the original “Star Trek” series, which aired from 1966 through 1969. Nimoy would go on to reprise his role in films, as well as, lend his voice to the animated “Star Trek” series, and video games. He also guest starred on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which aired from 1987 through 1994.
In the episode, Nimoy plays Henry Auden, whose wife, Margret, has just died. The only thing he feels about her death, is relief, as the viewer learns via voice over narration. Margret was an invalid, who Auden took care of. When she wanted something, which the episode alludes to, was often, she’d ring the shrill sounding bell, located on the night table, next to her side of the bed. Auden is alone for the first time in years. He thinks he will be content to live by himself, as well as pursue an open relationship with his secretary, June, who he has been having an affair with. (As an aside, Kathryn Hays, who plays June in the episode, appeared as the character Gem, in the original “Star Trek” episode “The Empath,” which aired on December 6, 1968).
Henry doesn’t have time to enjoy his new status as a single man, because no sooner does Margret’s funeral conclude, her friend Barbara, played by Lorraine Gary (Jaws), follows him back to his house. She asks Henry questions to gauge how he feels about Margret’s passing. A viewer should get the sense that she doesn’t believe he is upset, and also wonder why she makes the next offer. Barbara is going away on vacation. She wants Henry to look after her cat, Jennet.
No sooner does the cat arrive at the house, that unpleasant things begin to take place. For example, Henry is convinced that he is not dealing with an ordinary house cat, but one that can transform itself into a leopard. Other things begin to transpire, which causes him to lose sleep, and hear phantom sounds, or does he? The further the episode advances, the more it appears that Henry is descending into madness. Is what he thinks he’s experiencing real? Could it be nothing more than a manifestation of the guilt toward his griefless feelings regarding Margret’s death?
The episode was directed by Emmy winner Gerald Perry Finnerman (Ziegfeld: The Man and his Women). The teleplay was written by David Rayfiel (Sabrina), based off of a novelette written by Andrea Newman. The novelette was published by Pan Books in “More Tales of Unease,” on January 1, 1969. The episode aired on December 24, 1972. (As an aside, Finnerman also had a connection to Star Trek. He was the director of photography on sixty episodes that aired between 1966-1968).
In addition to Auberjonois and Nimoy, there was a cameo appearance by “Star Wars” legend Mark Hamill, in the “Night Gallery” episode “There Aren’t Any More MacBanes.” Furthermore, the “Night Gallery” series wound up featuring fourteen Oscar winners: Jack Albertson (The Subject Was Roses), Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men), Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Sally Field (Places in the Heart), Joel Grey (Cabaret), Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire), Burl Ives (The Big Country), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show), Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend), Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful), Gale Sondergaard (Anna and the King of Siam), and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane). Additionally, among other talented directors, three time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) directed two episodes: “Eyes” for the 1969, pilot film, as well as “Make Me Laugh,” which was written by Rod Serling. The episode aired on January 6, 1971.
The two episodes I reviewed were of interest to me because of their Star Trek connections. “Camera Obscura,” was the more attention grabbing of the two. I’m not sorry I watched “She’ll Be Company for you,” because Nimoy portrayed one of, if not, my all time favorite Star Trek characters in Spock, so I did want to see it. The episode, however, apart from Nimoy’s acting, does leave a bit to be desired. While “The Night Gallery,” as a whole, did feature some corny episodes, as well as some silly vignettes, more often than not, the creative work of Jack Laird, there were a number of episodes that were good and entertaining, most of which were culled from Rod Serling’s imagination, and various works of literature.