Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it
1. Season one of The Twilight Zone is available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. If you don’t have access to any of those services, most of the episodes are also on YouTube. You could be watching it right now.
2. Like most of us, I had seen the odd episode of The Twilight Zone when I was a kid. I enjoyed most of what I saw, but I never didn’t see an entire season beginning to end. Even though this is an anthology show, watching the first season reveals some overarching themes. It also gives us an interesting insight into what scared us in 1959.
The answer? Space travel. A shocking amount of episodes feature space travel as the catalyst for something terrible happening. Our travel into space awakens malevolent forces that put Earth in danger. Or the human mind cracks under the strain of space travel. Or we travel to a distance asteroid (it’s always an asteroid for some reason, never a planet) and meet a race of creatures that seems friendly at first, but then we learn their true intentions. Both my favorite episode of the season (And When the Sky Was Opened) and my least favorite episode (I Shot an Arrow Into the Air) are about space travel.
3. Episode 31 The Chaser is even more creepy and effective if you imagine the potion maker is an elderly Harry Potter. Which is not difficult.
4. The last decade has seen a clear uptick in the quality of episodic television. One commonly sited reason is shorter seasons. When a season has only twelve or thirteen episodes, sometimes even less (looking at you Breaking Bad), the creative team can spend more time getting each episode right. I think there is something to that theory. It’s amazing then to consider that season one of the Twilight Zone is thirty-six episodes long.
5. The Twilight Zone is an interesting look at where television could have gone. Sure, it’s not perfect. Corners were cut at times. Some of the dialogue is mighty clunky. But it’s TV that sought to challenge its audience rather than comfort them (see People Are Alike All Over). It wasn’t afraid to combine strong story and social commentary (see The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street). It took cliches like ‘Love conquers all’ and showed us why they are not true (see Long Live Walter Jameson). That is television’s potential. The Twilight Zone may not always accomplish its lofty goals, but it does point the way toward an unmapped territory of artistic possibilities.
Where to start: The first episode is a bit of a dud. If you are new to the Twilight Zone, I recommend starting with one of these fine episodes: One for the Angels, Walking Distance, Time Enough at Last, And When the Sky Was Opened, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, or People Are Alike All Over.