All of my regular readers know what a strong influence I feel Rod Serling has been on my own writing. He is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative writers of his time. One of the main reasons The Twilight Zone was so exceptional was that Serling had such a strong influence on the series. He wrote many of the episodes, his careful use of language and imagery often resulting in a breathtaking effect. His use of symbolism might not always have been subtle, but it was always provocative. His dialog was realistic and profound, and his commentary so poignant that it might be considered timely in nearly every generation. His themes often revolved around the value of human life, and how different individuals or groups might lose sight of that value in the name of money, power, changing social mores, and/or technological advancement.
The Twilight Zone took chances on social and political issues that even now some might consider daring. The series represented speculative fiction in its purest form, using elements of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, to make statements about the world and the people living in it. In effect, the show used its suspension of reality to say something important about the realest of issues. Other shows have done this as well, most recently the Fox sci-fi drama Fringe and AMC’s The Walking Dead, but none have done it quite as skillfully.
While there are a great number of episodes in which the outcome might be somewhat predictable, one who has never seen the series would never be able to predict what might happen from one episode to the next. The series spanned from lighthearted to downright horrifying, each episode unique and with its own individual offering of commentary and social analysis. Moreover, while some of the twists used throughout the show might seem clichéd in terms of modern television or literature, most were groundbreaking during their time.
I wonder what the generations beyond mine think about the original black and white series—and if they are even willing to give a chance to a show they might consider too outdated to be enjoyable. The thought that The Twilight Zone might ever be considered outdated, regardless of its basic special effects and forgotten actors, sends chills up my spine. Although many have attempted to emulate—even revise and recreate—this brilliant classic television series, there will never be another show quite like it.