MUIR: Why do you think he wanted to tell you that?
NEWLAND: Because he was a class act. He just wanted to let me know in person that he wasn’t going to rip us off.
MUIR: Any favorites among the 96 episodes of One Step Beyond?
NEWLAND: I liked “The Devil’s Laughter” [ a story about a criminal who kept escaping the noose by luck]. The story was good, I liked Alfred Ryder’s performance, and felt engaged by the storyline.
MUIR: Least favorite?
NEWLAND: The one about the vine in Mexico.
MUIR: That was “Blood Flower,” about an American professor being possessed by the spirit of a Mexican revolutionary whose blood had spilled on a plant…
NEWLAND: It was a dumb, silly concept. The pits.
MUIR: One Step Beyond had a location shift for the last part of its third season. Thirteen episodes were filmed in Great Britain.
NEWLAND: That was my idea. We thought it would be a little boost to the show. Great Britain offered good actors, good locations, and good settings. We sought permission from Alcoa, and they okayed it.
MUIR: What was ABC’s general response to One Step Beyond?
NEWLAND: They were very enthusiastic. The show always won its time slot. Alcoa was even more enthusiastic. It was a solid success.
MUIR: How much interference was there from Alcoa and the network?
NEWLAND: These were the days before Proctor and Gamble. We had a totally free hand.
MUIR: Do you know why the series was cancelled?
NEWLAND: We’d done 96 episodes, and there was the inescapable feeling that we were no longer the new kid on the block. The show was still drawing high ratings, but the decision was made that we needed to make room for new product.
MUIR: Okay, you know I’ve got to question you about the episode called “The Sacred Mushroom.” This remains one of the most notorious episodes in network TV history, because you are seen on camera literally sampling mushrooms with hallucinogenic properties in a California laboratory. In your own words from the beginning of the show, “the story featured no actors, no script.” Basically, it was a travelogue to Mexico to experiment with these mushrooms. What was going on with that story?
NEWLAND: That was our most popular episode. It was a spooky trip. We landed in a tiny airstrip in Mexico near a mission. From there, it was a donkey trip of four days to reach the village. It was a dangerous journey, but we got phenomenal footage.
MUIR: That portion of the episode involved Dr. Barbara Brown (a neuro-pharmacologist), David Grey (A Hawaiin spiritual leader), Dr. Jeffrey Smith (a philosophy professor from Stanford) and Dr. Andrija Puharch sampling a mushroom called “X,” given to them by a local with doctor called a brujo. The peyote was supposed to enhance psychic abilities, and it was pretty damn unusual to see people getting high on TV in 1961, wasn’t it?
NEWLAND: Alcoa told us that the show was so bizarre, that we don’t dare put it on the air.
MUIR: So how did you salvage the episode?
NEWLAND: Well, Puharich asked me to take the mushroom, and I was game, so we took a camera crew and drove to Palo Alto and Puharich’s laboratory. Once there, I had three cameras rolling the whole time, and I told the cameramen to just keep shooting until we ran out of film. We decided to shoot and shoot and shoot and see what happened.
MUIR: Did you feel anything strange when you sampled the mushroom?
NEWLAND: I felt light-headed…and a sense of well being…the stuff was distilled. It was very powerful, but not poisonous, so I didn’t have any trepidations.
MUIR: Were there after-effects?”
NEWLAND: I had flashbacks and hallucinatory moments for about a month.
MUIR: But nothing psychic or paranormal happened?
NEWLAND: No. Not a grain.
MUIR: I guess I should ask you then, have you ever had a psychic or paranormal experience?
NEWLAND: I’ve not had a single experience. I’d like to have one, and if I were offered one, I’d certainly jump at it instantly.
MUIR: Going back to “The Sacred Mushroom,” your involvement with Puharich in the lab saved the show for broadcast.
NEWLAND: Alcoa saw it and considered my testimony “proof enough,” to air the show. As I said, it became our most popular episode.
MUIR: In 1978 you embarked on a syndicated sequel to One Step Beyond called The Next Step Beyond. It only lasted a season, and at first was shot on videotape.
NEWLAND: It was very inferior quality. We thought videotape was the medium of the future, but the results were not what we had in mind. We switched to 16mm halfway through the series to try to improve its look, but by then it was too late.
MUIR: With revivals of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, has there been any serious thought about another new One Step Beyond?
NEWLAND: We talked about doing all kinds of revivals, even recently, but as The Next Step Beyond proved so dramatically, you just can’t go home again.
MUIR: Is there any message you would like to share with fans of One Step Beyond?
NEWLAND: Thank you for your years of interest and belief. I am very grateful.
MUIR: And lastly what is your ultimate, final take on One Step Beyond, forty years later?
NEWLAND: It was the best production I ever worked on, period. It was the best time I had working in this industry, and it was the most creative and satisfying atmosphere in my life, both personally and professionally.