Best of the Zone

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With a Twilight Zone marathon on today on the MeToo network (sorry, only Chicago, Milwaukee, and South Bend), I started thinking of my favorite episodes from this landmark series. Since I discovered The Twilight Zone as a child, watching it with my Dad, I have been an avid fan, catching the same episodes over and over. While there were a few duds through its five year run, the classic ones still rank as the best that television has ever produced. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, trying to avoid some of the more obvious choices. So, here we go…

My Top 10 episodes of The Twilight Zone:

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10. The Whole Truth written by Rod Serling

One of only six episodes to be shot not on film but videotape, “The Whole Truth” resolves around a used car salesman that is forced to be honest whilst under a spell. Predictably, his car sells begin to suffer. Sound familiar? The plot was reused in the Jim Carrey vehicle, Liar Liar. To be honest, the episode isn’t well executed, but it still ranks high with me for sentimental reasons. I saw it on my grandmother’s old TV set in Sledge, MS.

The Hunt

9. The Hunt written by Earl Hamner Jr.

“The Hunt” tells the story of what happens after an old man and his dog drown during a hunting trip and find themselves in the afterlife, walking down a dirt road in search of the Gates of Heaven. When the old man comes up to a gatekeeper, he is told that he is welcome to enter “Heaven,” but that he must leave behind his dog. Not accepting these terms, the old man walks up farther up the road, where he encounters a second gatekeeper. This time, the gatekeeper turns out to be an angel who accepts both the old man and the old man’s best friend, telling them “A man, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But not even the Devil can fool a dog.” The Hunt, which was written by the same man who created The Waltons, remains special to me because the old man reminds me of my own grandfather and the love he had for his hunting dogs.

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8. Stopover in a Quiet Town written by Earl Hamner Jr.

“Stopover” is about a married couple who on their way home from a party, black out and find themselves waking up in an unfamiliar house. The couple begin exploring the house and neighborhood, only to find that it is empty and everything around them is fake. A fake tree. Fake grass. A fake squirrel. In fact, the only sign of life is the unseen laughter of a young child. The source of the laughter is a bit predictable but still a lot of fun.

Night Call

7.. Night Call written by Richard Matheson

When I was in Jr. High, 20th Century Fox had a commercial on TV for a VHS collection of The Twilight Zone. The commercial showed various clips from classic episodes, including one from “Night Call” where Gladys Cooper utters over the phone, “Who is this? Who’s on the line?” Before even seeing the episode, I knew from the commercial it was going to be creepy. It’s not only creepy but ends quite cruelly. “Night Call” was written by the legendary science fiction writer Richard Matheson.

A Stop at Willoughby

6. A Stop at Willoughby written by Rod Serling

“A Stop at Willoughby” is about a stressed ad executive who finds solitude from his work and his demanding wife through a fantasy town called Willoughby. In Willoughby, every day is the summer of 1880, and life is simple. Will our hero become a resident? And at what cost?

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5. The Miniature written by Charles Beaumont

During the fourth season, The Twilight Zone went from an half hour to an hour long program. While the extended length actually hurt many of the episodes due to padded storylines, “The Miniature” remains strong throughout. The premise is simple. A young loner (played by Robert Duvall) witnesses a doll living in a museum dollhouse come to life and proceeds to fall in love with her. When others learn of this, he is labeled sick and sent away for treatment. However, he doesn’t get over it and returns to the museum, turning himself into a doll to live happily ever after with his love. Sure, it sounds silly but it’s so well done that its quite a remarkable love story. I’ve only seen this episode once since it’s rarely shown in syndication, yet it had such an effect on me that it remains one of my favorites.

Mirror Image

4. Mirror Image written by Rod Serling

“Mirror Image” stars Vera Miles (Psycho) who plays a woman waiting in a bus station who discovers her doppelganger and fears that it’s trying to take over her life. “Mirror Image” is pretty scary and has a great ending that lets no one off the hook.

After Hours

3. After Hours written by Rod Serling

“After Hours” is about a woman who is left alone in a department store after closing time and begins to feel that the mannequins around her are actually alive. I am not ashamed to say that “After Hours” actually scared me. In fact, it still scares me a little when I think about the mannequins calling out her name, “Marcia, Marcia.” For some reason, this episode is another rarely seen in syndication.

Kick the Can

2. Kick the Can written by George Clayton Johnson

“You’re only as old as you feel”. Or so the saying goes. No one knows this better than Charles Whitley in “Kick the Can”. Charles, a older gentleman who lives in a retirement home, discovers that the secret to youth lies in thinking young and in a simple game of kick the can. I could watch this episode 1000 times and never grow tire of it.

Walking Distance

1. Walking Distance written by Rod Serling

Hands down, the best episode of The Twilight Zone. Martin Sloan, a frustrated, overworked businessman has car trouble and wanders into the town of his youth. However, not only is it his hometown, but Martin has stepped back in time when he was a youngster. He even sees himself as a child and his parents. Martin longs for these simpler days of his childhood. Not only is the story a great sentimental tale but the episode is wonderfully directed and has a wonderful score from Bernard Hermann (Citizen Kane, Vertigo, etc). The most touching moment of the episode is a final conversation between Martin and his father who has come to realize who Martin really is:

Martin: I’ve been living at a dead run and I was tired. Then one day, I knew I had to come back here. I had to come back and get on a merry-go-round and eat cotton candy and listen to a band concert, to stop and breathe and close my eyes and smell and listen.

Father: I guess we all want that. Maybe when you go back, Martin, you’ll find that there are merry-go-rounds and band concerts where you are. Maybe you haven’t been looking in the right place. You’ve been looking behind you, Martin. Try looking ahead.

Beautiful.

Any one out there have their own favorites?

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