Lessons from the Twilight Zone….

 I often hear the phrase, “there is no such thing as an original story,” and most of the time it is a correct statement.   Over the 4th of July I was watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy Channel. 


I was watching this one particular Zone episode called “Twenty Two” from the year 1961,  written by Rod Sterling which was derived from the other following stories:
(Wikipedia except)
The episode Twenty Two” is an episode of the American television series The Twilight Zone. The story was adapted by Rod Serling from a short anecdote in the 1944 Bennett Cerf Random House anthology, Famous Ghost Stories,[1]which itself was an adaptation of “The Bus-Conductor,” a short story by E. F. Benson published in The Pall Mall Magazinein 1906.
(The trailer for “Twenty Two”)
The episode stars a Barbara Nichols, who was considered a minor rival to likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield and a number of rather sexy ladies from that era. She keeps having a dream over and over again which causes her to have an extended stay at the local mental hospital. The dream is the same sequence over and over again which is the most un-nerving thing for her.  The dream’s sequence is a combo of the following imagery: a ticking clock, a falling cup of water, seeing the number 22, and then the phrase “room for one more”.  The episode then ends when Barbra is at the airport, she breaks a cup, notices a clock and then finally notices her plane is flight number 22. She goes a bit mad after a flight attendant says “Room for one more”,  refusing to step on the plane and then the plane blows up. 
Now we fast forward to the following movie “Final Destination” from the year 2000 directed by James Wong and written by Wong, Glen Morgan, and Jeffery Reddick. Now most would argue that this was a very successful and original film that started an even more successful franchise of movies. 
In the following trailer we see actor Devon Sawa, having the same dream again and again. It also has a very similar sequence: seeing the number 180, a series of missteps and conversations by his friends and then gets in fight after going a bit mad convinced the plane will blow up. He gets ejected from the plane and it blows up. 

(The trailer for “Final Destination”) 
Now is it possible that the Final Destination movie franchise made in 2000 which will probably keep being made until 2012 was originally conceived in the year 1906, then re-imagined in 1944 and then re-imagined again in 1961?  Yes, it is. As I said there is no such thing as an original story and the truth is, only the details of any story make it more original or better yet just more different than it’s predecessor.  
I am not calling James Wong un-original obviously he went much farther than the original storyline in the Twilight zone. Also nor am I saying Sterling who took his idea from the original story from 1906 was un-original either. But I am saying when you write, be original.  Don’t repeat the same exact story details and replicate them to a tee-otherwise it all just winds up looking derivative unless that’s your intention.  And if that is your intention, always give credit for where the original story came from. 
Let’s face it, all art is derivative from other art, the sooner you realize this the better off you’ll be.
And in closing, I think I speak for all of us when I say we have had enough of re-makes, sequels and flacid story-lines. There was a big reason why Alfred Hitchcock never made one sequel, they usually suck.