October 17, 2010

My Five: Favorite Twilight Zone Episodes by Rod Serling

I cherish Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone", that's no secret. And a big reason for that is because of his writing on the show. While some of the episodes are a little on-the-nose with the morals to the story, there is such a fantastic imagination pushing the narrative that I don't even mind most times.

I'm not sure what the percentage is, but the vast majority of the episodes were credited to Rod Serling, including co-writing credits. But as I reviewed the entire list of episodes of The Twilight Zone's five seasons in the sixties, I noticed that the Serling episodes I enjoy most are written solely by Serling. So that's what this fave five list will be, and here they are.

#5 "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" (Season 2) - This is one of those cool time travel stories where a pioneer, who's part of a pilgrimage heading west, from the mid-1800s ventures further into the barren plains in search of help for his ailing son and winds up in the mid-1900s. It's a culture clash tale that works quite well and seems to feel pretty natural all things considered. When the old west is used as a backdrop for a fantastical tale, I'm usually a sucker for it.

#4 "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (Season 1) - Beware your neighbors: That's the lesson learned if you paid any attention to McCarthyism. This episode is saturated in condemnation of that rampant parnoia, as a quite suburb is thrown into chaos when the power goes out, vehicles won't start, and they're cut off from the rest of the world. Are aliens invading? Are they already in the neighborhood? Or are these guys just Glenn Beck's predecessors?

#3 "Mr. Garrity and the Graves" (Season 5) - Here's another western-themed story. This time John Dehner stars as a traveling stranger named Garrity who offers the few townsfolk in the saloon of an isolated town a chance to be reunited with their dearly departed. Of course, the people being propositioned aren't exactly eager to see those people again. This is just a very fun episode and may be my favorite performance from Dehner.

#2 "The Obsolete Man" (Season 2) - Burgess Meredith ought to be enough to warrant this episode being on the list, but let's throw in the fact that it's dystopian tale with struggle between a librarian and the totalitarian who has officially declared him obsolete and sentenced him to death. It's one of those episodes with a delicious twist midway through and has the tables turned on the villain quite early. I just love this episode.

#1 "The Shelter" (Season 3) - Where "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" makes you fear your neighbors and the abandonment of decorum, "The Shelter" amps up the tension even more. Nuclear war is about to hit and only one family on the block has a bunker in the basement. Needless to say the neighbors are quite insistent on being allowed inside. If you saw the episode of The Simpsons where Ned Flanders built a nuclear bunker and charitably lets the entire town inside, you can appreciate this episode. It's one of the most iconic episodes and with good reason.

Very Honorable Mention to "Time Enough at Last" (Season 1, co-written with Lyn Venable) - Even though this list was dedicated to episodes written solely by Serling, I would be remiss to not point out this episode as one of my very favorite episodes. Burgess Meredith plays the last man on Earth, delighted to discover he has all the time in the world to read his beloved books--and then he breaks his coke-bottle glasses. "There was time now!" C'mon, even if you haven't seen this episode you love it. Admit it.

So what do you think? Something else Serling wrote you think should be on this list? Maybe "The Midnight Sun" or "The Rip Van Winkle Caper"? Tell me what you think.


  1. I agree with you on your list and your number one pick is one of my all time favorites. Once you didn't mention that I like is "The Masks"

  2. Oh yeah. I saw that episode a few weeks ago. That's another good one.