Jonathan Bignell
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Alien or familiar
Sounds and images in The Twilight Zone, ‘The Invaders’
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This chapter analyses the unusual and expressive uses of both visual style and sound in an episode of the science fiction series The Twilight Zone, ‘The Invaders’ (1961). The episode has no dialogue, though it has some framing narration spoken direct to camera, and it has little music. Nevertheless, this chapter makes the case that the consequent rebalancing of the usual expressive means available to television is both innovative and compelling. The absence of sound becomes an occasion to think more precisely about what sound does, and by removing some of the usual functions of sound the episode allows us to question the customary hierarchy in which sound is a support for the image. Shifts in the viewer’s knowledge of the fictional world depend on how image and sound manipulate our relationship with the female protagonist of ‘The Invaders’ in both conventional and unconventional ways. Sounds produced by her vocally, by her body movement and as a result of actions she initiates, as well as sounds coming from alien invaders and their technologies, carry an extraordinary weight because of the lack of other kinds of audio information. Lack of the speech which would usually convey information, emotion and tone encourages the viewer to attend to images more intensely than usual, reading details of setting, costume, posture and facial expression for example, to make sense of the action.

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Sound / image

Moments in television


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