Rod Serling’s The New People Script

Rod Serling’s exact involvement with short-lived TV show The New People (ABC, 1969-1970) has been a source of confusion for decades. Contemporary newspaper articles about The New People confirm Serling did write a pilot script for the show. However, on-screen writing credit is given to John Phillips.

The closing credits to the pilot episode give Serling a “Developed For Television By” title. When the UCLA Film & Television Archive unearthed an alternate, unaired, 51-minute version of the pilot episode in 2012, Serling is given on-screen writing credit. Based on comments Serling made about his script being “carved up like beef,” it seems likely he asked to have his name removed from the version of the pilot ABC aired.

Earlier this year, I acquired a copy of Rod Serling’s The New People script, dated November 27, 1968. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The New People, I thought I’d share this piece of television history with my readers.

Serling’s script, which the title page calls “A pilot film television play,” is 56 pages long. My copy includes multiple revised pages, most dated January 3, 1969 or January 6, 1969. A few are dated December 23, 1968 and there are even two revised pages dated November 27, 1968.

Here are several pages from the script:

The script largely matches the version of the pilot episode that aired in a 45-minute time slot on ABC in September 1969. However, many scenes in the script are trimmed significantly in the broadcast version or missing entirely. For example, there’s a lengthy conversation near the beginning of the script between Mr. Hannichek and Mr. Pilgrim that does not appear in the broadcast version of the pilot. Likewise, while in the script two of the “new people” search their downed plane in the hopes of finding a working radio, the broadcast version picks up with them announcing the radio is useless.

I assume the longer, alternate version of the pilot episode contains most, if not all of the scenes in this script.

Several supporting characters in the script are all but cut from the broadcast version of the pilot, including Mr. Pilgrim, as well as several students: Barbara, Dexter, and Hanson. They’re all in the broadcast version but have few, if any, lines.

Much of the dialogue in the script was shot word for word, or with limited changes, but there’s a lot of description that doesn’t come across on television. Here’s how Serling describes the “new people” when they’re first seen:

It is a sparse, makeshift room with a couple of rows of severe-looking wooden benches filled with sitting, sprawling, lying KIDS — all of them dressed in either blue blazers or semi mini skirts — but all of them united by one general look — that of a fierce resistance to anything and everything that is about to be visited upon them. Quite a part from that, they are obviously tired and have had it. They look up with the same kind of collective sullenness.

(In the broadcast version of the pilot, the kids aren’t wearing uniforms.)

The broadcast version of the pilot ends with Mr. Hannichek dying, then shows scenes from upcoming episodes. The script continues with a brief tag scene.

I hope to one day have the opportunity to view the alternate, hour-long version of the pilot episode and compare it to my copy of Rod Serling’s script.

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