“The Twilight Zone” still packs a bizarre punch

%22Twilight+Zone%22+creator+Rod+Serling.

"Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling.

   The majority of Americans can all agree that the twenty-first century is a significant time to be a television fan thanks to popular shows such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” and many more.

   Looking back on dated shows, they may not seem very entertaining or impressive compared to today’s amazing camera work, special effects, and boundary-crossing story lines, but one program in particular stands out. The original “Twilight Zone,” which ran from 1959 to 1964, has a huge influence on television today and deserves to be recognized because it is creative and original even now.

   It was a black-and-white sci-fi anthology series created and hosted by Emmy winning screenwriter, Rod Serling. This show centers around a “fifth dimension” with plots that seamlessly depict elements of drama, fantasy, suspense, horror, and science fiction yet frequently brim with social and political issues. The thought-provoking stories were very ahead of their time and contributed to molding the current American pop culture.

   Mass acceptance and critical acclaim lead “The Twilight Zone” to become the number one decade-defining television series of the 1960s and even to produce two exceptional revivals and a movie. Each plot is compelling in a unique style and the following are the three best episodes. “You’ve just crossed over into…the Twilight Zone!”

#1 “Night Call” (1964): “Night Call” is, without a doubt, the most frightening episode of the fifth season and maybe even the entire run of the series.

   The plot revolves around a lonely elderly woman who is haunted by constant late-night phone calls from an unknown source. During the day, she is accompanied by her housekeeper but at night, she is left alone in her huge, silent mansion. The person on the other line refuses to stop calling and just says “Hello?” over and over again in a disturbing tone. The woman is obviously scared to death yet everyone she confides in believes she’s just a senile old lady.

   It’s a brilliant episode and the ending is one of the most unsettling plot twists the show has ever achieved.

#2 “Walking Distance” (1959): The first season seemed to have the majority of the best episodes and “Walking Distance” is no exception.

   Most everyone has felt nostalgia at some point in their life and this episode captures

a desperate longing for the past perfectly.

   When an advertising executive stops at a gas station to fill his tank, he realizes that his home town is within walking distance so he revisits the town for old times’ sake. While wandering around the city, he notices that he has actually traveled back to 1934 when he was just a boy living with his parents and experiencing the summer of his life. After encountering and unintentionally intimidating his past self and former parents, he eventually gives up on attempting to convince them he’s from the future and just wants his young self to recognize that he should enjoy childhood while it lasts.

   With a great plot, amusing characters, and the memorable theme of looking ahead instead of back all mixed together in one episode, the combination is truly flawless.

#3 “Time Enough At Last” (1959): This is a very cliché pick based on the fact that numerous lists have made “Time Enough At Last” out to be the best and most definitive episode. After watching this episode, the ending may have such a lasting impact, viewers may lose several hours of precious sleep contemplating the imaginative construction and touching portrayal of solitude.

   According to Rod Serling, it is “the story of a man who seeks salvation in the rubble of a ruined world.” The episode follows a timid, antisocial bookworm named Henry Bemis. He works at a bank and will read almost anything he can get his hands on but because his wife, boss, and other key people in his life believe he is foolish for wasting his time with his nose in a novel, they prevent him from reading. He is so desperate for quiet time with a book that during his lunch break, he locks himself in a vault where he can exhibit his passion undisturbed. Soon after, an h-bomb from a nuclear war destroys the entire city and every living being within. But he survives because he was inside the vault.

   He is deserted, but soon finds the ruins of the town’s public library and is left with the company of thousands of books in the mass destruction of a once tireless city. Viewers can’t really help but feel sorry for the main character before and after the bomb’s detonation because his only wish is to read in peace, yet he is always deprived of his ambitions and once he has what he yearns for, he is completely alone.

   The classic ending is ironic, melancholy, and mind blowing simultaneously. This episode is powerful because it is depressing and lonely, yet powerful and enduring.