If you haven’t seen an episode of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” then you probably don’t own a TV. Simply put, it is one of if not the greatest science fiction series of all time. That’s why there have been several attempts at remakes and reboots and movies over the years; most recently the Jordan Peele-guided CBS All Access series. But like a lot of remakes of other properties, there is nothing quite like the original.
Over the course of the epic anthology series, many stars came to the Fifth Dimension beyond which is known to man. Some in classic episodes, some became reoccurring members of Serling’s troupe. Some of the stars of Twilight Zone were once huge stars in their day, like Silent Era Star, Buster Keaton (“Once Upon A Time”), others were made stars because of their appearance on the show, or their appearance led to stardom. Here are 10 Guest Stars We Forgot Were On The Twilight Zone.
10 William Shatner - “Nick Of Time”
The future Captain James Tiberius Kirk was on one of the series’ most popular episodes, “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.” But he also took part in the Richard Matheson written episode, “Nick Of Time.” He plays newlywed Don Carter who stops at a diner with his wife. They happen upon a fortune telling machine. Most people would play with it for fun, but on The Twilight Zone, the machine tells them all kinds of truths, some they want to hear, and others not so much.
9 Don Rickles - “Mr. Dingle, The Strong
While the titular Mr. Dingle, of “Mr. Dingle, The Strong” is played by frequent cast member, Burgess Meredith, this episode also features one of comedy’s greatest performers. “Mr. Warmth,” Don Rickles also showed up in the episode.
A two-headed Martian gives Mr. Dingle super-strength, and one of the people that Mr. Dingle shows off in front of us Rickles’ character.
8 Robert Redford - “Nothing In The Dark”
For years in Hollywood, Robert Redford was the quintessential leading man. But first, he made a stopover in The Twilight Zone. He guest-starred in the season three episode, “Nothing In The Dark,” as Harold Beldon. Wanda Dunn is a frail woman who won’t open the door to Redford’s Beldon (there’s a first), for fear that he is Death. It takes some convincing, but Wanda eventually comes to realize that she has nothing to be afraid of.
7 Carol Burnett - “Cavender Is Coming”
For years, the incomparable Carol Burnett was the undisputed queen of comedy. As Agnes Grep, she is a clumsy woman who is removed from every project she works on. Enter a Guardian Angel, Harmon Cavender. In order to get his wings, he is tasked with improving Ms. Crep’s life within 24 hours. In this light-hearted episode, It’s A Wonderful Life - Twilight Zone style, featuring a future Hollywood treasure ascending to her throne.
6 George Takei - “The Encounter”
Several members of the original Star Trek cast traversed into the dimension of sight, sound, and mind before they traversed the cosmos in the Enterprise. In “The Encounter,” the ghosts of race-relations and wars past take hold over George “Sulu” Takei, as Arthur Takamori and Neville Brand as WWII veteran, Fenton. Shared guilt over the past transgressions of both individuals during WWII take hold in a parable whose lessons could still be gleaned to this day.
5 Leonard Nimoy - “A Quality Of Mercy”
Rod Serling loved his war stories almost as much as the science fiction tales of morality he would weave on the show. In “A Quality Of Mercy,” a U.S. Army general is shown both sides of the spectrum of war. He orders his men to fire on a Japanese battalion. His men try to talk him out of it.
He then wakes up as a member of the Japanese soldiers in 1942 and is in a similar situation. “Mr. Spock,” Leonard Nimoy guest stars as a member of the battalion in an episode that got adapted for Twilight Zone: The Movie.
4 Ron Howard - “Walking Distance”
In only his third role ever, the future Opie and Richie Cunningham, respected director and producer, Ron Howard was part of “Walking Distance.” The episode is still looked at as one of the best. Here, he had played a small part of the Wilcox boy. When an ad exec stumbles into the town he grew up in, he not only longs for the days of youth, but the town hasn’t aged a single day. Ron Howard’s performance and insistence that the man isn’t who he says he is, is a pretty good indication that Martin Sloan took a longer walk than he meant to.
3 Julie Newmar - “Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville”
As one of the original Catwomen from the sixties Batman series, Julie Newmar was heralded in her time for her statuesque hourglass figure. A perfect visage for the devil incarnate herself in “Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville.” Here, she shows a powerful business magnate life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and if you spend your days making money off the backs of others, then you won’t exactly know how to make the money yourself.
2 Cloris Leachman - “It’s A Good Life”
With over seventy years in show business, Cloris Leachman is still working, even at 93 years old, that’s definitely a good life! Which is exactly the episode Leachman starred in - the classic Twilight Zone, “It’s A Good Life.”
She plays Anthony’s mother, Mrs. Fremont, one of the many citizens of Anthony’s little town who quivers in fear of her own son, who has the ability to wish and create anything he wanted. Be nice to him, or he’ll wish you away.
1 Burt Reynolds - “The Bard”
The fourth season of the series featured one-hour episodes. The last of these featured one of Hollywood’s “tough guys” actually channeling another. After a down on his luck writer inadvertently conjured up the spirit of William Shakespeare to help him write a few screenplays. The episode parodies a Hollywood writer’s room and Reynolds does his best Brando impression eliciting a response from the ancient Bard himself - he punched Reynolds out!