An updated version of The Twilight Zone returns featuring Jordan Peele as the on-screen narrator. The show premieres on Syfy on May 14th so, we’ve chosen to revisit five essential episodes of the classic anthology series:
1. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” (Season 1 – Episode 22). This episode written by Rod Serling is one that best reflects the screenwriter’s vision where he often used the genre’s fictional tools as a vehicle to address topics that would have been censored in a conventional drama. The episode presents the story of a group of small-town residents who believe they are being attacked by aliens and which ends up being a metaphor for the unknown. The closing narration on the lethal mixture of fear and hate is, sadly, as topical today as it was back then.
2. “Walking Distance” (Season 1 – Episode 5). An advertising executive stops at a gas station within walking distance of his hometown. Driven by nostalgia, he walks into town and along the streets of his childhood, taking a journey back in time as he reflects on the pressures of adulthood. One of Rod Serling’s most personal episodes and acclaimed for the subtlety with which he blends the human with the fantastic. Referenced by names like J.J. Abrams, who opted for the same philosophy of introducing fantasy genre elements based on everyday issues.
3. “Little Girl Lost” (Season 3 – Episode 26). A married couple are awakened by the whimpering of their little daughter but can’t find her anywhere. They discover that she is trapped inside the wall of the apartment, apparently in another dimension. Modern-day viewers will be reminded of Stranger Things, but this wouldn’t be the first show to be influenced by this episode, since it’s a key reference in the movie Poltergeist. At the time, author Richard Matheson took his inspiration for the episode from when he and his wife couldn’t find their daughter, who had rolled herself up inside her bedroom carpet.
4. “It’s a Good Life” (Season 3 – Episode 8). A 6-year-old boy has terrified an entire town with his mental powers, wielding them to behave like a dictator forcing residents to follow his every whim. This episode and the child with god-like powers inspired the Black Mirror episode “USS Callister“, in which another character also has excessive power over others. It was originally a story by Jerome Bixby that Rod Serling adapted for the series.
5. “Nightmare at 20,000 feet” (Season 5 – Episode 3 ). One of the most emblematic episodes, set on an airplane in which a husband, father and salesman played by William Shatner thinks he sees a strange creature through the window. The episode was an adaptation of a short story by Richard Matheson and manages to create nail-biting tension as the protagonist is incapable of convincing those around him that what he’s seeing actually exists. This episode has been versioned for the new 2019 The Twilight Zone.
The original The Twilight Zone is not available on any platform but can be purchased on Blu-ray.