“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Rod Serling / Audiobook published 2010-12-09 by Falcon Picture Group „
'The people you've just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the sun began to expand into a Red Giant. Gradually, moment by moment, day by day, the Earth is getting closer. All of man's little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries. They happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is San Francisco and this is the eve of the end. Because even at midnight it's high noon, the hottest day in history and you're about to spend it in The Twilight Zone...'
A Twilight Zone radio adaption from 2010, in this case an audio version of 1961's The Midnight Sun. The Midnight Sun is one of my favourite episodes from the original television series and was written by Rod Serling. It's adapted here with Kim Fields and Stacey Keach and 47 minutes long in total. The story is set in a nightmarish near future in the apartment of a young artist named Norma. The Earth has deviated from its usual elliptical pathway and is gradually falling in its rotation towards the sun. In other words; it's now unbearably hot and getting hotter all the time. Norma's apartment is like a furnace and paintings are starting to melt. You can fry eggs on the pavement outside and the oceans are starting to simmer. There are major water and food shortages and most of the city has been adandoned by people heading North, desperately seeking somewhere cooler. The end of the world looms large as it becomes hotter and hotter but Norma decides to stay in her empty apartment block painting with only her increasingly weary and confused landlady Mrs Bronson for company. How much more of his heat can they endure before life as we know it comes to an end?
The Midnight Sun is a superb Twilight Zone story with an excellent twist and the original television version with Lois Nettleton is justifiably regarded to be one of the best of the series. The near end of the world atmosphere evoked in the story makes The Midnight Sun very compelling and atmospheric and this is captured quite nicely too in this radio adaption. There is a languid, lazy quality to the music and the actor's voices to reflect the incredibly temperatures the characters are having to endure and, of course, we know it is only going to get hotter and hotter so the story here has an enjoyable apocalyptic feel and constant air of impending disaster. You felt hot just watching the television version and while there are obviously far fewer ways to convey someone being hot on radio, the audio version does a decent enough job in making us believe these characters are living in an empty city in increasingly unbearable temperatures.
The is always something compelling about dramas that convey an end of the world scenario, especially ones that do it in a relatively realistic fashion, like this and a Canadian independent film called Last Night which was heavily indebted to The Midnight Sun. To be fair though, one could argue that The Midnight Sun borrows some of its concepts from The Day the Earth Caught Fire. While the science might not be 100% (not that I'd know!), the story retains a certain relevance. Rod Serling was often ahead of his time (an episode once depicted a future world where plastic surgery is commonplace and people are encouraged to look like everyone else) and the environmental themes here are still strong and were concieved during a time when global warming and ecological concerns were not as widespread or publicised as they are today. One thing that is very Rod Serling here too is the way that the human race are put firmly in their place by events far beyond their control.
The intimate nature of the piece makes it work surprisingly well as a radio play and Stacey Keach is very good as the confused man who wanders into the apartment block, much to the consternation of Norma. Kim Fields is ok in the lead here although no Lois Nettleton. Nettleton was wonderfully authentic and likeable in the television version and it's probably unfair to make the comparison as she is such a tough act to follow. The situation the characters are placed in has an immediate aura of dread and so the story is always quite haunting and also poignant when they reflect on what life was once like. More atmosphere is conveyed by snippets of radio broadcasts and a sense that it's becoming more and more difficult to find out what is happening outside and in the wider world as a whole. You get a sense of society as we know it just starting to break and lose its cohesion offstage. There is some nice understated gallows humour here too at times.
The Midnight Sun can be purchased as part of a collection of these radio adaptions or individually downloaded for £1.19. It's a decent radio version of the original story that tinkers with the source material here and there but never strays too far from the story and the spirit of its illustrious predecessor. Worth a listen but make sure you watch the 1961 television version first.