Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Twilight Zone, The

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US tv series (1959-1964). Cayuga Productions/CBS. Pr William Froug, Herbert Hirschman, Buck Houghton. Exec pr Rod Serling. Dir Justus Addiss and many others. Writers/based on stories by Charles Beaumont, Ambrose Bierce, Jerome Bixby, Ray Bradbury, John Collier, Damon Knight, Richard Matheson, Rod Serling, Henry Slesar, Manly Wade Wellman and many others. Comics adaptation The Twilight Zone * (92 issues 1961-1972) from Dell/Gold Key/Whitman Comics. Starring Charles Aidman, Edward Andrews, Martin Balsam, Richard Basehart, Orson Bean, Shelly Berman, Ann Blyth, Charles Bronson, Carol Burnett, Sebastian Cabot, Art Carney, John Carradine, Jean Carson, James Coburn, Jackie Cooper, Wally Cox, Patricia Crowley, Bob Cummings, Suzanne Cupito, James Daly, Richard Deacon, John Dehner, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Ivan Dixon, Howard Duff, Dan Duryea, Buddy Ebsen, Peter Falk, Anne Francis, Jonathan Harris, Richard Haydn, Pat Hingle, Earl Holliman, Sterling Holloway, Dennis Hopper, Dean Jagger, Buster Keaton, Phyllis Kirk, Jack Klugman, Martin Landau, Mary LaRoche, Cloris Leachman, Ida Lupino, Nancy Malone, Jean Marsh, Ross Martin, Strother Martin, Lee Marvin, Burgess Meredith, Kevin McCarthy, Doug McClure, Roddy McDowall, Gary Merrill, Vera Miles, Martin Milner, Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Howard Morris, Billy Mumy, Lois Nettleton, Julie Newmar, Barbara Nichols, Susan Oliver, J Pat O'Malley, Suzy Parker, Nehemiah Persoff, Donald Pleasence, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, Cliff Robertson, Mickey Rooney, Janice Rule, Albert Salmi, Telly Savalas, Robert Sterling, Everett Sloane, Inger Stevens, Warren Stevens, Dean Stockwell, Harold J Stone, Rod Taylor, Jack Warden, David Wayne, Dennis Weaver, Fritz Weaver, Jack Weston, James Whitmore, William Windom, Jonathan Winters, Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Dick York, Gig Young. 137 30min episodes (plus one drawn from another source and forced into the format), 18 60min episodes. B/w.

A perennial winner on critics' lists of the best-ever tv series, TWZ was framed in the Fifth Dimension, where anything could happen and usually did. The brainchild of Serling, who contributed 89 of the stories aired, each episode usually had a twist ending. For example, in "Escape Clause" David Wayne makes a Pact with the Devil to become immortal (see Immortality) and then kills someone for kicks, figuring he can escape death in the electric chair. He escapes, all right, but by being sentenced to life imprisonment, a decidedly unpleasant penalty for someone who will live forever: he should have Read the Small Print.

Time Travel was a common theme, as in "A Stop at Willoughby", where a man flees into the past to escape the pressures of his busy life, and "The Odyssey of Flight 33", featuring an airliner somehow stuck in time. Other episodes are decidedly surreal, such as "A World of Difference", where an actor discovers his life has become a movie and he is no more than a character on a set. Others of the countless fantasy elements featured include a Genie whose seemingly generous granting of Wishes belies his evil nature, a woman who discovers she is really a department-store mannequin, and an immortal college professor who can lecture reliably on history because he has actually lived through the events concerned. Further superior episodes with strong fantasy interest were: "The Hitch-Hiker", "Night of the Meek", "In Praise of Pip", "Twenty-Two" and "The Howling Man".

What set this series apart from others of its ilk was the high quality of the stories and a relatively low dependence on spfx – indeed, many episodes had no spfx at all but relied instead on the power of imagination. In a medium that generally treats attention spans as an endangered species, TWZ proved a worthy exception. The series much later spawned the theatrical release Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and a follow-up tv series, The New Twilight Zone (1985-1988), which ran for two seasons on CBS and a third which was syndicated. Three of the movie's four segments were remakes of series scripts, but only four of over 150 segments of the new tv series derived from the original series. The Twilight Zone – Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994 tvm) was an anthology movie featuring one unproduced Serling teleplay and one adaptation of an unproduced story scripted by Richard Matheson. [BC]

Alan Brennert has noted that The New Twilight Zone is misnamed: it was always called The Twilight Zone.


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.