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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.
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Those words, spoken in Rod Serling’s irresistible voice, will forever echo inside my head. That suspenseful little pause he’d always add right before saying, “… the Twilight Zone”, still gets me every time.
It was the combination of brilliant writing and superb acting that set The Twilight Zone apart, making it one of my all-time favourite television series. And like most people, I have a few favourites — stories that were wonderfully compelling for one reason or another, episodes that I could watch over and over again for all eternity.
One thing that all Twilight Zone fans like to do is compare their top episodes. It’s fun to debate why seeing your doppelgänger in a bus depot is creepier than talking mannequins in a department store. And a person’s favourite TZs can often tell you quite a bit about them.
So submitted for your approval: my top 25 Twilight Zone episodes, which I’ve paired with my favourite quote from each.
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1- The Howling Man
Season 2, Episode 5
“Truth is our dogma. We believe it to be man’s greatest weapon against the Devil, who is the father of all lies.”
2- Nick of Time
Season 2, Episode 7
“It doesn’t matter whether it can foretell the future, what matters is whether you believe more in luck and in fortune than you do in yourself. You can decide your own life. You have a mind. A wonderful mind. Don’t destroy it trying to justify that cheap penny fortune machine.”
3- The Masks
Season 5, Episode 25
“Mardi Gras incident, the dramatis personae being four people who came to celebrate and in a sense let themselves go. This they did with a vengeance. They now wear the faces of all that was inside them – and they’ll wear them for the rest of their lives, said lives now to be spent in shadow.”
4- Eye of the Beholder
Season 2, Episode 6
“Now the questions that come to mind. Where is this place, and when is it? What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? You want an answer? The answer is, it doesn’t make any difference. Because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty *is* in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life, perhaps out amongst the stars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned – in The Twilight Zone.”
5- Deaths-Head Revisited
Season 3, Episode 9
“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in The Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth.”
6- Nothing in the Dark
Season 3, Episode 16
“You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion, is like a whisper. What you thought was the end, is the beginning.”
7- The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank
Season 3, Episode 23
“Jeff and Comfort are still alive today, and their only son is a United States Senator who’s noted as an uncommonly shrewd politician – and some believe he must have gotten his education … in the Twilight Zone.”
8- The Hunt
Season 3, Episode 19
“A man, well, he’ll walk right into hell with both eyes open. But even the devil can’t fool a dog.”
9- The Shelter
Season 3, Episode 3
“No moral, no message, no prophetic tract, just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized.”
10- The Night of the Meek
Season 2, Episode 11
“A word to the wise – to all the children of the 20th century: whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers, or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wonderous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.”
11- The Grave
Season 3, Episode 7
“You go on up there and see Pinto. I just came from there. He’s waiting for you… ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!”
12- The Gift
Season 3, Episode 32
“If God were to come to earth would they find him so strange that they would be afraid and would they shoot him? Did not His son come once? And they nailed him to a cross. And then spent 2,000 years learning to believe in Him.”
13- Black Leather Jackets
Season 5, Episode 18
“Most of these people have the capacity for love, I know it. They learn love from their God and teach it to their children, there’s more of love here than hate, there’s no need to kill them.”
14- Number 12 Looks Just Like You
Season 5, Episode 17
“Being like everybody … isn’t that the same as being nobody?”
15- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
Season 5, Episode 3
“The flight of Mr. Robert Wilson has ended now, a flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer… though, for the moment, he is, as he has said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer, for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter as … the Twilight Zone.”
16- Night Call
Season 5, Episode 19
“According to the Bible, God created the heavens and the Earth. It is man’s prerogative – and woman’s – to create their own particular and private hell. Case in point, Miss Elva Keene, who in every sense has made her own bed and now must lie in it, sadder, but wiser, by dint of a rather painful lesson in responsibility, transmitted from …the Twilight Zone.”
17- The New Exhibit
Season 4, Episode 13
“When you live with them as long as I have, you come to love them… then they cease to be strangers and you want to say good morning!”
Season 2, Episode 12
“There must be another hand in all of this for the rope to break like that. Another hand. Maybe the hand of Providence.”
19- The Hitch-Hiker
Season 1, Episode 16
“I believe you’re going… my way.”
20- Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?
Season 2, Episode 28
“You know these, cigarettes do you call them? They taste wonderful. We haven’t got a thing like this on Mars. That’s, incidentally, where I come from.”
21- The Old Man in the Cave
Season 5, Episode 7
“He didn’t drop the bomb. He didn’t kill off this earth. We did that to ourselves. All he’s done is to let us survive our mistake. All he’s done is to let us plant a seed again and let it grow. All the compassion that’s left on this earth is in that cave.”
22- I Sing the Body Electric
Season 3, Episode 35
“Your mother died too when you were young. Did you ever forgive her for running away like that and never coming back?”
Season 3, Episode 1
24- A Stop at Willoughby
Season 1, Episode 30
“Willoughby? Maybe it’s wishful thinking nestled in a hidden part of a man’s mind, or maybe it’s the last stop in the vast design of things…”
25- The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street
Season 1, Episode 22
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to … the Twilight Zone.”
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So there you have it. My 25 favourite episodes of the Twilight Zone. It wasn’t an easy task, picking just twenty-five that I love. Because let’s face it, I pretty much love them all (except for “Time Enough at Last”).
While I sat here writing this list, something struck me. As I poured over all 156 episodes, each of them bringing to mind a fond memory or a pleasant feeling, it hit me just how incredible this anthology series truly is. Nearly 54 years after “Where Is Everybody?” (TZ’s premiere episode) aired, we’re still talking about it. And we’re not just remembering it, we’re actively watching, discussing, debating and sharing our favourite episodes.
Then, in the midst of my revery, I came across something that Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling once said:
As I grow older, the urge to write gets less and less. I’ve pretty much spewed out everything I had to say, none of which has been particularly monumental—nothing which will stand the test of time. The good writing, like wine, has to age well and my stuff has been momentarily adequate.
“Momentarily adequate”? Nothing “particularly monumental”? Oh, my dear Mr. Serling, I must emphatically disagree. Your work HAS stood the test of time and will continue to well into the future. Indeed, your work back then was ahead of its time. You pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable to discuss, and what was taboo. You brought racism and bigotry into the spotlight in order to promote awareness and acceptance. The Twilight Zone never shied away from controversy, instead choosing to utilize the media to teach the masses about love for your fellow man and human decency. You, Mr. Serling, who was never ashamed of his conviction, wrote a page of history. When I think of all the lives you touched, the people you’ve inspired, the great lengths you went to in order to make a difference, I am filled with nothing but love and admiration for you. May God bless you, sir.
No matter your favourites, one thing we can all agree on is that The Twilight Zone continues to delight the heart and excite the mind. For those of us seeking adventure, mystery, morality, justice or redemption, the one place we’re guaranteed to find it … is in the Twilight Zone.
But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask – particularly in The Twilight Zone.
~The After Hours