Don Draper meets Rod Serling in ‘Walking Distance’
When I watched the pilot episode of the AMC show Mad Men, I was dazzled by the design and intrigued by the characters that illustrated the glamorous (and repressed) world of the 1960s. It wasn’t until I watched as copywriter Paul Kinsey paraphrases the opening monologue from The Twilight Zone, that I realized the historical and cultural connections contained within the show.
The 1960s were a golden age for speculative fiction, particularly on the big screen and television. The pilot episode of Mad Men lets us know that The Twilight Zone has just premiered, using aliens as allegory for an age when black men were still being lynched. As I continued to watch the show, I wondered if Don Draper would ever share a scene with a fictionalized version of Rod Serling. Well, the meeting has taken place…kind of.
In 2010, writer Marc Scott Zicree, creator of “The Twilight Zone Companion” as well as writer for Star trek the Next Generation, wrote a spec script for Mad Men in which Don Draper meets Rod Serling. Titled “Walking Distance”, after the classic TZ episode, the story has Draper meet up with Serling after hearing that The Twilight Zone has been cancelled, hoping to secure him for a job as a pitchman. The two men find solace in each other’s company as they both navigate the struggles of middle aged men.
“Walking Distance” includes several references to Serling’s career (The Loner, Night Gallery) and his embarrassment at the Emmys when his beer commercial aired to an audience of his peers. The story is beautiful, poignant and gives us a positive turning point for both men. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, this is a must read, it shows a Rod Serling that not many people know about, a brilliant writer with a salty vocabulary and a contempt for the industry. With Mad Men entering it’s last season the chances of this episode ever getting made are slim (especially with its positive message), but I am glad that Zicree took the time to write it. This script gave me a real charge knowing that these two men got to meet each other, even if it was only in…The Twilight Zone.
You can read Zicree’s script HERE.