There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling first read these words on television in 1959. In 6 years, he changed the American television landscape and captured generations of fans. Here are a few fun facts you might not know about The Twilight Zone.
(Image of Welles from Crack in the Mirror)
1. Serling narrated for the show, first through just his voice and then on camera during the second season. Serling's first choice for that role was not himself, but Orson Welles. It never came to pass as the producers could not meet Welles’s salary demands.
2. Star Trek fans may remember William Shatner's famous role in the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." In that episode, Shatner played an airline passenger who alone could see a monster on the wing, tearing the plane apart. But he also appeared in another episode. In "Nick of Time," Statner played a man who discovered a frighteningly accurate fortune telling machine.
3. Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek, appeared in the episode "A Quality of Mercy." He played a weary American infantryman in the Philippines in 1945.
4. George Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, appeared in the episode "The Encounter." He played a Japanese-American whose father was a spy for the Japanese. He meets an American veteran who killed an unarmed Japanese soldier.
5. For conceiving of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling is known as a great writer. But those who worked with him on the show also thought of him as a great executive producer. He had a knack for knowing when to take control and when to delegate responsibility. Serling ran a remarkably well-organized show. Director Buzz Kulik wrote:
Rod would never come onto the set because he felt that it would be intrusive. Every once in a while I would hear from him, if he had seen some dailies or something. It was an amazing organization. Working the way those people worked was just a sheer joy . . . And they would get nine scripts and put them together, and get them in as good shape as they could, and then you’d shoot them. Most shows you would be getting pages the day you start shooting, or they would still be writing while you were shooting. Never on The Twilight Zone. That work was done and it was ready to go. It was such a well-oiled, organized operation. (Presnell and McGee 15)
6. In 1997, the DC Looney Tunes comic book series published a parody of The Twilight Zone. The Comic Vine wiki describes The Looney Zone as funny takes on classic episodes:
The Looney Tunes take on that classic TV anthology of weird stories and unexpected plot twists known as The Twilight Zone, with Daffy Duck being mistaken for an alien in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand," Penelope the Cat seeing Pepe Le Pew everywhere she drives in "Le Hitchhiker," Daffy's ventriloquism act coming to life in "The Dummy," Sylvester seeing a gremlin Tweety tear apart the plane he's on in "Nightmare of 20,000 Tweets," and Bugs accepting a challenge from Daffy in "Wanna See Something Really Scary?"
7. In "A World of His Own," a character interrupts Rod Serling's closing narration. It's quite funny. Serling routinely watched over the damnation of his characters, but this character reverses that role. You can watch the scene here.
8. Bob Crane, who played Colonel Robert Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, was a radio announcer in the episode "Static." You can listen to his voice here. Since Crane got his start as a disc jockey, the role fit.
9. Ivan Dixon, who played Sergeant Kinchloe on Hogan's Heroes, starred in two episodes of The Twilight Zone. In "I Am the Night--Color Me Black," Dixon played an insightful minister in a town about to execute a criminal. In "The Big Tall Wish," he played a boxer who experienced an inexplicable victory in the ring.
10. The episode "To Serve Man" shows aliens visiting Earth and offering to take them to their home planet. They say that they have nothing but benevolent purposes and possess a book titled To Serve Man. After linguists translate the text, they discover that it's a cook book.
That episode starred Lloyd Bochner as one of the translators. Bochner reprised his role and the episode's most famous line in the movie The Naked Gun 2 1/2.
11. Jack Klugman was most famous for playing in The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E. He starred in 4 different episodes of The Twilight Zone. In "In Praise of Pip," he played opposite Bill Mumy as a father who gets a last chance to see his son. "Death Ship" shows Klugman as a spaceship captain who searches for a habitable planet. In "A Game of Pool," he plays a dangerous game of pool against a ghostly Jonathan Winters. "A Passage for Trumpet" imagines Klugman as a washed up, alcoholic trumpet player in need of a second chance.
12. Sterling wrote TV scripts throughout the late 40s and early 50s. His breakthrough script was for “Patterns,” a 1955 episode of Kraft Television Theater. This episode featured a very young Elizabeth Montgomery (later famous for Bewitched) in a tale of conflict and intrigue within the leadership of a corporation. It was enormously popular and earned Serling an Emmy.
13. Burgess Meredith, the actor who played The Penguin in the original Batman series, also played 4 roles in The Twilight Zone. In "Printer's Devil," he was a reporter who had a dark power for getting great scoops. "The Obsolete Man" shows Meredith as a heroic librarian in a tyrannical dystopia. "Mr. Dingle, The Strong" shows aliens experimenting on a hapless vacuum cleaner salesman. In "Time Enough At Last," Meredith is a bookish bank clerk who yearns for time to read.
14. Several episodes were remade for the 1983 movie Twilight Zone: The Movie. The clip embedded above shows John Lithgow in William Shatner's old role from "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
15. The series was revived from 1985-1989 for a total of 110 episodes. Embedded above is one of my favorites: "Button, Button."
Presnell, Don and Marty McGee. A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone, 1959-1964. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008. Print.
Zicree, Marc Scott. The Twilight Zone Companion. Beverly Hills, CA: Silman-James Press, 1989. Print.