Still one of the most influential television series ever produced, The Twilight Zone is required viewing for anyone who calls themselves a student and or fan of television. Through five seasons and 156 episodes, the anthology series created by Rod Serling is near flawless. If you’re like me and you find yourself binge watching three or four episodes at a time, choosing your favorite or even compiling a list of the “best” Twilight Zone episodes can be daunting. Well, CBS and Image Entertainment have taken some of the pressure off by compiling this collection, “The Essential Episodes.” In honor of the science fiction/fantasy series’ 55th Anniversary, the two disc set contains seventeen of the finest episodes that appeared on The Twilight Zone.
Included are such classics as “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” in which a small, American town succumbs to panic and paranoia of a monster on the loose, “The Eye of the Beholder,” which finds a young woman with a head injury having to accept that she will no longer look like the rest of the world- that she’ll be “ugly”(this one has a famous twist ending), “Nick of Time,” a brilliant half hour written by Richard Matheson, that features a young William Shatner as a one half of a young married couple who become convinced that a nickel fortune telling machine can predict the future, and “To Serve Man,” an eerie sci-fi tale about aliens coming to earth with intentions that may not be quite so noble.
For a longtime fan like myself, I was thrilled that “The Essential Episodes” includes the Burgess Meredith Burgess classic, “The Obsolete Man,” as well as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” another Shatner headliner, in which he witnesses a creature on the wing of a midflight airplane (this episode was memorably remade with John Lithgow for the 1983 feature, Twilight Zone: The Movie). The biggest thrill for me is seeing that “The Invaders,” a near silent episode starring Agnes Moorehead, written by Matheson and directed by Douglas Heyes, is included here. The story of an isolated woman dealing with aliens invading her backwoods home. This was the very first Twilight Zone episode I ever watched. The dramatic weight and suspense of “The Invaders” made me an instant fan. The episode retains its power 53 years after it originally aired in 1961.
Through the use of the fantasy and science fiction genres, The Twilight Zone told stories about the racism, xenophobia and fascism, most in half-hour installments. Like all great art, it made powerful statements about society that still resonate today. The Twilight Zone is some of the finest art ever to broadcast on television. So revered is the series, it was ranked #5 on TV Guide’s Greatest TV shows of all Time and #3 by the Writer Guild’s list from last year.
While the collection doesn’t come with bonus features, each episode does include the original CBS commercials that followed each broadcast. Picture quality and sound is pristine. If you’re someone just discovering The Twilight Zone or a longtime fan looking for a greatest hits set to pop in your DVD player on a Saturday night, you can’t go wrong with this collection.
Here is a list of all the episode on this set:
• Walking Distance (Season 1)
• Time Enough at Last (Season 1)
• The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1)
• The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (Season 1)
• A Stop at Willoughby (Season 1)
• The After Hours (Season 1)
• The Howling Man (Season 2)
• The Eye of the Beholder (Season 2)
• Nick of Time (Season 2)
• The Invaders (Season 2)
• The Obsolete Man (Season 2)
• It’s a Good Life (Season 3)
• The Midnight Sun (Season 3)
• To Serve Man (Season 3)
• Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 5)
• Living Doll (Season 5)
• The Masks (Season 5)