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July 4, 2011

Midnight in The Twilight Zone - An Independence Day Top 10

Might as well face it, I'm addicted to lists.  I KNOW.  But you know what? It's the 4th of July...and the SyFy Network, in a rare brilliant move, has been doing a Twilight Zone marathon all day.  THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE FOUGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE TO GAIN!!!!
In the midst of the awesomeness, a few fine Facebook finks started listing off their Top 10 favorite Twilight Zone episodes...and I wanted to too.  So, off the top of my head - and armed with the knowledge that I still haven't seen enough episodes of the best series ever - I came up with 10 favorites and ranked them and am now gonna share them here.  Let's rock.

(By the way, all of these episodes are on Netflix Instant Watch, and I've been told most of the series' eps are available on YouTube. Happy hunting!)

Number 10 - Dust (January 6, 1961; Season 2, Episode 12)
When I started my rarely revisited Midnight in The Twilight Zone series a while back, Dust was the first episode I covered.  It's never been recognized as one of the classics of the series, but I've always found it to be an interesting take on how we cope with death.  Were it not for a dose of fate late in the episode, this story of a Old West town on the day of a hanging wouldn't even make the TZ...but that's the beauty of some of Serling's best stories.

Number 9 - Time Enough At Last (November 20, 1959; Season 1, Episode 8)
Burgess Meredith, who appeared in plenty of Twilight Zone eps, gives his most memorable performance in this classic.  I think we can all relate to the character who really just wants time alone to enjoy their hobbies, and this episode reminds us that what we want isn't always what is best for us...or anyone else. 

Number 8 - Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up? (May 26, 1961; Season 2, Episode 28
Many of my favorite TZ episodes seem to have a common theme of people being pitted against each other and letting human nature take over.  Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up? gives us 9 characters in a diner...and then tells us one of them is a Martian.  The rest is up to them.  With one of the series' best twists, this is a pretty simple episode that keeps me grinning every time.

Number 7 - Eye of the Beholder (November 11, 1960; Season 2, Episode 6)
I gotta admit, at this point it's impossible for me to see this episode without starting to laugh about the Saturday Night Live spoof of it that featured Pamela Anderson.  But when judged on its own accord, this might be the series' most well put together episode from a visual standpoint.  I used to think the reveal came a little too early in this episode, but the extra discussion of the story's message adds to the impact on the viewer.

Number 6 - Mirror Image (February 26, 1960; Season 1, Episode 21)
Vera Miles is seeing double in this episode of The Zone, which I've always thought was a little more abstract than many of its counterparts.  While many of the series' sci-fi turns involved invaders or time travel, Mirror Image deals with something a little more relative, and leaves a lasting impression on the open mind.

Number 5 - The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (March 4, 1960; Season 1, Episode 22)
When I was in high school, our Language Arts teacher would have us read these short plays in class and act them out in the 12 foot by 12 foot class room.  It was juvenile, but hey - so's high school.  Anyway, one of the plays was about a neighborhood in which the neighbors all decide a new person on the block is odd and get mobby and start throwing stones.  I don't remember the full story, all I really remember is that I played the neighbor who finally stood up at the embattled house and shouted "Throw the next stone at me neighbors, I live here too!"  I botched the line the first time, but (with prompting) I got an ovation on the second - and it was kinda a great moment that reminded me that standing against the crowd is often a good thing.  Seriously, it was one of the few moments in school that I actually remember teaching me something.  That teacher deserves a plaque or something.

Anyway, The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street kinda covers a similar situation - but ponders what might happen if there's no one who will stand up and shout something sensible.  Perhaps the series' most thought provoking tale.

Number 4 - Spur of the Moment (February 21, 1964; Season 5, Episode 21)
A young woman is tormented by the haunting vision above in one of the best episodes of the latter seasons.  This shrieking woman might be the most haunting vision from the whole series to me, and the Richard Matheson penned episode is another great reminder of how our decisions can haunt us.

Number 3 - To Serve Man (March 2, 1962; Season 3, Episode 24)
Though it's only Number 3 on my list, this is probably the one episode I'd pick if I had to show someone who'd never seen the show what The Zone is all about.  It's got aliens, it's got the twist, it's got boatloads of narration.  It's also got Richard "Jaws" Kiel, which is an outlier, but is awesome.  Oh, and it's so good that it's still randomly getting mentioned in stuff like Madagascar.  That's just random, but it proves something.  To Serve Man = Classic.


Number 2 - Nothing in the Dark (January 5, 1962; Season 3, Episode 16)
This story of an old woman who's terrified of death and a young injured policeman (played by a young Robert Redford!) is probably the one Twilight Zone episode that completely threw me for a loop when I first saw it.  I'm not even sure what I was thinking the ending would be, but then it happened - and I was like Sixth Sense shocked.  Wasn't until I saw it a second time that I even caught the final discussion (which changed the tone of the episode completely), because I was too busy arguing how the heck they could do that. (Who was I arguing with, you ask? Myself.  I was arguing with myself. It tricked me THAT well.)

Number 1 - The Howling Man (November 4, 1960; Season 2, Episode 5)
It's one of the more out-of-place and uncharacteristic episodes of the series, but this cautionary tale about the evils in our world has my heart every time.  The three leads give such passionate performances that it's easy to get caught up, and the big reveal - which is followed by a sly final touch - is one of my favorite images in the world.  I've already written about this one once, but it bears repeating that this is one of my favorite horror stories ever.

2 comments:

Dis n Dos - WYSIWYG said...

Happy 4th fellow addict to lists... Awesome blog! Love it

Emily said...

Love it! I once stayed up 32 hours to watch one of the Twilight Marathons because I am indeed THAT big of a nerd. And funny, in 8th grade, we also had The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street in play form and our assignment was to write an epilogue to it.

You hit a lot of my favorites here. I'd name more, but I'm not great with the titles and would rather not give mini synopses of every one. So so long as you have Time Enough At Last, we'll just say this list is perfect.