You’ve Just Crossed Over Into...The Twilight Zone
The pilot episode of The Twilight Zone, titled “Where Is Everybody?” first premiered on October 2, 1959. It was written by World War II combat veteran Rod Serling, who went on to pen 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. Fans of The Twilight Zone would come to be very well acquainted with Serling. He provided the opening and closing narration for the show, delivered by voiceover in the first season and on-camera for the following seasons.
Serling’s voice isn’t the only recognizable feature of the pilot episode. “Where Is Everybody?” was filmed at Courthouse Square, a stage on the Universal Studios backlot. It has been used as the set for many well-known movies including To Kill a Mockingbird and Back to the Future, and it’s still in use today.
In addition to Serling’s memorable narration, The Twilight Zone also had several other notable trademarks. The show often focused on human emotions and psychological stress, mysterious storylines that tied in science fiction or fantastical elements, and twist endings that usually involved a moral or thematic point.
Up And Coming Stars
The Twilight Zone was an anthology series, so a large number of actors took to the screen over the course of the show. A number of them went on to become popular celebrities, including Cloris Leachman, Robert Redford, Carol Burnett, and William Shatner, to name a few.
William Shatner starred in two episodes of The Twilight Zone, “Nick of Time” in 1960 and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in 1963. In the latter, Shatner’s character is a passenger on an airplane and he spots a monster on the wing that no one else can see. The storyline of this episode actually went on to inspire a real-life safety feature.
Inside airplane cabins, passengers will spot small triangle-shaped markings in either red or black. Located near the wings, these triangles indicate where the flight crew can get the best vantage points of the slats and flaps outside. This is especially helpful in wintery conditions when the crew needs to ensure the wings have been properly de-iced. The seats below these markings are sometimes referred to as “William Shatner’s seat,” in reference to the episode.
As an iconic piece of television history, The Twilight Zone has continued to live on in pop culture long after the series ended its initial five-season run in 1964. In 1979, the band The Manhattan Transfer released the disco hit “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone,” which opened with the famous high-pitched riff heard on every episode.
The show has been rebooted multiple times, including most recently in 2019-2020 by producer Jordan Peele. A 2002 reboot of The Twilight Zone included the only sequel episode in the series, a follow-up to “It’s a Good Life,” from the show’s original run. Both Cloris Leachman and Bill Mumy reprised their respective roles of the mother and her mind-controlling son, making them the only two actors to appear in both the original and 2002 series.
And big fans of The Twilight Zone might want to add a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World to their bucket list. The theme park is home to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a thrill ride inspired by the classic show. While the ride isn’t based on a specific episode of the original series, there are plenty of nods to iconic episodes throughout the attraction. Riders can spot a clip of Rod Serling from “It’s a Good Life,” a Fifth Dimension scene inspired by “Little Girl Lost,” and a replica of Caesar the talking ventriloquist dummy from “Caesar and Me,” to name a few of the many Easter eggs.