The Other Twlilight

“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.”

Rod SerlingA few days ago on Twitter, J.C. Hutchins asked people for their favorite Twilight Zone episode. Along with the list of usual suspects people mentioned (To Serve Man, Living Doll, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and so on…) I threw my own personal favorite into the ring: George Clayton Johnson’s Nothing in the Dark. And, like anything, picking your favorite Twilight Zone is an ad hoc exercise in psychological analysis.

But the truth is that the Twilight Zone is one of those rare things, where it’s virtually impossible to pick one single episode as your favorite… impossible to single out the one that’s the best. The show contributed far too many classics to the canon. There are a few odd clunkers in there, to be sure (and the less said about the ill-conceived, ill-fated feature film from the 80’s, the better). But the show — and it’s creator and host, Rod Serling — occupy a well-deserved place in Television history.

When I was a kid, the Twilight Zone was on TV every single day. It came on at noon and then again at midnight, two episodes back to back. And holidays typically saw at least one local station running a 24 hour marathon (regrettably, this last tradition seems to be waning as cable takes over for the local stations).

I probably started watching the show with my older brother Scott. But we were all fans on one level or another. It wasn’t uncommon for someone in our house to hum the tell-tale theme (“Do do doo doo, do do doo doo…”) to indicate when something strange was going on. As a matter of fact, my mother did this on Facebook a few days ago.

I don’t remember what the first episode I watched was, but I was hooked from the very beginning. When I was out of school during the summer, it was part of my daily ritual to watch the show while I ate lunch. Later that night, already a confirmed night owl, I would stay up and watch the midnight round of shows as well. This went on well into high school and beyond. If they were still on, I would do it now.

There's the signpost up ahead...I didn’t know it at the time — in fact, I wouldn’t realize it for at least a decade into my own writing career — but the Twilight Zone served as my first lessons in storytelling. I don’t think there’s a story I’ve written that doesn’t owe some debt to the show, either in pacing, theme, or character. And I know I’m not the only writer who would say this (and say it proudly).

As the current “Twilight” offers opportunities for a new generation to identify with the strange, the outcast and the darkness… so too did Rod Serling open up a doorway to another world, welcoming permanent residence to this skinny, slightly off-kilter kid.

And, without looking back, I gladly stepped through.

That was over twenty-five years ago, but I still am proud to consider myself a citizen . . . of the Twilight Zone.


While I was writing this post, I was disappointed to find that episodes are not available for instant viewing through Netflix. Someone really needs to get that fixed as soon as possible.

However, my faith was restored when I discovered that Wikipedia entries for individual episodes include a transcription of both the opening and closing narration by Mr. Serling. This amazes and delights me.

Once again, I find that I am not alone.

5 thoughts on “The Other Twlilight

  1. While others look forward to New Year’s eve for the parties and the celebrating… I look forward to the Twilight Zone marathon on Syfy channel.

    When I was a youngin… it was Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows, Star Trek, Wild Wild West and the ever so cheezy Lost in Space!

    Yep, what can I say?

  2. Sounds like we were watching the same TV set.

    Although… I’ve never seen Dark Shadows, but it’s always been on my list of “Gee, I ought to watch that sometime.”

    I heard a commentator recently comparing Dark Shadows to the new Twilight series, discussing how they shared the same soap opera level vampire angst — also along with True Blood. Not sure I buy that, but…

    I forgot SyFy (sure wish they were still SciFi, but that’s a topic for another post) did a marathon. I’m hoping there’ll be one somewhere this weekend.

  3. Haha, I was going to go off on a Syfy vs SciFi rant in my original comment and thought better of it. I guess we’re of the same opinion on that!

  4. Hah. Fun that you chose that one. I directed “Nothing in the Dark” for a Twilight Zone Theatre Festival a few years back. We did the script verbatim, and it brought tears to people’s eyes. It’s really well written for a stage play, actually. Three actors, one small room….
    The only change, actually, was that she didn’t turn into her young self at the end. I kind of liked it better that way, anyhow.

  5. Dan: Boy I would have loved to have seen that. And, yeah, I agree about the age shift. It works on the episode but I like the poignancy of it more in your stage version.

    Peg: It’s a long overdue rant, to be sure.

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