I don’t know about you, readers, but growing up in the 80s, I was spellbound by TV series the likes of The Outer Limits and Tales From The Crypt, which filled my days with an electrifying blend of horror, science-fiction, mystery, and suspense. Unfortunately, one timeless classic eluded me during this period — The Twilight Zone.
As a kid, I owned a dozen or so issues of the Gold Key comics based on the iconic show, but they left me underwhelmed and never compelled me to seek out the original series. For this same reason I also did not watch the Twilight Zone Remake series that premiered in 1985, nor did I ever happen upon the Twilight Zone movie from 1983. Little did I know that my rendezvous with the classic series would soon result in an obsession that would become as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, an obsession not only of sight but of mind, an obsession with the fifth dimension, with… well, you get the gist.
Fast forward to my university days in the 90s, when a friend, sharing my love for the unsettling and the weird, entrusted me with his collection of Twilight Zone video cassettes. His insistence that I immerse myself in this world was the key turning point — the door into another dimension, not only of sight and sound but of mind, swung open for me. That marked the beginning of my obsession, a fascination that has stood the test of time.
So today, The Longbox of Darkness invites you to step into the past as I revisit thirteen of my favorite episodes from this groundbreaking series. These aren’t mere episode summaries but personal signposts that guided me through the twists and turns of The Twilight Zone. Come along on this journey into the exceptional and the disturbing, and let’s plumb the depths of imagination that this series so masterfully encapsulates. You never know what surprising insights we might uncover — about the show and perhaps, even about ourselves.
A Brief Interlude
Before we get to the episodes in question, it’s essential to acknowledge the visionaries who brought this otherworldly realm that is The Twilight Zone to life. At the forefront stands Rod Serling, the series’ creator, principal writer, and its indelible on-screen guide. An acclaimed television writer, Serling masterfully wove tales that blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, between the ordinary and the extraordinary. His narratives, though cloaked in science fiction and fantasy, grappled with the most profound questions of human existence. He always credited who was responsible for the conception of each episode of The Twilight Zone, making it very much a ‘writer’s show.’
Two other notable contributors to The Twilight Zone’s unique tapestry were Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, my personal favorites from the series’ talented roster of writers. Beaumont had an uncanny ability to delve into the depths of the human psyche, crafting stories that unsettled as much as they fascinated. His episodes served as powerful and poignant social commentaries while also stirring our deepest fears and aspirations.
Richard Matheson, meanwhile, brought a distinct, ingenious blend of science fiction and horror to the show. His tales drew us into extraordinary scenarios that were not only thrilling but deeply reflective of the human condition. Matheson had a knack for portraying relatable, everyday characters swept up in extraordinary circumstances, enabling viewers to see a bit of themselves in the midst of the fantastical.
These three master storytellers, each with their unique styles and thematic focuses, were central to the allure of The Twilight Zone. Their extraordinary narratives pushed the boundaries of television storytelling and remain landmarks in the landscape of the fantastic and the uncanny. Now, let’s return to our journey through the episodes that I hold most dear, each one a testament to the creative brilliance of Serling, Beaumont, Matheson, and their peers.
And now, here they are – my favorite episodes, counting down from #13 to #1.
13. “Stopover in a Quiet Town”
Written by Earl Hamner Jr., featured in Season 5, Episode 30, and aired on April 24, 1964.
Adding to our list of extraordinary Twilight Zone episodes, we have “Stopover in a Quiet Town” which recounts the unnerving tale of a couple who awaken from a night of heavy drinking to find themselves in a strangely silent and deserted town. As they desperately seek a way out, they stumble upon the chilling truth of their predicament. This episode struck a chord with me due to its skillful buildup of suspense and its unexpected revelation. The couple’s growing dread mirrors our own as viewers, making their ultimate fate all the more impactful. The story serves as a potent reminder of our vulnerability when stripped of familiar surroundings and the comfort of human connection.
12. “Time Enough at Last”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 1, Episode 8, Aired on November 20, 1959.
This compelling episode introduces us to Henry Bemis, an unassuming bookworm with an insatiable appetite for reading. His dream? To have enough time to indulge in his beloved books uninterrupted. In a twist of ironic fortune, a nuclear apocalypse grants him this wish, but with a cruel sting in its tail. I was particularly drawn to this episode due to its poignant commentary on the human condition – our yearning for solitude, yet our inherent need for companionship and community. It serves as a powerful reminder that even in the pursuit of our most profound desires, balance is key.
11. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 1, Episode 22, Aired on March 4, 1960.
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” offers a chilling exploration of mass hysteria and the fragility of societal order. When mysterious events start happening in a suburban neighborhood, the residents’ paranoia spirals out of control, leading them to turn against each other. This episode stands out to me because of its timeless relevance. It shows how easily fear can divide us, how quick we are to point fingers, and how destructive these suspicions can be. The true monsters, it seems, are not the aliens we fear, but the ones that we become when gripped by paranoia.
10. “Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 2, Episode 6, Aired on November 11, 1960.
“Eye of the Beholder” takes us on a journey into a world where conformity is the norm and individuality is shunned. It tells the story of a woman, whose face is bandaged after plastic surgery, hoping to look like everyone else. The shocking reveal, where the societal standard of beauty is what we would consider grotesque, forces us to question our own perceptions of beauty and normality. I was captivated by this episode’s profound critique of societal standards and its bold assertion that beauty is indeed in the ‘eye of the beholder.’ Its compelling narrative continues to challenge me, urging us all to celebrate our individuality.
9. “The Invaders”
Written by Richard Matheson, Season 2, Episode 15, Aired on January 27, 1961.
“The Invaders” skillfully crafts a tale of an elderly, isolated woman confronted by miniature alien invaders in her rustic farmhouse. This seemingly simple plot undergoes a dramatic twist, questioning who the real invaders are. I was immediately drawn to this episode for its clever narrative flip and minimal dialogue, which allows the suspenseful atmosphere and acting to shine. It serves as a reminder that fear and hostility often stem from misunderstanding, and it left me reflecting on our place within the vast expanse of the universe.
8. “It’s a Good Life”
Written by Rod Serling (based on a short story by Jerome Bixby), Season 3, Episode 8, Aired on November 3, 1961.
This episode revolves around a small town held in terror by a six-year-old boy, Anthony, who possesses godlike powers. Any thought, action, or statement that displeases him can lead to dire consequences. What captivated me about “It’s a Good Life” was its chilling exploration of absolute power, especially in the hands of someone who lacks the maturity and understanding to wield it responsibly. The terror residing in the ordinary, familiar setting of a family home makes this episode unnervingly unforgettable.
7. “To Serve Man”
Written by Rod Serling (based on a short story by Damon Knight), Season 3, Episode 24, Aired on March 2, 1962.
“To Serve Man” tells the intriguing story of an alien race called the Kanamits, who arrive on Earth promising peace and sharing advanced technology. But their benevolent facade hides a sinister purpose, unveiled in one of the most famous twist endings in television history. I adore this episode for its masterful buildup of suspense and its cautionary tale about blind trust. The phrase “To Serve Man” takes on a whole new meaning by the end of the episode, leaving us with a chilling reminder of the potential cost of naivety.
6. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
Written by Richard Matheson, Season 5, Episode 3, Aired on October 11, 1963.
One of the most iconic episodes, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” features a recovering mental patient, played brilliantly by William Shatner, who is convinced he sees a creature on the wing of the airplane he’s traveling in. This episode stands out in my memory for its perfect blend of psychological horror and physical suspense, leaving the viewer on edge until the final climactic moments. It’s a fantastic portrayal of the fear of not being believed, especially when our sanity is in question.
5. “Living Doll”
Written by Charles Beaumont, Season 5, Episode 6, Aired on November 1, 1963.
In “Living Doll,” we meet Talky Tina, a seemingly innocent doll that becomes a nightmare for the stepfather of the family. As the doll begins to threaten him, we see the breakdown of his control and the unraveling of his reality. I was drawn to this episode due to the unsettling atmosphere it creates through the familiar, everyday setting. It demonstrates how effectively The Twilight Zone uses common fears and phobias, like that of dolls, to tap into our innermost anxieties.
4. “The Masks”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 5, Episode 25, Aired on March 20, 1964.
This episode takes us into the home of a wealthy, dying man and his greedy heirs who must wear masks reflecting their true selves until midnight to inherit his fortune. “The Masks” had a profound impact on me due to its visual representation of the ugliness of greed and self-centeredness. The episode’s powerful message—that our actions and character can leave a permanent mark—serves as a timeless moral lesson. The beautifully crafted narrative makes this episode an unforgettable experience in The Twilight Zone journey.
3. “Walking Distance”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 1, Episode 5, Aired on October 30, 1959.
“Walking Distance” delves into the poignant tale of Martin Sloan, a worn-out executive who inadvertently travels back in time to his childhood town. This episode, infused with nostalgia and regret, is a reflection on the inexorable flow of time and the often unfulfilled longing to recapture our past. The simple yet profound narrative of “Walking Distance” deeply moved me, emphasizing the importance of living in the present and not romanticizing the past.
2. “The Hitch-Hiker”
Written by Rod Serling (based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher), Season 1, Episode 16, Aired on January 22, 1960.
In “The Hitch-Hiker,” we follow the suspenseful journey of Nan Adams, a woman on a cross-country trip who repeatedly encounters the same hitchhiker. I was enthralled by this episode’s eerie, relentless suspense and its profound exploration of mortality. The climactic reveal, which I won’t spoil here, offers a haunting and existential twist, forcing us to contemplate our own awareness and acceptance of life and death.
1. “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
Written by Rod Serling, Season 2, Episode 28, Aired on May 26, 1961.
In this episode, two state troopers investigate a UFO sighting and follow footprints leading to a diner filled with patrons. This setup, tinged with suspicion and tension, cleverly unravels as the troopers try to figure out who among the group is the alien. “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” is my favorite due to its special blend of science fiction and whodunit genres, culminating in a fantastic twist ending that serves as a testament to The Twilight Zone’s ingenuity and wit.
In each of these episodes, The Twilight Zone brilliantly showcased its ability to use the fantastic and the otherworldly to illuminate our own human nature. These thirteen episodes have left an indelible mark on me, and they continue to resonate even in our modern world. Through this journey, we have glimpsed into the mirror that The Twilight Zone holds up to humanity, reflecting our fears, hopes, follies, and triumphs in equal measure. As we close this chapter, I invite you to ponder on these tales and their timeless messages, for we might yet find new revelations in these extraordinary narratives from the fifth dimension.
And so, readers, we conclude our journey into the shadowy depths of The Twilight Zone. A realm where everyday reality gives way to the extraordinary, where the ordinary becomes uncanny. Where we’ve peered into the mirror of the human condition, gleaning insights both unsettling and enlightening. You’ve journeyed with me through thirteen peculiar signposts, each illuminating a different facet of our shared humanity. A journey once embarked upon, leaves one forever changed.
But remember, as Rod Serling would probably say, this is merely one voyage among many. For The Twilight Zone, in all its eerie glory, is but a reflection of our own world – a mirror into our souls. Its tales continue to resonate, their echoes reverberating endlessly through time and space…
Thanks for reading, fright fans. Do you have a favorite Twilight Zone episode? Comment and let us know! Also, subscribe to the blog, and let’s continue our voyage together through the recesses of human imagination. We may yet stumble upon untrodden paths, uncover fresh insights, and reveal new dimensions in future visits to the Twilight Zone.
If this post got you hankering to watch some classic TZ episodes, you can find them on BluRay or DVD here. For those of you who wish to delve deeper into the mysteries of The Twilight Zone, LOD has some book recommendations for you. The following three terrific tomes are sure to satiate your craving for forbidden knowledge (click on the images to check out the reviews).
And that’s it for our journey into the Fifth Dimension. Until we meet again, somewhere in The Twilight Zone, this is The Longbox of Darkness signing off. Pleasant screams!
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