On November 24, 1958, the pilot episode of the television show, The Twilight Zone, aired, starring William Bendix, who told a psychiatrist about a recurring dream in which he wakes up just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, in an episode called “The Time Element.

The series began not quite a year later, on October 2, 1959, months after we had moved from Iowa to Texas. Its five season, 156-episode run lasted until June 19, 1964.

The series was hosted by its creator, Rod Serling.

A number of actors and actresses appeared early in their careers on The Twilight Zone, household names now: Carol Burnett, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Ron Howard, Dennis Hopper, Martin Landau, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, and Robert Redford among them.

Bernard Herrmann’s opening music for the first season was displaced by a bongo drum and guitar theme by Marius Constant and is now the one most associated with the show.

My Mom loved science fiction, as did I. Watching this show became a family event throughout my high school years, lasting until the end of my Junior year, in 1964.

The stories were delivered with a moral message – against vanity (“A Kind of Stopwatch”) , for example, the importance of family (“In Praise of Pip” ) the perils of illegal activities (“The Last Night of a Jockey”) and the value of atonement (“Mr. Garrity and the Graves”) but lightly, at a distance.

And, as is the strength of science fiction, The Twilight Zone imagined a world in which technology had advanced significantly, a world of robots (“In His Image”), space travel (“On Thursday We Leave for Home”) and time travel.

The first episode of the series, for instance, on October 2, 1959, “Where Is Everybody?” after the pilot show the year before, imagines a test pilot being isolated to determine humans’ reactions after the prolonged isolation of space travel.

He was being prepared to fly to the moon, in 1959, in fiction, the year Sputnik was launched in reality.

My favorite episode? “To Serve Man.

The twist at the end was when the heroine, a cryptographer, after translating the title of a book the aliens had left on earth for man to find, was finally able to break the code and translate the rest of the book.

She then realized why the aliens were being so nice to us, ending hunger and war, and inviting us back to their planet. They were recruiting us as domestic animals. The book was a cookbook.

In 2013, TV Guide ranked the ending as the Greatest Twist Of All Time.

Here’s a YouTube clip showing the essence of the episode, “To Serve Man.”

What was your favorite episode?


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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