I started watching The Twilight Zone a couple years ago because all the seasons were free on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Rod Serling was there staring into my soul saying, “you need to watch this.” And since I was too cheap to pay for cable and too impatient to get into a serial at the time, I thought, “hell, why not.”
Cue my addiction to the fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.
Some classic episodes are so engrained in pop culture, I could anticipate their twist outcomes (eg. “Eye of the Beholder,” “Time Enough at Last,” “Where is Everybody?”). They may have been some of my favorites if I hadn’t known what was coming. Part of the fun of The Twilight Zone, for me, are the clever surprise endings. I tend to favor episodes that have those, though some I just love thematically or for their strange absurdity. Also, I’ve watched almost all episodes of the show’s five seasons, but most of my favorites fall in seasons 1 and 2. I didn’t watch them in a strict order, so I like to think I’m not biased, just that the first seasons were most inventive.
Here are my top 10 favorite episodes:
10. “A Thing About Machines” (S2, E4)
GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY. I love this episode mainly for the evil electric razor that slithers down the stairs. How is this not talked about more?? It’s amazing. Also, the murderous self-driving car?! Awesome.
9. “The After Hours” (S1, E34)
Know what’s creepier than a bunch of mannequins hanging out together? BEING a mannequin. I think department store settings are severely underused in weird fiction. Dat uncanny valley.
8. “The Invaders” (S2, E15)
There’s almost no dialogue in this episode. Just a whole lot of screaming and grunting and bunch of tiny fat space men ready to slice your ankles up with knives. Equal parts amusing and uncomfortable. And I was NOT expecting the twist ending.
7. “The Hitch-Hiker” (S1, E16)
I guess this one’s considered a classic. I can see why. Damn you, you creepy hitch-hiking man, just leave the poor lady alone. But wait…oh. OH. OH NOOO! Well at least she didn’t wind up at Bates Motel.
6. “Stopover in a Quiet Town” (S5, E30)
The mystery of this episode is unraveled so cleverly, I narrowed it down to a couple possible explanations by the end, *almost* solving it, but not quite. It was fun and kept me guessing.
5. “Walking Distance” (S1, E5)
What is it with carousels and the symbolism of longing for childhood (lookin’ at you Holden Caulfield)? This episode’s also a classic. Severely relatable, tapping into something in the adult psychology. There’s no twist ending, but it doesn’t need one. It’s also apparently J.J. Abram’s favorite episode.
4. “The Lonely” (S1, E7)
This episode is deep. I mean… deep, deep. Addressing the big questions of artificial intelligence, human-machine relationships, and the very definition of humanity. Man sentenced to isolation. Artificial woman sent to live with him. Man loves robo-woman. Man allowed to come back to civilization, but — oh no! — he can’t leave his robo-love behind, can he? Robo-woman’s face gets ripped off to remind everyone that she’s just a machine inside. How do you feel about it? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
3. “Third from the Sun” (S1, E14)
The twist ending to this one SO GOT ME. I may have flailed around a bit, yelling “what! what!” Call me blind, but I totally did not see it coming. Also, this episode introduced me to the Ericofon and, oh my, someday I shall have one to call my own. Someday.
2. “Mirror Image” (S1, E21)
I read that this episode has roots in Rod Serling’s original inspiration for The Twilight Zone. Seeing one’s doppelganger. Ah, yes. I’ve experienced it. You’ve probably experienced it, too. This episode attempts to provide an explanation. All the while, it gets you thinking, “Is she crazy? Are they crazy? Am I crazy?”
1. “I Sing the Body Electric” (S3, E35)
This is a pretty untraditional episode. On first watch, I somehow failed to notice that it was written by Ray Bradbury. Makes sense now. It’s very Bradbury-esque and that’s probably why it’s my favorite. Like “The Lonely,” it explores the definition of humanity through an artificial woman, this time a nanny built from plug-and-play parts. The children get to decide how she’ll look and what she’ll be like. Though indestructible, the artificial nanny must confront her own version of mortality when the children are all grown up and she has to return to the factory so her parts can be reused. Sorta like Chappie meets Mary Poppins.