Culture

Throwback Thursday: The masterful “Twilight Zone” and its legacy

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Left: The original “Twilight Zone.” Right: Jordan Peele, who is rebooting the classic television series this month.

Story by Jonah Chickering, Reporter
Photo courtesy of nofilmschool.com

“The Twilight Zone” first aired November 28, 1958. It became instantly iconic with its creative premises, excellent acting and terrifying twists. The show offers an anthology of horror to explore humanity’s relationship with technology, space, and each other.

The show’s pilot is one of the best representations of what the show is exploring. The episode, “Where is Everybody?, begins with an ominous narrator speaking. He says, “The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we are about to watch, could be our journey.”

This is such an excellent way to begin a series–so mysterious and enthralling. The episode continues as we see a lone man in an army uniform attempting to find some customer service in a seemingly empty diner. He begins narrating how he doesn’t seem to remember who he is or why he is there. He calls out to people, only to hear nothing in response. He explores the city and finds no one.   

This concept is so intriguing and at the same time terrifying. What if you really were the last person on Earth? You would have ultimate freedom but also be so very lonely. Humans are social animals, and this episode explores the derailment of reality that comes to the human mind if we are isolated for too long. The protagonist’s sanity is slowly chipped away as he sees and hears things that shouldn’t be in the desolate town. Phones ring, cigars lay in ashtrays still burning, and he can’t help but shake the feeling that he is being watched…  

The pilot episode is just one example of the excellent premises and writing found throughout “The Twilight Zone.” Its legacy still continues today, with modern horror and science fiction anthologies consistently being released. Netflix’s Black Mirror and Love, Death and Robots offer terrifying and sometimes beautiful explorations of technology and humanity in a similar episodic format. These shows also have modern twists that keep them interesting to contemporary viewers. Concepts like social media, virtual reality, and true A.I. allow the modern shows to contemplate themes that were not possible in the 60s.

Finally, a reboot pilot of “The Twilight Zone” aired April 1, 2019. It was hosted by the emphatic Jordan Peele of “Key and Peele”, “Get Out”, and “Us” fame. The reboot aims to capture the magic of the first series while exploring more modern concepts and fears.   

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