The Twilight Zone was a thoughtful, engaging series that contributed that changed science fiction forever. The contributions The Twilight Zone gave to both the entertainment industry and our culture is big enough to warrant a list all by itself.
Things get really interesting once the curtain is pulled back, revealing the inner workings of this masterpiece of entertainment. Much like the show itself, what went on behind the scenes was often out of the norm, and immensely fascinating. Here are 10 facts about The Twilight Zone that fans may not know.
10 It’s a Good Life had a sequel
It’s not often that an installment of an anthology series gets its own sequel, but in the case of It’s a Good Life, a sequel was well deserved. It’s a Good Life follows the plight of the townspeople of Peaksville, Ohio, who are held hostage by a boy with incredible psychic powers.
It’s the only episode of the series to get a sequel. When the series was revived in 2002, it premiered with It’s Still a Good Life, which revisits Peaksville 40 years later. The episode brought back Bill Mumy, who played the ferocious little brat in the original episode. Let’s hope the 2019 revival makes it a trilogy.
9 To Serve Man starred a James Bond villain
“It’s a cookbook!” is one of the most quoted lines in all of popular culture. The episode where it was spoken, To Serve Man, features one of the most shocking plot twists in television history. Perhaps the scariest part of the episode is the tall alien with the huge head who acts as an ambassador from another world.
The actor who played the alien, named Kanamit, is none other than the late Richard Kiel, who would later go on to play the iconic James Bond villain Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
8 Rod Serling recorded his dreams
In addition to hosting the show, Rod Serling wrote almost all the episodes of The Twilight Zone. While many of the episodes he wrote were pulled from the contentious events of the 1960s, Serling’s dreams provided considerable inspiration.
When Serling went to bed, he’d leave his tape recorder sitting on his nightstand, in case he needed to record the dreams he had the night before. All of his dreams, both good and bad, ended up inspiring countless episodes of The Twilight Zone.
7 Two episodes were intended to be pilots
Throughout its run, The Twilight Zone’s creators desperately wanted to make a spin-off that would continue the events of one of the episodes. Unfortunately, the show’s attempts to do so didn’t go so well.
The episodes Mr. Bevis and Cavender is Coming were both created with the goal of coaxing CBS to turn them into their own series. Ironically, both episodes contain guardian angels as key characters. Neither show impressed CBS enough to warrant respective spinoffs, and both ideas were scrapped.
6 Cavender is Coming had a laugh track
While Mr. Bevis was harmless enough, Cavender is Coming drew the ire of fans almost as soon as it came out. It’s widely considered today as the worst episode of The Twilight Zone. This can be chalked up to the fact that Cavender is Coming was intended to be the pilot to a proposed sitcom with a laugh track.
As hard as it is to believe, the showrunners really tried to pass this episode off as a comedy. Audiences thought this was entirely pointless. CBS thought so too, and plans to turn the episode into a series were axed immediately.
5 The show was briefly shot on videotape
Back in the ’50s and ’60s, almost every television show was shot on film. However, shows that couldn’t afford film had to resort to the next best thing: videotape.
This is where The Twilight Zone found itself when CBS demanded that they shoot on tape to help cut costs. However, videotape is extremely difficult to shoot and edit, and the quality isn’t all that great either. The showrunners eventually got fed up with using tape and went back to genuine film.
4 A character was retroactively diagnosed with Asperger's
Miniature is the story of a socially awkward man named Charley, played by Robert Duvall, who begins to imagine that a female figurine in an antique dollhouse is a living, breathing person. Unable to fit in with the rest of society, he manages to slip into the dollhouse.
Over the years, many fans have pointed out that Charley displays some of the common symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that’s characterized by difficulties in social interactions and obsessive thoughts.
3 The first episode was shot on an iconic set
The first episode in the series is set in an idyllic American town, at the center of which is a large square. At one end is the courthouse, at the other a movie theater. A high school sits across the street from the police department, and shops of all kinds line the sidewalks. The only thing that’s missing is the people, and the overwhelming feeling of being watched.
It was shot at Courthouse Square, a stage on the Universal Studios backlot that has been featured in everything from To Kill a Mockingbird to Back to the Future, and it’s still in use today.
2 The term ‘twilight zone’ was coined by pilots
Most people think that the term ‘twilight zone’ was dreamt up by Rod Serling and his fellow showrunners. But for pilots, the term applies to a very specific phenomenon that few people would ever see.
In aviation, ‘the twilight zone’ is the area between day and night at the edge of earth’s shadow that some planes pass through on long voyages. The term is derived from the fact that twilight is generally considered to be the time of day after the sun goes down, but before nighttime really begins.
1 Nightmare at 20,000 Feet inspired a real safety feature
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet tells the story of a passenger, played by William Shatner, who sees a monster on the wing of his airplane. When no one believes his claims that the monster is tinkering with the wing’s innards, Shatner’s character takes matters into his own hands, opening the emergency exit and shooting the monster with a revolver (which he stole from a police officer).
The seat where Shatner sat is critical because its window offers the best view of the wing. This allows the crew to diagnose any potential issues that could impair the integrity of the plane. The windows are marked with a small black triangle, making it easier to locate, and the seats next to these windows are respectively called ‘William Shatner's Seat.’