I suspect this one owes more to Jack Laird and his legendarily cockeyed sense of humor than it does to the usual Serling approach. At any rate, Campanella plays it totally straight-faced and so it becomes a colossal deadpan joke/put-on. I can remember taking it totally seriously when I first saw it as a kid; now I find it a droll send-up of the whole genre.
The Nature of the Enemy seems like a good idea in principle. Mission control on Earth is following the progress of a rescue team sent after a crashed rocket, one which they have lost all contact with. The ground crew have received garbled transmissions seemingly indicating that the crew were under attack. Now you'd think this would be a great setting for a suspense thriller. What is delivered though is thoroughly lacking in any form of suspense or thrills. In fact, the ending is arguably one of the most unintentionally funny resolutions to any Night Gallery episode, or Twilight Zone for that matter. Let me put it this way. When I watched this for the first time, as soon as I saw the "device" that the lost crew built, I made a sarcastic comment about them being attacked by giant rats. Little did I know I was 100% correct. Yes, that's right. The entire crew is attacked and killed by Giant Moon Rats™. What makes this even more ridiculous is the simple fact that this episode was produced well over a year after the first Moon landing in 1969. This sort of twist might have worked in the days of H.G. Wells, but not in the early 1970s. The only idea that could have made the whole thing worse would have been the suggestion that the rats were up there for the Moon's cheese!
I can only assume that Serling spent almost no time on this script. And don't get me wrong. The man was and still is a genius. His seemingly unending list of exceptional episodes from both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery is a testament to that. But this episode has got to be the worst one of either series he ever turned out.
From Mission Control, the ground crew watches video of astronauts on the moon investigating a hastily assemble 'platform', which had been constructed from the debris of previous crashed vehicles. Speculation arises as to its purpose.
As a huge Rod Serling fan, I must ask one question about this episode: Was he smoking crack at the time he wrote it? It is THE single worst idea for a story Serling ever conceived, and perhaps the most poorly executed. Not to 'spoil' the absurd ending, but it is so very bad that, indeed, no one would ever have guessed it from the beginning. Endless questions abound: Who's holding the camera on the moon? Why does 'platform' look like a cheap Erector-Set? How did a super thin rocket crash straight (and I do mean straight) into the ground? These are but a few that such a short sequence should NOT have posed. My recommendation: Watch it once if you can bear a life time of unanswered questions.
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