“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”
Rod Serling’s foray into sci-fi began with the teleplay “The Time Element,” which was later formed into “The Twilight Zone.” With a full run spanning from 1959 to 1964, the original series had five long seasons and became Serling’s most popular TV show. The series won two Emmy awards and inspired three reboots — the most recent iteration was released in April.
The original show does not focus on a set of recurring characters. Instead, each episode is a vignette that focuses on a few characters — generally one to two — and shows a supernatural or scientific event which happens to them that generally has a twist ending or a lesson to learn. If this show sounds familiar, that’s because it is the great-grandfather of the popular British-television-show-turned-Netflix-original, “Black Mirror.”
This influential series is available to stream on Netflix, and the reboot has inspired new interest in the franchise, but is it worth it to go back and experience the original episodes?
To Binge or Not to Binge
Just like a nonserialized pulp magazine, the episodes of this show don’t connect to each other, making it easy to pick up and put down, which is always great for a busy finals week.
At times, the series can show its age or feel a little cheesy, but it’s still a great show overall. The narration by Serling is stirring and iconic, and the famous twists and turns are constantly referenced in other shows, most notably the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of “The Simpsons.”
This show made a formative influence on my writing and love for the supernatural. I’m less of a fan of the space and alien themed episodes, but they still have their place. It is especially interesting to see the wild and creative portrayals of aliens from an era before the moon landing. I also like the “Where’s Waldo” game of reused props, like a “Give Blood” poster that appears throughout the first season.
So, if you finished “Black Mirror” and are looking for some more campfire tales that end in a twist, then “The Twilight Zone” is a great pick. There is a lot of fun to be had, especially with how many unique episodes there are.
If you’re looking for something new, and have CBS All Access, then you can watch Jordan Peele’s new reboot of the titular series. Not every episode is released, but all of the episodes I have seen so far are fantastic. They have that special “twilight” feel that came with the original run, and the updated lighting and cinematography is refreshing.
As the host, Peele is probably the best Serling stand-in to date. His slow, knowing tones for the opening and closing narration really drive home the omnipotent narrator persona. His version, which features many other noteworthy actors of our time, is worth a watch.
There are a lot of great episodes just in season one, like episode two, “One For the Angels” or episode 16, “The Hitch-Hiker.” But my favorite has to be episode one, “Where is Everyone?” It was the first episode I watched (duh), and I have fond memories of seeing it when I was much younger.
“Goosebumps,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, “Black Mirror,” “The Outer Limits,” “Dimension 404,” “Tales from the Darkside,” “Amazing Stories,” “Night Gallery” and “Night Visions”
There is no blood or swearing in the original series, but it can deal with some challenging themes, including death. The CBS reboot is rated mature, and thus far it contains the use of mature-rated expletives.
5 out of 5 stars
“The Twilight Zone”
Available to stream on Netflix (original series) or CBS All Access (the 2019 reboot)
156 episodes, roughly 73 hours (original series)