A few months ago, we brought you a list of our Top 10 ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes. With another New Year’s marathon approaching on SyFy, we decided there were just too many good installments missing from the previous list. Here, in no particular order, are the rest of the Top 25 episodes, in our book.
‘The Long Morrow’ – Season Five – Jan. 10, 1964
By the fifth season, the show had gotten a little stiff, the writing sometimes forced. But even imperfect episodes like this one strike an emotional chord. The plot is actually quite brilliant: An astronaut decides to take on a 40-year-mission into space. Shortly before he’s due to leave, he meets the woman of his dreams (a young, beautiful Mariette Hartley).
He decides to go through with it, remaining in hibernation so that he won’t age. “I’ll be the little old lady in the lace shawl,” his love sadly jokes as he departs.
Thinking that they can be reunited in age when he returns, he takes himself out of hibernation six months into the mission. But unbeknownst to him, she puts herself in hibernation back on Earth, so when he returns he is old – and she is young. It’s heartbreaking. The music during the scenes of courtship have a haunting, romantic and melancholy tinge.
‘Third From the Sun’ – Season One – Jan. 8, 1960
This is a bizarre episode from the first season’s peak. Two men working for some sort of government space agency have knowledge that the world’s end is imminent. They decide to let their families in on the secret at the last minute, and take a brand new spacecraft out into space before the world crumbles. The final reveal shows that they are heading toward a planet much like their own. It’s called Earth.
What makes this episode special is its unsettling qualities. Plot-wise, it could be considered predictable. But director Richard L. Bare adds some awesome touches that in retrospect show that this world is different than ours. The camera angles are all titled; the phones look different; the music seems foreign. When you watch it again knowing the ending, you’ll appreciate all the subtle touches.
‘The Trade-Ins’ – Season Three – April 20, 1962
This segment is about the pain of growing old. Sometime in the future, technology has made it possible to remove one’s soul and implant it in a new body. This sounds incredibly appealing to an old, ailing couple. The husband (a brilliant Joseph Schildkraut) has agonizing pain (Cancer? Arthritis?) and they would both like the procedure.
Here’s the catch: they can only afford one. So they decide to do the husband first, but when he comes out of surgery with a six-pack and tons of energy, it’s clear it will create a rift between them. They ultimately decide it’s best to continue growing old, pain and all. As he tells her, “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”
The scene in which they realize their marriage won’t work with one of them young and one of them old is brilliantly filmed. A catharsis in the music is accompanied by increasing close-ups of their faces, finally settling on their sad eyes.