The Twilight Zone Hall of Fame

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@Takoma11 Hello, I noticed that you've been pretty inactive here so far, so just checking in to make sure you're still with us
I'm fine. Just a little slow getting going, you know?





Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?, Season 2, Episode 28, 1961

Two state troopers (John Archer and Morgan Jones) are called out during a snowstorm to investigate a report of an unidentified flying object. Realizing that something has crashed into a pond and then made its way to a nearby diner, the troopers enter to find that a busload of passengers are holed up in the restaurant. But while the bus driver (William Kendis) remembers having 6 passengers on board, there are 7 people in the diner . . .

This is, like many episodes in the series, a classic.

From a plot/thematic point of view, this one is like a much lighter retread of what happens in Monsters are Due on Maple Street. The main difference is that the group trying to find the "monster" is a crew of strangers, but we once again see a collection of people attempting to suss out who among them doesn't belong. While two couples would seem to be out of the running, all of a sudden a young woman remembers her husband having a mole that seems to have disappeared. There are also some very familiar Twilight Zone alien indicators, like the power in the diner flickering, or the jukebox turning itself on and off.

The two characters that draw the most suspicion are a quiet businessman named Ross (John Hoyt) and a loud, outlandish man named Avery (Jack Elam, in a delightfully over-the-top performance). But with nothing but minor suspicions--this one doesn't have any ID, that one no one seems to remember being on the bus--the episode becomes a ticking clock. Once a nearby bridge is repaired, all of the people in the diner will be free to go their own way.

This episode ends with something of a double hit. First, in a very offhand way, we learn that the bridge was not properly repaired, and both the troopers and the busload of passengers has plummeted to their deaths. This is one way in which the more subdued performances from everyone except Elam turns into a strength for the episode. A little group of average, seemingly nice people have just died a terrible death. The second one-two punch is learning that Ross was, in fact, the alien infiltrator, only to have the man running the diner (Barney Phillips) reveal that he is also an alien from a different planet and that his people will be the ones taking over the Earth. It's a fun touch that the two "alien body" differences mentioned (an extra eye and an extra limb) both turn out to be real.

I like this episode. My one complaint is that I've always wished they had found a better way to explain why the passengers never saw each other. Look, I've been on many bus rides in bad weather and/or at night. You might not see everyone on the bus, but how do you avoid seeing anyone?! This is the one point of this episode that always nags at me a bit. The explanation given--that they all boarded and exited the bus in the driving snow--doesn't quite do it for me.

Solid, fun episode.






A Game of Pool, Season 3, Episode 5, 1961

SPOILERS, PUPS!

A pool player named Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman) bemoans the fact that he'll never get to match up with legendary player "Fats" Brown (Jonathan Winters). Suddenly, Brown appears and agrees to play a game against Cardiff with high stakes: win or die. But winning may not be the triumph Cardiff imagines it will be . . .

This is an episode that tells you right up front what it's about, and then you mainly get to enjoy the journey there.

Klugman, formerly the despairing lead in A Passage for Trumpet, is good here as a man who is so focused on being the best that he cannot absorb what Brown is telling him. But it's Winters, as Brown, who gets most of the interesting little moments.

Brown, of course, has tired of his role as "the best". While on the one hand he clearly baits Cardiff into their fateful match, he also gives him ample warnings about what it might mean to win. He cautions Cardiff about a life spent in a dark pool hall, and several times asks Cardiff to think about the implications of winning. These moments where Brown offers Cardiff an out add to the tragedy of Cardiff's actions.

I did wonder, several times, if Brown was meant to be throwing the game, but if throwing the game was an option, you'd think Brown would have escaped his afterlife gig long ago. Plus Cardiff winning the game on his own merit and Brown actually trying his best to win gives more depth to the emotional arc of Brown's character: he both wants to win and clearly hopes he might lose.

As we discussed before in this thread, the moral here is very straightforward. When you're number one, everyone will come gunning for you. There's also clearly a message about the cost of myopically pursuing greatness for the sake of prestige and pride.

An enjoyable episode anchored by two very solid performances.






It's a Good Life, Season 3, Episode 8, 1961

SPOILERS, DUMPLINGS!

In a small town that Serling's ominous introduction tells us used to be in Ohio, we meet Anthony Fremont (Billy Mumy). Anthony is psychic, telekinetic, and has a whole host of other powers that he uses to control and punish the people and creatures around him. All of the people in the town walk around with smiles on their face, desperately telling themselves and Anthony that his domination over them is a good thing. A real good thing.

For me, this may be one of the most iconic episodes of all time. I'm sure most people in this thread will have seen the parody from The Simpsons, and this is also the rare episode without a twist. As Serling says at the end, this was just a glimpse at something truly terrible.

Many episodes of this show straddle the line between sci-fi and horror, but to me this is firmly in the latter camp. In fact, this episode is a real testament to just how much can be done through dialogue and implication. Anthony creates a three-headed gopher, and then when he grows bored with it he "makes it dead". A man who thought bad thoughts about Anthony's changes to the town, well, Anthony "put him on fire." An aunt who dared to sing--something Anthony abhors--is essentially lobotomized. Anthony uses and abuses people and animals with no sense of shame or regret.

In terms of the general theme and the emotions it evokes as a viewer, probably everyone has had an experience--either a family dinner or a workplace meeting--where they just literally had to grin and bear it. In a broader historical sense, there have been plenty of groups who have had to put a smile on their face and keep any sign of criticism or condemnation out of sight. It's an experience that is at once personal and universal, and it's a great emotional foundation for an episode.

Cloris Leachman and John Larch are solid as Anthony's distraught parents, forced to wish the worst thing for a parent: that something or someone will kill their child. Don Keefer has a memorable role as a man who commits suicide via the "Happy Birthday" song, putting himself in Anthony's cross-hairs in the hopes that someone will step up and put their suffering to an end. The futility of his sacrifice---and the uncertain nature of his punishment--is probably the most horrific moment of the film.

My only minor, VERY MINOR, critique is that I think it's a little bit of a shame that the nature of the story means getting no real honest conversations between adults. There's half of a line of dialogue here or there, but I would have loved a real conversation between Anthony's parents. That said, the fact that the people in the town can hardly think--much less speak--their real emotions and thoughts is a powerful part of the terror of the story.

A great little episode.




In 10th grade I had an English class where the teacher pretty much only showed movies (we called it "Mr. T.'s Movie Class").

I'm not saying he was a lazy teacher, but he'd usually shut the lights off and nap while the film ran until the end of the class. Needless to say, as students we loved the class and Mr. T. - no work, just watch movies!

(We were in for a rude awakening in Junior year when our next English teacher made us study classic literature, compose essays, and do homework!)

Anyway, the only "homework" Mr. T. gave us was a request to read Xeroxed copies of Rod Serling stories (no assignments attached, just briefly discuss them before the movie in the next class)! I remember one of them was "It's a Good Life" - which was a lot more graphic in written form (describing the mutated animals little Anthony would create & what he did to people). So I probably read the story before seeing the episode.




A Nice Place to Visit
Season 1 Episode 28

I don't know if this is the best Twilight Zone episode of all time, but for me, it's sure the funnest!

Unlike other TZ episodes this one really makes me think 'what would I do' if I was in Rocky's shoes.

If this in hell, then hell ya!...I mean hot damn Rocky gets fancy digs, stylish clothes (though he has no taste!) he gets booze, he's gets cars, gambling, endless night life and dames! Dames o'plenty. I believe his entourage is made up of no less than six dolls. And..he's got Pip, the happy to serve valet in the gleaming white suit who comes compete with his own P I P phone hotline.

Even in Jr high, this episode was like a fantasy come true. Oh...of course there's a catch it's the Twilight Zone and that catch to is fun to think about. I mean just what will Rocky's future be in the afterlife?

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A Nice Place to Visit
Season 1 Episode 28

I don't know if this is the best Twilight Zone episode of all time, but for me, it's sure the funnest!

Unlike other TZ episodes this one really makes me think 'what would I do' if I was in Rocky's shoes.

If this in hell, then hell ya!...I mean hot damn Rocky gets fancy digs, stylish clothes (though he has no taste!) he gets booze, he's gets cars, gambling, endless night life and dames! Dames o'plenty. I believe his entourage is made up of no less than six dolls. And..he's got Pip, the happy to serve valet in the gleaming white suit who comes compete with his own P I P phone hotline.

Even in Jr high, this episode was like a fantasy come true. Oh...of course there's a catch it's the Twilight Zone and that catch to is fun to think about. I mean just what will Rocky's future be in the afterlife?

As I said in a previous post, Rocky's problem is his lack of imagination & creativity (which is obvious: he's a hood who never did anything good with his life).

And MAYBE (just maybe) that's part of the message - especially after it's revealed by Pip that Rocky can "wish" for anything, even the unexpected, or losing, or randomness, or pain or whatever... but Rocky never learned how to view life from the perspective that we can't truly appreciate good to its fullest extent without knowing bad, and that one of the greatest senses of fulfillment comes from doing good for others, not for reward but for the sheer goodness of it (look to the message in the movie Groundhog Day!)... and that's because his life was a self-centered & ego-centric one.

The simple message of "be careful what you wish for" or "all that glitters is not gold" is on the surface, but a deeper message may lie beneath = we may all have the ability to create our own heavens & hells no matter where we are depending on how we learn to think & perceive.





The Midnight Sun, Season 3, Episode 10, 1961

SPOILERS, SNUGGLEBUGS!

Norma (Lois Nettleton) is an artist living in New York City, which has been transformed into a sweltering inferno due to the Earth becoming dislodged in its orbit. With the City abandoned by those trying to eke out a few more days of survival in cooler locations, Norma is left along with her landlady, Mrs. Bronson (Betty Garde). Norma turns to her art to help her cope, but there may be more dangers than the rising temperatures.

This is one of my personal favorite episodes, and I was both happy to see it nominated by someone else and a little jealous that I didn't get to snap it up. Like many of the best episodes, it's even more enjoyable and rewarding on a rewatch.

Just speaking personally, I am NOT a hot weather person. This has always been the case for me, but from 2010-2016, I lived in a house with no air conditioning and I came to dread the two or three weeks in late July/early August where it would be unbearably hot. You wake up, sweating, and things only get more miserable from there. So the visceral reality of being too hot and not being able to do anything about it is a little slice of personal misery that I can relate to.

As with many great disaster movies, this episode works the idea of the external danger (ie the unrelenting heat and light) and a human threat in the form of a man who breaks into Norma's apartment. I find both dangers to be thrilling and frightening in this episode. The actors do a great job of looking absolutely miserable and overheated. The intruder (Tom Reese), who at first is just a set of footsteps and a voice calling from behind Norma's door is scary. Society's structures have fallen away, and there are no police to come and help the women, nor are there any neighbors to respond to their need. The man protests that he's a "good man" and not really someone who breaks into houses, but that doesn't stop him from taking the last of Norma's water (including pouring some of it over his head AND he leaves the fridge door open!). He personifies desperation, and Norma and Mrs. Bronson are not strong enough to fight back.

My favorite thing about this episode, though, is the relationship between art and trauma/hardship. Norma obsessively paints the midnight sun, a figure that looms monstrously in the center of her paintings. But when Mrs. Bronson shows distress at seeing this and asks Norma to paint something cool, Norma paints her a waterfall. I love the dual use of art in processing pain: both as a way to confront what is frightening and as a way to envision an escape. I cannot put into words the way that I feel when the episode gets to the part where shots of sweat running down Norma's face are intercut with shots of the paint on Norma's paintings melting down the canvas. As her art distorts and melts, Norma's own mind finally breaks.

As for the twist--the fact that Norma is having a fever dream and in reality the Earth is moving away from the sun into cold and dark--it is beautifully foreshadowed earlier in the episode. One of the first things Norma says to Mrs. Bronson is that she keeps thinking she'll wake up and it will be cool and dark, and that the wind will be blowing. In the background of the "real" scene in the apartment, you can just see a painting with a large sun, possibly in this reality a coping mechanism for the encroaching darkness and eternal winter.

Anyway, I love everything about this episode and it falls into that "study of human behavior" subgenre of the Twilight Zone that I really enjoy.




And MAYBE (just maybe) that's part of the message - especially after it's revealed by Pip that Rocky can "wish" for anything, even the unexpected, or losing, or randomness, or pain or whatever... but Rocky never learned how to view life from the perspective that we can't truly appreciate good to its fullest extent without knowing bad, and that's because his life was a self-centered & ego-centric one
I have a slightly different take on the character. I agree that Rocky is very self-centered, but I think that it manifests itself in a "me vs them" mentality. He survives and thrives on friction with others. There always has to be a reason to be angry at someone else, or imagine that he deserves something and they are in his way. I have students like this sometimes---they will literally find a way that them stealing or hitting someone else is somehow not THEIR fault.

Without that friction, Rocky can't function. It's why he's so distressed even when Pip offers to give him a chance to be caught. He protests "but I'd know." I mean, by the end he's even willing to go to Hell just to experience some pushback.

And because his pursuits have been purely hedonistic and material (he wants money and pretty women, but not, for example, a woman he'd actually find interesting or love), there's no joy to be had when those superficial boxes are ticked.



As I said in a previous post, Rocky's problem is his lack of imagination & creativity (which is obvious: he's a hood who never did anything good with his life).

And MAYBE (just maybe) that's part of the message - especially after it's revealed by Pip that Rocky can "wish" for anything, even the unexpected, or losing, or randomness, or pain or whatever... but Rocky never learned how to view life from the perspective that we can't truly appreciate good to its fullest extent without knowing bad, and that one of the greatest senses of fulfillment comes from doing good for others, not for reward but for the sheer goodness of it (look to the message in the movie Groundhog Day!)... and that's because his life was a self-centered & ego-centric one.

The simple message of "be careful what you wish for" or "all that glitters is not gold" is on the surface, but a deeper message may lie beneath = we may all have the ability to create our own heavens & hells no matter where we are depending on how we learn to think & perceive.
I seen your previous post where you said that, I don't know if you've seen it recently but there's two brief moments that seem to suggest Rocky won't get everything he wants even if he does use his imagination.

During the middle of the episode he returns to his apartment with three brunettes and he's in a happy party mood. He tells them to wait in the bedroom and he opens the bedroom door and they all go in. He turns and talks to Pip, but then opens the bedroom door and looks in and does a double take, then he looks bewildered. We the viewer never find out why. This reminded me of the Dwarf scene in Solaris.

So what did Rocky see when he reopened the bedroom door?
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So what did Rocky see when he reopened the bedroom door?
I'm torn between thinking that he sees some naughty sexual activity happening OR that they are just hanging out on the bed but this is the first inkling that he's no longer as turned on by having these women at his beck and call, and he's bewildered by his lack of arousal.

This is more explicit later when one of the women suggestively asks if there's "anything else" she can do for him and after a moment's pause he kicks her out.



I'm torn between thinking that he sees some naughty sexual activity happening OR that they are just hanging out on the bed but this is the first inkling that he's no longer as turned on by having these women at his beck and call, and he's bewildered by his lack of arousal.

This is more explicit later when one of the women suggestively asks if there's "anything else" she can do for him and after a moment's pause he kicks her out.
I like your ideas better than mine. But I think he just looks in and they are gone, in the same way the table disappears and a pool table appears in his place. Of course we'll never know



To @Takoma11 and @Citizen Rules, this is the brilliance of the Twilight Zone - it almost always made people think and the fact that we can come away with various interpretations, analysis, introspection & endless discussion shows what a genius Serling and the other writers (along with the actors) were!



We may have to agree to disagree on this one too. "The Midnight Sun" has never been one of my favorite episodes. I don't dislike the episode, but I just never felt that it had a Twilight Zone "feel" to it.
Since that episode is one of my nominations, it looks like I'm going to kick you out of this HoF to boost its chances of winning

jk

Sorry about that, but if history is any indication, it will probably win because of my low opinion of it.
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I'd say Time Enough at Last is quintessential Twilight Zone...but I totally can see how you could feel that way about it. I haven't rewatched it yet for this HoF...but I remember disliking Burgess Meredith's character as being kind of a wormy little whiner. It is a cruel ending, but he kind of deserves his fate.

Strange that you would like this episode so much as it is a very negative story with an unhappy ending. It just doesn't seem like your kind of episode.

I guess I'll have to watch Time Enough at Last, next and see how I feel about it.

If "Time Enough at Last" were a movie, or even just an episode of a different TV show, you're probably right that I wouldn't like it, but the thing about "The Twilight Zone" is that they have a kind of a "feel" to them. They have something I like to call a "Wow moment". That's the moment that something happens, and your brain just says "Oh, wow, I didn't see that coming. ". And this episode has one of the best "Wow moments" of the series.



I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. It's one of my favorite episodes.
I know I'm in the minority here, but it's just honestly how I feel about the episode.

That's okay. You're entitled to your opinion, and nobody's opinion is ever wrong.





The Invaders, Season 2, Episode 15, 1961

SPOILERS, DARLING MUSKRATS!

A woman (Agnes Moorehead) living along in a very rural farmhouse must fight for her life when an alien spaceship lands on her roof.

Oh, hey, big surprise everyone! I really like this episode that I nominated!

It's been just long enough that I cannot say with certainty, but this is either the first episode of the show that I saw as a kid or it was one of the very first. It is certainly the first episode that I remember seeing. And friends, this 23 minutes of television blew my mind.


I was a kid when I first saw "The Invaders" many years ago, and it scared the he!! out of me. For years, when my parents went out, I was afraid to be alone in the house.



I was a kid when I first saw "The Invaders" many years ago, and it scared the he!! out of me. For years, when my parents went out, I was afraid to be alone in the house.
I found this one too scary when I was a kid too!

Ones that truly scared me as a kid: the one with Cliff Robertson and the dummy.

I don't know what it was about dummies coming to life, but the concept scared the heck out of me - and this episode, I will venture to say, traumatized me. However old I was when I first saw it... I should not have watched it!

(Because the concept was the same, I avoided the movie Magic (1978) with Anthony Hopkins for a long while even though it came out when I was quite a bit older.)

There was another with a dummy (with Jackie Cooper)... I probably saw it much later and it didn't scare me at all. And then there was the one with "Talking Tina" and "Kojak" - the concept was still a bit scary to me.

Another that scared the willies out of me as a kid was the one with the old lady getting calls on her phone from her dead husband! That one made me scared to answer the phone!





Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?, Season 2, Episode 28, 1961

Two state troopers (John Archer and Morgan Jones) are called out during a snowstorm to investigate a report of an unidentified flying object. Realizing that something has crashed into a pond and then made its way to a nearby diner, the troopers enter to find that a busload of passengers are holed up in the restaurant. But while the bus driver (William Kendis) remembers having 6 passengers on board, there are 7 people in the diner . . .

This is, like many episodes in the series, a classic.

I like this episode. My one complaint is that I've always wished they had found a better way to explain why the passengers never saw each other. Look, I've been on many bus rides in bad weather and/or at night. You might not see everyone on the bus, but how do you avoid seeing anyone?! This is the one point of this episode that always nags at me a bit. The explanation given--that they all boarded and exited the bus in the driving snow--doesn't quite do it for me.

Solid, fun episode.


I thought of this too, but I just consider it one of those plot holes where you have to suspend your disbelief to allow it to make sense.