The twilight zone is one of the most famous television shows of all time, using an anthology format to tell terrifying stories. Creator and writer Rod Serling introduced each episode with a signature start that has become iconic over time. Serling himself is an individual with a massive impact on the science fiction genre, not just because of The twilight zone, but also for his work on Planet of the Apes and night gallery.
Despite the iconic status of his other works, The twilight zone remains Serling’s most influential project. The show had incredibly unique premise that often had a lesson or moral for the audience, and also used the time and social milieu in which it aired to make great commentary on political and world situations in the late 1900s. 1950s and early 1960s. Looking at modern science fiction films, it’s clear that Rod Serling’s work had an immense influence on the genre.
The twilight zone has many iconic episodes that highlight the incredible influence it had on modern science fiction. For example, season 1 of the series had an episode named The hitchhiker, which saw a woman traveling alone across the country with a creepy and disturbing atmosphere. The young woman constantly encountered the same hitchhiker, even as she drove for hundreds of kilometers. There was no explanation of how he moved from place to place, and it was clear that something supernatural was going on. Fans of the series will remember that this episode ended with a twist, as was often the case with The twilight zone. It was revealed that the young traveler had in fact died and that the hitchhiker had told her, “You are on the side of the angels”, was his way of saying that she was dead when her tire burst while driving.
Modern sci-fi movies and shows are often outfitted with a twist like this. In fact, it has become a cornerstone of the genre. While it has to be said that not every sci-fi project made recently has a twist or reveal like this, some of the most famous do. For example, M. Night Shyamalan is a director who often works in this genre, and is known for his incredibly surprising twists. In The sixth sense, which mixes science fiction with elements of thriller and horror, it is revealed that the character of Bruce Willis has been dead from the start and died early in the film when one of his most unstable patients tried to contact him. It’s an ending that not only shows the influence of The twilight zonetwists and turns, but it seems clear that Shyamalan was inspired by The hitchhiker for this movie.
The 34th episode of Season 1 is another example of a famous and influential episode, and is often considered one of the show’s best. A woman named Marsha goes to a department store to find a present for her mother and is taken to a mysteriously empty ninth floor. The only item there is exactly what she’s looking for, and there’s a strange tension with the woman working there. On this floor are mannequins, alive and moving, albeit subtly. Eventually, after trying to escape, it is revealed that Marsha herself is one of these models, and one of them leaves to join the real world every month. Marsha forgot she was a model and was horrified to learn the truth.
The ultimate lesson of this episode was that people are so disconnected from each other that you don’t really know who they pass on the street or look at as they go about their days. It’s something that’s hitting even closer to home these days with the emergence of technology and social media, and it’s a great example of a lesson at the end of an episode of The twilight zone. There’s a similar lesson in Jordan Peele We, where murderous doppelgangers are revealed to be the forgotten members of society who lived underground. As The twilight zone made a point of pointing out the lack of connection in modern society, Peele had a similar ending that seemed like a metaphor for the neglected people in today’s world. More broadly, science fiction as a genre has always had lessons like this, even before The twilight zonebut this show helped popularize and greatly deepen this trend, underscoring the influence it had.
The general plot of this dummy episode also seems to have influenced the hit British sci-fi series. Doctor Who thus, itself an iconic show in its own right. The first episode of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor saw him fight dummies, an idea that seems to be an homage to The twilight zone. One of the most famous modern Doctor Who the villains are the Weeping Angels, who resemble mannequins in that they move subtly and possess more power and life than the unsuspecting characters initially realize. The fact that The twilight zone inspired Doctor Whosuch an influential show itself, demonstrates the immense impact of Rod Serling’s series on modern science fiction.
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