The Twilight Zone

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Your next stop... the Twilight Zone.
"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 middleground 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."

One of television's most revered series, The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959–64) stands as the role model for TV anthologies. Its trenchant sci-fi/fantasy parables explore humanity's hopes, despairs, prides, and prejudices in metaphoric ways conventional drama cannot.

Creator Rod Serling wrote the majority of the scripts, and produced those of such now-legendary writers as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. The series featured such soon-to-be-famous actors as Robert Redford, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Peter Falk, Donald Pleasence and Bill Mumy, as well as such established stars as silent-film giant Buster Keaton, Art Carney, Mickey Rooney, Ida Lupino, and John Carradine.

Twilight Zone: The Movie, a big-screen adaptation that featured individual segments produced by Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, John Landis and George Miller was released in 1983. Tragically, the movie is better remembered for a horrible accident in which three actors (two of them children) were killed during shooting of an action scene in Landis' segment.

An often worthy revival series ran on CBS from 1985–87, and in first-run syndication in 1988. Another recently ran on UPN, which reunited Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman in a sequel to the classic TZ chiller "It's a Good Life". But it's the daring original series that shows every sign of lasting the ages as the literature that it is.

Description from: SyFy

The Twilight Zone had a rather remarkable ability to take silly story concepts, combine them with preachy, moralistic writing, and produce some truly outstanding episodes (seriously, you think The West Wing was heavy-handed? Take a gander at one of the original TZ episodes). The ghost of Adolf Hitler travels to the United States and teaches Dennis Hopper to become an effective demagogue ("He's Alive")? It works. A former concentration camp commander travels back to Dachau after World War Two and is put on trial by the ghosts of his victims ("Death's Head Revisited")? It works. William Shatner hams it up and yells about the monster on the wing of the plane ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet")? It works.

Almost all episodes ended with Aesops; "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", "Be tolerant", "Democracy is good", "Nazis are bad", etc (those last two work better on screen than they do in print, really). Occasionally, however, you'd get a Family-Unfriendly Aesop. Perhaps the most notorious example was the episode "Time Enough at Last", which starred Burgess Meredith and seemed to tell the viewer, "Even if you are a good and decent man, you can still have horrible things continually happen to you and end up with no hope at all", and became one of the most famous episodes of the original series. Other notorious examples are episodes that use recycled scripting employing a family unfriendly Aesop version of the original episode's end in order to force a (rather disturbing, especially in the context of the original episode) twist. Other times, aesops conflict with one another. "The Gift" tells you not to be bigots toward aliens, because they might just be bringing you the cure for cancer. But "To Serve Man" has all of humanity accepting and tolerant of aliens, which turns out to be a bad thing.

Many television shows have borrowed liberally from the Twilight Zone, especially The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and Futurama's "The Scary Door" and "Anthology of Interest".

See also the episode Recap page.

Do not confuse with the part of the ocean from 200 to 1000 meters below the surface. Or with the band on the Earth's surface that's on the far side of the sun but close enough to the lit side to receive some light.


The Twilight Zone is the Trope Namer for:

The original Twilight Zone provides examples of:
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: "The Jeopardy Room".
  • Adam and Eve Plot: "Two", and more literally "Probe 7, Over and Out”.
  • Adolf Hitler: In "He's Alive", the ghost of Adolf gives advice to a young neo-Nazi (played by Dennis Hopper).
  • After the End: "Time Enough at Last", "The Old Man in the Cave", "Two".
  • The Ageless: Walter Jameson, from The Twilight Zone episode "Long Live Walter Jameson", was granted this form of immortality in Ancient Greece by an alchemist. He says that he came close to death many times over the centuries due to injuries and disease, "but never close enough". At the end of the episode when he is shot, he begins to age rapidly as he dies until he is nothing but a pile of dust.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Pretty consistently played straight. Averted in "The Invaders".
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: "From Agnes - With Love". The AI begins falling in love with whoever is been trying to deal with Agnes' "problem".
  • All Just a Dream: "Where Is Everybody?", "Perchance to Dream", "The Arrival," "The Midnight Sun", "Person or Persons Unknown" (with an added twist), "The Time Element" (also with an added twist), "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". Also, see Dead All Along below.
  • The Aloner: "Where Is Everybody?", "King Nine Will Not Return".
  • Always a Bigger Fish: "The Little People".
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Horace Ford in the episode "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" acts like a small child and often has No Indoor Voice, but he's a brilliant designer. Also, he keeps bouncing around and never seems to focus on one subject.
  • American Civil War: The setting of "The Passersby", "Still Valley", and "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". Also mentioned in "Long Live Walter Jameson" (see Exposition of Immortality below).
  • An Aesop: With some exceptions.
  • Ancient Keeper: "Elegy".
  • And I Must Scream: Probably more episodes than this troper has seen but "A Kind of a Stopwatch" has a notable one.
  • Asshole Victim: When a protagonist is driven to murder, it usually involves being pushed over the edge by one of these. Not that this protects them from Laser-Guided Karma, mind you...
  • Author Avatar: According to biographies, "A Stop at Willoughby" was Serling's favorite episode, and he identified with the main character. The stops on the Northeast line were the same stops on the commute he made into Manhattan daily.
    • "Walking Distance" was another of Serling's favorite episodes. The old-fashioned town in the story is based on the town he grew up in and the main character (as an adult and a little boy) was based on him.
  • Back from the Dead: "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank", "Mr. Garrity and the Graves".
  • Balancing Death's Books: "One for the Angels", "In Praise of Pip".
  • Bandaged Face: The Reveal of a few episodes involved one of these, perhaps most famously in "Eye of the Beholder".
  • Baseball Episode: "The Mighty Casey".
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Many. A few examples include "The Chaser", "The Last Night of a Jockey", "A Game of Pool", and "Jess-Belle".
    • The advice is followed in "I Dream of Genie". The protagonist thinks out several wishes he could make and realizes that they would all end in him being miserable. After discarding love, wealth, and power, he finally wishes to be a genie himself so he can help the needy.
    • "Time Enough at Last" plays with this trope: Burgess Meredith's character never wishes for what eventually happens to happen, but he's always griping about never having enough time for his true love, reading. Then a nuclear apocalypse happens. Then his glasses break, just as he's settling down with his books.
  • Becoming the Costume: "The Masks" and "The Night of the Meek".
  • Becoming the Genie: "I Dream of Genie". Averted in that the guy wants to be a genie who can help anyone.
  • Betty and Veronica: In "A World of His Own", Gregory West is married to a Veronica and has just created a Betty.
  • Beware of Hitch-Hiking Ghosts: "The Hitch-Hiker".
  • Be Yourself: The protagonist of "Mr. Bevis" learns this Aesop after his Guardian Angel makes him a Slave to PR.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: In "The Shelter", a suburban doctor's birthday party turns into a mad scramble for survival when a nuclear alert is announced—and the doctor's fallout shelter has only enough room for himself and his family.
  • Blatant Lies: "There is nothing ulterior in our motives. Nothing at all."
  • Born in the Wrong Century: "Once Upon A Time". "No Time Like the Past".
  • Bottle Episode: Several, including "The Whole Truth". A good tell is if the episode is on tape instead of film.
  • The Boxing Episode: "The Big Tall Wish" and "Steel".
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: "The Trouble with Templeton".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Rod Serling not only provides narration, frequently on-camera, but he actually becomes part of the story in "A World of His Own". Temporarily, at least.
  • Break the Haughty: Used in many, many episodes. "Four O'Clock" and "Piano in the House" come to mind.
  • The Butler Did It: In "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?", a group of people get off a bus and gather at a cafe where they are served food and drinks by the local counter jerk and dine. It is later revealed by the police that one of the people on the bus seems to have been an alien. Ten Little Murder Victims ensues, the resolution of which is only a half-subversion of The Butler Did It: one of the people from the bus was The Mole, but the cafe worker who served them all and remained very much in the background throughout the story was also an enemy alien from a different planet, and was two steps ahead of The Mole the whole time.
  • Butter Face: What the process does, and everyone else, in "Eye of the Beholder" (aka "The Private World of Darkness").
  • Butt Monkey: Henry Bemis of "Time Enough at Last". This man cannot catch a break.
    • Burgess Meredith was kind of the master at this; see also "Mr. Dingle the Strong".
    • Also, the titular "Mr. Bevis".
  • The Caligula: The main character of "The Mirror".
  • Canon Sue: In-universe; the main character in "Showdown with Ranch McGrew" plays one... and Jesse James isn't pleased with it at all.
  • Captivity Harmonica: In the episode "Shadow Play", and used to escape in "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby".
  • Cassandra Truth: "Back There", "The Time Element", "No Time like the Past".
  • Catch Phrase: Submitted for your consideration/approval.
  • Characteristic Trope
  • Chekhov's Armoury: "The New Exhibit".
  • Chess with Death: "One for the Angels".
  • Christmas Episode: "Night of the Meek".
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The lead character of the episode "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Hotel Room" tries to light up to relieve the stress of being called on to kill someone for the first time. He can't because he's out of matches. His reflection, on the other hand, happily puffs away while berating him.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Dell Comics published two issues in 1962, after which Gold Key picked up the ball and continued publishing a Twilight Zone-based comic book until 1982. Now Comics published a Twilight Zone comic in the 1990s, and in the last few years Walker & Co. has published several graphic novels adapting specific episodes of the original series, updated to today in some cases. The Gold Key title ramped up the creepiness factor by continuing to feature a cartoon version of Rod Serling introducing each story, even years after the real Serling died.
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: In the episode "A Penny for Your Thoughts", the protagonist gains the ability to read minds, and hears a disgruntled bank employee planning to rob the bank. After he denounces him, though, it turns out that the man's been idly thinking about robbing the bank for years, but he'd never actually go through with it.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: In "The Gift", an alien brings a message to the people of Earth. The alien gets killed and the message burned. Then someone reads the message, which is something like, "As a symbol of our friendship we offer the following, a cure for all forms of cancer." The rest is burned away.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: William J. Feathersmith in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville".
  • The Corrupters: The aliens in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", of the exacerbate-preexisting-character-flaws variety. They qualify as Magnificent Bastards because their corrupting of the people is all done by suggestion and playing on fears; they never show themselves.
  • Crazy Memory: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" is about a man who tells outrageous lies to his friends about his past... and is promptly kidnapped by aliens, who think his lies are true.
  • Creepy Child: Anthony in "It's a Good Life", Markie in "Nightmare as a Child".
  • Creepy Doll/The Doll Episode: "Living Doll", "Caesar and Me", "The Dummy".
  • Cruel Twist Ending: "Time Enough at Last".
    • Lesser known examples include "Young Man's Fancy", "Caesar and Me", and "What's in the Box?".
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?", the old man (played by Jack Elam) accuses Mr. Ross of being the "most suspicious of the bunch".
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: "The Hitch-Hiker".

"I believe you're going my way..."

  • Dead All Along: Episodes "Judgment Night", "The Hitch-Hiker", "The Passersby", "The Hunt", (one possible interpretation of) "The Thirty-Fathom Grave", and "Death Ship".
  • Dead to Begin With: "A Nice Place to Visit", "A Game of Pool".
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • "Escape Clause", "Printer's Devil", "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville".
    • Surprisingly subverted in "Still Valley".
  • Death Trap: "The Jeopardy Room".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: "No Time Like the Past".
  • Devil in Disguise: The Devil usually appears in the guise of a regular person. In "The Howling Man", he appears to be some poor guy who's been imprisoned by a madman, but when someone takes pity and releases him his horns and tail reappear.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "Time Enough at Last".
  • Divide and Conquer/A House Divided: "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street".
  • Divine Intervention: Possibly in "I Am the Night - Color Me Black". The Sun fails to rise on the day of a man's execution, and, once Jagger's been hanged, the darkness starts spreading everywhere.
  • Diving Save: The robot grandmother near the end of "I Sing the Body Electric".
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Norma in "The Midnight Sun" is barefoot for the entire episode.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "Nothing in the Dark", "The Hitch-Hiker".
  • Doppelganger: "Mirror Image", "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", "In His Image".
  • Dream Apocalypse: "Shadow Play".
  • Dripping Disturbance: This is one of the ordinary noises played with in "Sounds and Silences".
  • Dropped Glasses: "Time Enough at Last".
  • Earth All Along: "I Shot an Arrow into the Air", "Probe 7, Over and Out". Inverted in "Third from the Sun" and "The Invaders".
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The fate of two characters in "Long Live Walter Jameson" and "Queen of the Nile".
  • Enfant Terrible: Anthony Fremont in "It's a Good Life," Susan in "Caesar and Me".
  • Episode on a Plane: Most famously in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Also in "The Odyssey of Flight 33".
  • Equivalent Exchange
  • Every Episode Ending: Nearly every episode ends with a short commentary from Rod Serling, usually to deliver An Aesop, almost always ending with "...in the Twilight Zone."
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In the episode "The Hunt". "A man will walk into hell with both eyes open, but even the Devil can't fool a dog."
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Mr. Radin in "One More Pallbearer" sets up a fake bomb scare scenario and expects three people who once humiliated him in the past to make them apologize to him, and he seems mystified that they would rather spend their last moments with their loved ones than try to save themselves.
  • Exposition of Immortality: In the episode "Long Live Walter Jameson", the titular character is a history professor who knows his stuff, has a retiring colleague who comments on his appearance and who is seen in a American Civil War period picture, revealing just how he knows that period so very well.
  • False Innocence Trick: "The Howling Man" is basically one of these from start to end.
  • Fantastic Anthropologist: "Mr. Dingle the Strong".
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: The lead characters of the Time Travel episodes, especially "Execution".
  • Fortune Teller: A little coin-operated fortune-telling machine in a diner, that answers yes-or-no questions, in "Nick of Time". A superstitious William Shatner starts to think it's giving out accurate answers and gets obsessed, and his wife tries to talk sense into him.
  • Future Me Scares Me: "Spur of the Moment" and "Walking Distance". Inverted in "Nightmare as a Child".
  • Genre Anthology
  • Genre Blind: Some of the protagonists are a bit slow to realize they're in a paranormal situation. For instance, Hector spends half an episode reading people's minds in "A Penny for Your Thoughts" before realizing that no, they're not talking out loud while somehow keeping their mouths closed.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Captain Ross to Lieutenant Mason in "Death Ship".
  • Get Back to the Future: "The Odyssey of Flight 33".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Not "crap" per see, but let's just say that Mr. Serling was often a bit more progressive than TV censors felt comfortable with. Wrapping what he wanted to say up in sci-fi allowed him to get more powerful messages on public television.
  • A God Am I: "The Little People", "On Thursday We Leave for Home".
  • Government Drug Enforcement: Several episodes.
  • The Grim Reaper: "One for the Angels," "Nothing in the Dark", "The Hitch-Hiker".
  • Guardian Angel: J. Hardy Hempstead in "Mr. Bevis".
  • Guinea Pig Family: "Mute".
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Simon and Barbara in "Uncle Simon", especially to each other.
  • Haunted Technology: "The Fever", "A Thing About Machines", "Living Doll".
  • Heads-Tails-Edge: "A Penny for Your Thoughts".
  • Deadly Change-of-Heart
  • Hell of a Heaven: "The Hunt" plays with this trope.
  • Henpecked Husband: Henry Bemis, in "Time Enough at Last".
  • Here We Go Again: "Judgment Night", "Mr. Dingle the Strong", "Shadow Play", "Dead Man's Shoes", "Person or Persons Unknown", "Death Ship", "Uncle Simon", "Spur of the Moment", "Queen of the Nile", "The Time Element".
    • Implied in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", as the aliens state that this will happen again, and again on other streets, much like the first.
    • Rod Serling states the oh-so-familiar Big Bad of "He's Alive" will continue to "offer advice" again and again indefinitely in his closing speech.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: "He's Alive" has Adolf Hitler hijacking a neo-Nazi campaign.
  • Historical Domain Character:
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: "No Time Like the Past".
  • Honest John's Dealership: "The Whole Truth".
  • Hope Spot: "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" ends with one.
  • Hot as Hell: "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", starring Julie Newmar as Satan.
  • How We Got Here: "To Serve Man".
  • Human Aliens: Part of the plot of "People Are Alike All Over". The protagonists of "Third from the Sun".
    • Probe 7, Over and Out".
  • Human Ladder: "Five Characters in Search of an Exit".
  • Human Popsicle: "The Rip Van Winkle Caper", "The Long Morrow".
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: "I Shot an Arrow into the Air", "The Invaders", "The Gift", "The Shelter", "I Am the Night - Color Me Black", and most famously "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street".
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: "The Little People".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: "To Serve Man".
  • Immortality Immorality: "Love Live Walter Jameson", "Queen of the Nile".
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: There were actually two of them. The first season featured a haunting, string-laden theme composed by Bernard Herrmann; this was replaced in Season 2 with a different and much more familiar theme (featuring the iconic high-pitched four-note guitar riff) composed by Marius Constant.
  • Interactive Narrator: At the end of "A World of His Own", Rod Serling appears to give his closing speech, only to be interrupted and then erased by Gregory's Reality Warper powers (complete with a This Is Gonna Suck remark from Rod before he vanishes). This was actually his very first onscreen appearance: it proved so popular that it set the tradition of him appearing onscreen to give the episode narration.
  • Ironic Death: "A Most Unusual Camera". After the main characters die, the waiter smugly counts the number of bodies: "One... two... three... FOUR?! Cue screaming.
    • The Chancellor in "The Obsolete Man".
  • Ironic Hell: "A Game of Pool" and "A Nice Place to Visit".
  • Is This a Joke?: Standard Explanation for anything unusual and unexplainable.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: "The Masks".
  • Kafka Komedy: "Time Enough at Last".
  • Karma Houdini: This trope is Averted through most of the series, but shows up in some fifth season episodes (such as "What's in the Box?" and "Caesar and Me"). In his book The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree identifies this as a symptom of Seasonal Rot.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Former Trope Namer as Twilight Zone Twist.
  • Large Ham: More often than not, an episode will have at least one.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: "Death's Head Revisited".
  • Life Drinker:
    • One episode featured a man who found that he could obtain abstract or otherwise normally non-transferable attributes from other people by simply making the deal with them. Among other attributes, he restored his youth by "buying" it from younger men who thought him to be a kook giving them money for nothing. He only took a year from each man, but was able to become young again. Incidentally, he was only an old man because he had previously sold his own youth to an elderly millionaire (he came out financially ahead after the exchanges were complete).
    • Another episode involves a movie queen who retains her youthful appearance by stealing the life force of others.
    • "Queen of the Nile". A woman uses a scarab beetle to drain the life force of men so she can maintain her eternal youth. It's implied that she's the actual Cleopatra of Egypt.
  • Lilliputians: "The Little People".
  • Look Ma, No Plane: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".
  • Love Potion: "The Chaser".
  • Magic Realism
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: The Twist Ending was a major staple of the series that earned the show a reputation for this, though it wasn't quite as "mandatory" as it's remembered as being.
  • Matter of Life and Death: "Perchance to Dream".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: "The Thirty-Fathom Grave".
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: "A Penny for Your Thoughts" has the hero discovering how petty and self-centered the people around him can be when he becomes inexplicably psychic. It's not as bad as some cases (and it helps him get the girl), but he's still relieved when his new-found power vanishes.
  • Mobile Kiosk: "One for the Angels". Lew Bookman has a mobile pitch: a suitcase with extendable legs. When he finishes a pitch, he collapses the legs back into the suitcase and moves on.
  • Motor Mouth: McNulty, the main character of the episode "A Kind of Stop Watch".
  • Mundane Wish: Appears in "The Man in the Bottle". The couples' first wish (out of four) is to have a pane of glass in their shop repaired, in order to test the genie's power first. The couple then proceed to waste their remaining wishes, but in the end console themselves with the thought that at least the glass got repaired. Guess what happens next.
  • Murder Ballad: Used as a Plot Device in "Come Wander with Me".
  • Murderous Mannequin: Subverted in "The After Hours"; Marsha is, at first, understandably terrified when the mannequins come to life, but it soon becomes apparent that they are friendly, and only want her to remember that she is also a mannequin.
  • My Car Hates Me: "You Drive", "The Hitch-Hiker".
  • Never Sleep Again: "Perchance to Dream", "Ninety Years Without Slumbering"
  • The Night That Never Ends: "I Am the Night – Color Me Black".
  • No Dialogue Episode: "The Invaders". Throughout the episode, the main character makes plenty of noises as she fends off tiny aliens, but none of it is dialogue. Aside from Serling's narrations, the only spoken dialogue comes when the last and soon-to-be-killed invader sends a distress call back home. The tiny invaders are then revealed to be humans from Earth. This revelation subsequently justifies the trope, as the woman is a (giant) alien and wouldn't know English or any other language from Earth.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: "The Incredible World of Horace Ford".
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "Mirror Image".
  • No Time to Explain: "Passage on the Lady Anne". As it turns out, it's a ship only meant for dying/wanting to die people.
  • On One Condition: "The Masks", "Still Valley".
  • Ontological Inertia: "The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms".
  • Ontological Mystery: "Where Is Everybody?", "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," "Stopover in a Quiet Town."
  • Orson Welles: The main reason Serling ultimately became the Narrator. CBS and the Sponsers wanted Welles to do it, but he was too expensive.
  • Panthera Awesome: "The Jungle".
  • Peggy Sue: "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville".
  • Pilot Movie: In 1958, Rod Serling wrote a teleplay ("The Time Element") which he hoped to turn into a weekly anthology series. It's often included in the series' canon as its lost pilot episode.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot
  • Pound of Flesh Twist: In "The Rip Van Winkle Caper", a group of gold thieves put themselves to sleep for 100 years to escape the cops, only to awaken to a future where gold is worthless.
  • Pow Zap Wham Cam: Used in episodes such as "Third from the Sun" and "The Howling Man"
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Episodes adapted from short stories were often massaged a bit. In Damon Knight's short story "To Serve Man", the alien representatives are described as looking like pigs. The producers thought the audience would find this too silly, so the alien makeup is the more conventional tall-head variety.
  • Prophetic Fallacy
  • Reality Warper: Anthony Fremont in "It's a Good Life", and Gregory West in "A World of His Own", though the latter needs a dictation machine.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "The Masks".
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe example with "I Sing the Body Electric." A widowed husband gets a robot granny to help raise his children, but the oldest child rejects her for not being her deceased mother.
  • Ret-Gone: "And When the Sky Was Opened".
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots: "The Lateness of the Hour", "The Lonely".
  • Rule of Three: In "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?", said Martian has three arms. The Venusian has three eyes.
  • Satan: Popular character. Played by Julie Newmar (in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville") and Burgess Meredith (in "Printer's Devil") among others.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Jason Foster in "The Masks", though this is both a subversion and a Justified Trope. Jason's cranky and crotchety because he knows he's going to die soon and he's surrounded by family members waiting for him to die like vultures. However, while certainly cranky, he never comes off as needlessly cruel to his doctor or his servants and shares a sort-of rapport with them. They're also quite understanding of why he's cranky, and share his contempt for his so-called "family".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: "The Howling Man."

Rod Serling: Ancient folk saying - you can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long.

  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: "A Most Unusual Camera", "No Time Like the Past", and "What's in the Box?".
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: "The Four of Us Are Dying".
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "The Time Element". Especially heartbreaking because the main character not only is unable to prevent the death of a young couple (oh, and prevent the mass death and disaster at Pearl Harbor), he also gets himself killed and part of his life erased from existence as well. This episode not only shot the shaggy dog, it skinned and made it into a floor rug.
    • Nonlethal version in "The Big Tall Wish".
  • Silence Is Golden: "The Invaders", written by Richard Matheson, has no dialogue until the very end (when what little dialogue the episode has constitutes The Reveal).
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: The show plays with this in the famous episode "Eye of the Beholder", where a woman undergoes plastic surgery to become beautiful because she falls into the Most Horrible Ever category (there's a village made just for ugly people so nobody would be forced to look at them). Of course being The Twilight Zone there's a twist: it's reversed. Being ugly is beautiful and vice versa.
    • Also played with in "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You", in which a young Common Beauty is described by others as "hideous" because she hasn't traded her original appearance in for a carbon-copy World Class Beauty body.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Lieutentant Katell in "A Quality of Mercy" wants to be one, wanting to prove himself and completely destroy the enemy (in this case, the Japanese during World War II). The Karmic Twist Ending forces him to the other side, where a gung-ho Japanese soldier does the same thing he was about to do to some wounded Americans hiding in the very same cave. He doesn't like it.
  • Something Completely Different: "Cavender Is Coming", a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for a prospective comedy series starring Jesse White as the title character, an apprentice guardian angel who assists a klutzy mortal played by Carol Burnett.
    • Also, the comedy episodes, such as "Mr. Bevis", "A Penny for Your Thoughts", and "Once Upon A Time".
    • For the episode "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", Rod Serling ditches his usual method of introduction and says, apparently out of character, that tonight they're going to do something very special that they've never yet done in the five years they've been running the show and show you a French film made by somebody else.
    • For Season 2, six episodes were recorded on videotape using four video cameras on a studio soundstage at CBS Television City, as a cost-cutting measure mandated by CBS programming head James T. Aubrey. However, videotape was a relatively primitive medium in the early 1960s, thus the editing of tape was next to impossible. Even worse, the requisite multicamera setup of the videotape experiment made location shooting difficult, severely limiting the potential scope of the storylines, so the crew had to abandon the videotaping project. The six "videotape episodes" are: "The Lateness of the Hour", "The Night of the Meek", "The Whole Truth", "Twenty-Two", "Static", and "Long-Distance Call".
    • The entire fourth season which CBS expanded into an hour, creating scripts that were for the most part overly padded, and signaled to many the Zone Jump the Shark moment.
  • Space Whale Aesop: "Stopover in a Quiet Town": Don't drink and drive, or you'll wake up in a toy town owned by a gigantic extraterrestrial little girl after having been abducted.
  • Speculative Fiction: The Sci Fi elements and stories.
  • Spooky Silent Library: "Time Enough at Last" ends with a lone man, an empty library, and a broken pair of glasses. Possibly better known by now through parodies than through the original.
  • Stable Time Loop: "The Last Flight" and "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim".
  • Stock Footage: The countdown and launch footage from "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" was reused in "People Are Alike All Over".
  • Stopped Clock: "Where is Everybody?".
  • Subtext: "The Fugitive" might also seem creepy to modern eyes. Especially when it's revealed that the elderly man eventually marries the little girl. Of course, he's a shapeshifting alien who's actually handsome and can take on a younger form and he waited until she got older before marrying her, but it still sounds a bit squicky.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien
  • Survivor Guilt: Suffered by James Embry in "King Nine Will Not Return".
    • Happens again in "The Thirty-Fathom Grave".
  • Take That: The entirety of "Showdown with Rance McGrew" against the TV westerns of the time. It also serves as a deconstruction of sorts. Serling hated the Westerns of the time, deeming them too unrealistic and predictable, and later went on to make a Western series (The Loner) himself.
    • The hour long episode "The Bard" features a hack writer who, while researching a book of black magic, inadvertently brings William Shakespeare back from the dead, and uses him as a literal ghost writer. Serling uses this setup to parody everything about television at the time including sponsors making inane changes, and the concept of taking a half hour show and making an hour show of it, such as CBS did to Zone that season, much to Serling's dismay.
  • Talking to Themself: "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room".
  • This Isn't Heaven: "A Nice Place to Visit".
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: A number of episodes leave open the question of how much of what the audience sees is real. Most overtly explored in the episode "The Arrival", which ends with Rod Serling outright asking the audience to decide whether we've been watching the main character's mental breakdown or his encounter with the supernatural, and "The Mirror" is much the same.
  • Time Stands Still: "Still Valley" and "A Kind of a Stopwatch."
  • Time Travel: "Walking Distance", "The Last Flight", "Execution", "Back There", "The Odyssey of Flight 33", "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim", "Once Upon a Time", "No Time Like the Past", "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", "The Incredible World of Horace Ford", "The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms", "The Time Element".
  • Title Drop: Every episode opens and closes with a narration from Rod Serling. In many of the opening narrations, and in every closing one, the narration ends with "The Twilight Zone". After setting the premise for the episode, the opening narration often states the character(s) is/are about to enter The Twilight Zone. The closing ones summarizes the events of the episode in an eerie and cryptic manner, and a moral or message about what happened is either hinted at or outright stated; but it always ends in the phrase "The Twilight Zone". The exceptions are "The Four of Us Are Dying", "He's Alive", and "Long Live Walter Jameson." [1]
    • In the original broadcast of "Night of the Meek", Serling expresses a holiday greeting after the "...in the Twilight Zone" statement, which was generally edited out in syndication.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The first season opening is often pasted over by the second season opening in syndicated reruns.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: "The After Hours", "The Lateness of the Hour", "In His Image", "Ring-a-Ding Girl". Ironically, played with in "The Mirror".
  • Tomato Surprise: Too many to list.
  • To Serve Man: Trope Namer.
  • To Shakespeare: Two of the episode titles are "Perchance to Dream" and "A Quality of Mercy"; Rod Serling even quotes Portia's words to Shylock at the end of the latter episode ("The quality of mercy is not strained, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath: it is thrice blessed, / It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes"; The Merchant of Venice, IV.i).
    • A running joke in "The Bard" (in which a hack would be TV writer brings Shakespeare to life and puts him to work writing for television) has Shakespeare quoting his plays, title and verse. At one point the Bard says, "To be or not to be - that is...." looks confused, and then exits.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: "Valley of the Shadow".
  • Tragic Hero: Captain Benteen in "On Thursday We Leave for Home".
  • Truman Show Plot: "A World of Difference".
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Some episodes could get pretty bad about this. Pity that by the 1990's we hadn't even traveled to the nearest galaxy yet.
    • The episode "The Elegy" lays out a distinct timeline; a trio of spacemen from 2185 discover a cemetery on a distant asteroid consisting of a replica of daily life on Earth that was supposedly started in 1973, and mention a nuclear war having happened in the 1980's.
  • Twist Ending: Became infamous for this sort of thing.
  • Un Paused: "A Kind of a Stopwatch", until the stopwatch breaks.
  • Urban Fantasy: Anything that takes place in a city, natch.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: The six Season 2 "videotape episodes"; see Something Completely Different above.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Happens many times.
  • Wait Here: In the episode "Still Valley", a Confederate scout gives orders to his partner.

Paradine: Now you stay here. If you hear a shot, you get back to the lieutenant at a fast gallop... If you haven't heard from me in 15 minutes, you get back there anyway.

The Twilight Zone Movie, '80s revival, and 2002 revival provide examples of:
  • Aborted Arc: The movie had this in "Time Out", as Vic Morrow's death changed the ending from "protagonist goes back to his time learning his lesson" into "protagonist goes back to the 1940s and is sent to a concentration camps".
  • Balancing Death's Books: "Welcome to Winfield" [1980s Revival].
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: "The Leprechaun-Artist", "The Library" [1980s Revival].
  • The Blank: "A Matter of Minutes" [1980s Revival].
  • Color Me Black: Done in The Movie, and an episode of the 2002 reboot.
  • Credit Card Plot: The 1980's episode "The Card". Also an example of an Cruel Twist Ending.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Death in "One Night At Mercy" [2002 revival] is a kindly fellow who doesn't like his job at all and is happy to quit. When the doctor eventually dies of an aneurysm, Death comforts him, admits that he's tempted to just let the doctor come back to life, and shows admiration for the doctor's ability to give life to the patients.
  • Dead All Along: "Kentucky Rye" [1980s Revival].
  • Dead to Begin With: "Take My Life...Please!" [1980s Revival].
  • Deal with the Devil: "Dealer's Choice", "I of Newton", "Time and Teresa Golowitz", "Crazy As a Soup Sandwich" [1980s Revival].
  • Divine Intervention: "The Executions of Grady Finch" [2002 Revival].
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "Rendezvous in a Dark Place".
  • Doppelganger: "Shatterday", "The Once and Future King", "The World Next Door", "The Road Less Traveled", "Something in the Walls" [1980s Revival].
  • Dream Apocalypse: The remake of "Shadow Play" [1980s Revival].
  • Dystopia: "Examination Day", "To See the Invisible Man" [1980s Revival].
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: "Gabe's Story" [2002 revival]. The titular character has been having a severe run of bad luck lately. As his life is about to crumble apart for good, he learns that he and everyone else are having their "stories" written for them, as - supposedly - nothing would ever happen to them otherwise. Gabe convinces his Writer and her boss allowing him to take control of his own life - allowing him to reconcile with his wife and get a fresh start.
  • Eldritch Location: Anthony's house looks normal (even though it's based on a subtle cartoon design), its upper floor is gray and very Burton-esque with a portrait of a family of blank faces.
  • Fantastic Time Management: In the 1980s episode "A Little Peace and Quiet", a harried housewife finds a magic sundial that allows her to stop and restart time. She uses it to literally make time for herself, enjoying a peaceful breakfast or leisurely shopping for groceries while time is stopped for everyone else. Everything is perfect until nuclear war breaks out and she stops time while a missile is 10 feet above her head. She will have to choose between dying with everyone else and living her life forever trapped between two instants of time.
  • The Film of the Series: Released in 1983. Sadly, it's best remembered for the deaths of Vic Morrow and two child actors doing production.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Played for laughs in "Need to Know" [1980s Revival].
  • The Grim Reaper: "Welcome to Winfield", "Rendezvous in a Dark Place" [1980s Revival].
  • Hair-Raising Hare: In The Twilight Zone: The Movie, in the updated version of "It's a Good Life", the local Reality Warper asks his uncle to pull a rabbit out of a hat as a magic trick, then the rabbit turns into a hairless, hulking, snarling monstrosity before it goes back into the hat.
  • Haunted Technology: "Her Pilgrim Soul" [1980s Revival].
  • Henpecked Husband: "Button, Button" [1980s Revival].
  • Here We Go Again: "A Day in Beaumont", "The Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon", "The Hellgrammite Method" [1980s Revival].
  • The Hidden Hour: "A Matter of Minutes" and "Paladin of the Lost Hour" [1980s revival].
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Elvis Presley is used as a character in "The Once and Future King" [1980s Revival].
    • John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev play important roles in "Profiles in Silver" [1980s revival].
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: "Cradle of Darkness" (2002 series): Subverted in that the time traveler succeeds, only for the nanny to replace baby Adolf with a baby from a beggar woman on the street.
  • Human Aliens: "Small Talent for War" [1980s Revival].
  • Human Popsicle: "Quarantine" [1980s Revival].
  • Lighter and Softer: "The Star", an adaptation of the short story of the same title. The ending in the original had a priest in despair after finding out an advanced and peaceful civilization perished, but the adaptation reverses the originally nihilist ending when the astrophysicist with him shows him a poem that this civilization should not be grieved for, as they were peaceful and joyful, but to grieve for those still in the dark.
  • Lighthouse Point: "The Beacon" [1980s Revival]. Another episode concerned a lighthouse that was sort of a waypoint on the afterlife, where the newly dead arrived before being sent on their way.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium" [1980s Revival].
  • Living Doll Collector: An episode of the 2002 reboot featured a little girl who turned all her babysitters into Barbie dolls because she was lonely and didn't want them to ever leave.
  • Living Shadow: "The Shadow Man" [1980s Revival].
  • Lonely Doll Girl: Danielle in "The Collection", to the point of being a Living Doll Collector.
  • Magical Negro: In the "Kick The Can" segment of the movie.
  • Message in a Bottle: "A Saucer of Loneliness" [1980s Revival].
  • Mirror Universe: "The World Next Door", "The Road Less Traveled" [1980s Revival].
  • Murderous Mannequin: The remake of the "The After Hours" [1980s Revival].
  • Mythology Gag: The Twilight Zone: The Movie opening, referencing many episodes of the series and debating if "A Kind of Stopwatch" was a Zone or an Outer Limits.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: "What Are Friends For?" [1980s Revival].
  • Ontological Mystery: "Matter of Minutes" [1980s Revival].
  • Opening Shout-Out: Both revivals feature images of Rod Serling in the opening credits.
  • Passing the Torch: "Paladin of the Lost Hour" [1980s Revival].
  • Plucky Office Girl: Karen Billings, played by Pam Dawber in the New Twilight Zone episode "But Can She Type".
  • Powered by a Rebellious Child: The Ever-Green community, where they turn some teens into red plant fertilizer disguised as a 'reeducation camp' especially for them.
  • Race Lift: The 2002 revival was targeted towards a more African-American audience; the host was black as were a lot of the main characters in its episodes, and it featured episodes such as a racist white man waking up black. Tropes Are Not Bad, of course, and being on UPN might have had something to do with it.
  • Recursive Canon: Played with in The Movie's opening sequence, in which characters discuss the old TV series before a Twist Ending reveals they're in the Zone. Granted, if any franchise was tailor-made to mess around with this stuff, this one's it!
  • The Remake: Many episodes from the original series were later remade, including "Kick the Can", "It's a Good Life", and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" [The Movie], and "A Kind of Stopwatch" (as "A Little Peace and Quiet" and with elements of "Time Enough at Last" thrown in), "Dead Man's Shoes" ("Dead Women's Shoes"), "Night of the Meek", "Shadow Play", "The After Hours", "Miniature" (as "The Call"), "A Penny for Your Thoughts" (as "Vision"), and "A Game of Pool" [1980s Revival], and "Eye of the Beholder" [2003 Revival].
  • Remake Cameo: Burgess Meredith as The Movie's Narrator.
    • Rod Serling's wife Carol had a cameo as an airline passenger in the movie's version of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
    • Bill Mumy plays a diner patron in "It's a Good Life".
    • Images of Serling are used in the openings of both TV remakes.
  • Revival: There have been four Twilight Zone revivals in total: The two latter-day TV versions noted above, the film also mentioned above, and a Radio version that's still in production.
  • Stable Time Loop: "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", "The Once and Future King", "The Convict's Piano" [1980s Revival].
  • Subtext: "Extra Innings" [1980s Revival] had a washed-up former baseball star who was good friends with a tween or teen girl. Nothing too creepy, yet. He and she trade cards a lot, and she gets him this 1910 card of a rookie who looked just like him and had exactly the same stats as him. Then, he discovers that the card allows him to take control of the rookie on the card, which also takes him back to 1910. Then, the next day, he tells the girl about it, and at first she doesn't believe him. When he shows her the stats, she believes him, as they have changed. Then, when he takes her back in time with him, before the card opens the portal, he puts his arm around her. Between her face there and the dialog, which sounds like it came from a Very Special Episode about child molestation, the creepy subtext is amazing.
  • Talking to Themself: "Shatterday" [1980s Revival].
  • Tall Tale: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" features a man who continually tells tall tales. When he tells them he was abducted by aliens, they believe he is just Crying Wolf (of course, the whole episode could be a tall tale... from Rod Serling's point of view).
  • Tanks for The Memories: "The Mind of Simon Foster" [1980s Revival].
  • Time Stands Still: "A Little Peace and Quiet" [1980s Revival].
  • Time Travel: "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", "Profile in Silver", "The Once and Future King", "Lost and Found", "The Convict's Piano", "Joy Ride", "Time and Teresa Golowitz" [1980s Revival].
  • Tomato in the Mirror: "The After Hours", like the original [1980s Revival].
  • Toon Town and Toon Physics: In The Movie, Anthony brings cartoon characters to life and sends one person into a cartoon world to be eaten.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: "The Beacon" [1980s Revival].
  • Truman Show Plot: "Special Service" [1980s Revival].
  • Un Paused: Among others, "A Little Peace and Quiet" in the 1985 premiere. There, a typical 80's henpecked housewife (Penny) found an golden amulet that allowed her to stop and re-start time at her own beck and call (through the commands "Shut up!" and "Start talking!"); she abuses this privilege- until the very next night, when nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union now breaks out. (It is never explicitly stated, but it was at this point, too late, where Penny now realizes the true purposes of her gold amulet... Freezing time to get two rivals- the government-officials together and force them to "start talking" about nuclear-weapon disarmament. Still, Penny is still able to freeze time split seconds before her whole hometown is destroyed by a nuclear bomb. Downer Ending indeed...)
  • The Vietnam War: TOS "In Praise of Pip", "Time Out" (the Vic Morrow segment of The Movie), and the 80s revival episodes "Nightcrawlers" and "The Road Less Traveled"
  • Wishplosion: "I of Newton" [1980s Revival].
  • Wrong Turn At Albuquerque: "The Beacon".
  • You Monster!: In the 2003 revival of the series, Anthony's own mother calls him a monster after all the years she had to suffer under her son's godlike powers.
  • You Will Be Beethoven: "Profile in Silver" and "The Once and Future King" [1980s Revival].

Guess what? Your whole life has been a dream, one of your family members is a robot, and that nice man that just moved into town is a Martian. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

Notes

  1. "Death's-Head Revisited" excepted this as well, though just barely. To hammer in the message of never forgetting about the Holocaust, the narration closed saying that it must be remembered not in the Twilight Zone but in our real world, making "The Twilight Zone" the second to last phrase.