Unfamiliar episodes of…The Twilight Zone

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In 1959, CBS premiered a television series that would, during the course of its 156 episodes, leave an undeniable mark on our modern culture. The Twilight Zone remains the gold standard for television science fiction and fantasy. Though there were other sci-fi shows on television at the time, The Twilight Zone used genre conventions to tell stories that reflected our society, politics and our shared humanity (or lack thereof).

Because The Twilight Zone is such a staple of pop culture, there are several stand out episodes that everyone knows: ‘Eye of the Beholder’ or ‘Time Enough at Last’. However, there are other episodes of this brilliant series that may not be as familiar. Below is a list of five off-beat Twilight Zone episodes that exemplify the eclectic themes of the series, while getting at the heart of what made this show so good.

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Walking Distance: A stressed out ad executive drives back to his home town, inadvertently traveling back to his childhood. This episode is a thoughtful meditation on the power nostalgia can have over us as, well as the old adage: you can never go home again. The conversation Martin Sloan has with his dad gets me every time.

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Night of the Meek: A drunken department store Santa gets the chance to give everyone a good Christmas, when he finds a magic bag that delivers whatever people want most. This episode is one of the heartwarming ones. Instead of teaching a lesson through irony, the story allows a downtrodden man to give back to his community.

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The Obsolete Man: In a future society, a librarian is tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the crime of being obsolete. This episode tackles such timeless issues as public execution and human compassion, while telling a tale of a totalitarian society where everything is streamlined, and human life is cheap. The final scene hints at a terrifying cycle which may never be broken.

Once upon a time

Once Upon a Time: Dissatisfied with his life in 1890, a disgruntled janitor uses a time travel helmet to travel to the far-flung future of 1960. This is a wonderful comedic episode that uses its actor, silent film star Buster Keaton, to tell a charming little fable about never being able to enjoy what you have until it’s gone. The Twilight Zone would do other time travel episodes, but this one is a funny nod to a cinematic past with the 1890 segments treated like a silent film.

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The Brain Center at Whipples: The head of a company replaces all of his employees with machines. This episode is just as poignant today as it was when it first aired and in all honesty, there is really very little in this episode that could be seen today as science fiction. In a world where auto workers are being replaced by drilling robots, this episode is less a comment on where we’re headed, but where we are right now.

What are your favorite episodes?

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About author

Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com