Twilight Zone is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. The stories, acting and direction are top notch. The music and opening scenes are iconic. Twilight Zone stands the test of time over the last 50 years. Many people, including me, have seen every episode and can nearly recite the lines along with the actors.
As with any television series, some episodes are incredible, with outstanding stories, casting and acting. Other episodes are less so. The writers had their strong and weak points when crafting stories. It's a near unanimous sentiment that stories taking place in country scenes, or out of the typical New York City locations, are the least successful.
Everyone who loves "getting in the Zone" has their favorites and least favorite episodes. Here are mine.
First, my favorites...
1. "The Big Tall Wish" - Season 1
A down-on-his-luck boxer wins his match due to the powerful wishing of a child who lives in his building.
This is a great story with great acting. The episode is cast with African-American actors in the starring roles, which is significant for the time. The story is bittersweet because the boxer wins his match, but then loses it due to his inability to believe in himself. This is a powerful lesson about life. Very well done.
2. "A Stop at Willoughby" - Season 1
A burned out advertising executive dreams about life in 1890s Willoughby on the train ride home to Connecticut from New York City.
This is another powerful story. A man's dreams turned into reality as he leaps to his death off of a train and into the idyllic small town of Willoughby. The power of the mind to survive in spite of all odds is a common theme in Twilight Zone.
3. "The Last Flight" - Season 1
A British World War I fighter pilot lands on a 1959 American airbase.
One of the popular themes in Twilight Zone is time travel, and it's my favorite theme. The ability to change history for the better is an irresistible wish. This World War I pilot goes back to fix things when he realizes his true mission in life during his trip to the future.
4. "Mirror Image" - Season 1
A woman waiting in a bus station finds her things have moved and people tell her she has been there before.
This is an unusual storyline and I like it for that reason. It draws me in and makes me wonder why these odd things are happening. I like the twist ending, too. The plot sounds like something of out Star Trek, but it works in a Twilight Zone way.
5. "The Man in the Bottle" - Season 2
A downtrodden pawnbroker gets four wishes when he rubs an old bottle.
In some ways this is a frustrating story because the pawnbroker wasted his wishes. Unfortunately, each wish led to disaster. In the end, he was right back where he started, and thankful for it.
6. "Back There" - Season 2
A man is transported back in time and tries to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
With another time travel theme, this episode is probably my favorite, along with "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim." In this story, a man steps out of his club and back in time to the day Lincoln was shot. He tries to stop it, but fails. After he returns to the present, he realizes that he really had impacted the future because the former club attendant i now sitting at the table with him, a wealthy man. I love this episode.
7. "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" - Season 2
The head of an 1847 wagon train steps into the future while searching for water.
Another top favorite of mine, a man goes over a desert rim in search of water and enters the 20th century. He brings back aspirin and the knowledge that his son will be a great man one day. I love this one, too.
8. "Still Valley" - Season 3
A Confederate officer can win the Civil War if he accepts the Devil's proposition.
I like this story because the officer realizes that it's better to lose gracefully than to get in bed with the Devil. It's well written and acted.
9. "On Thursday We Leave for Home" - Season 4
The leader of a group of spaceship crash survivors refuses to give up control when they are rescued and are returning to Earth.
This is the only episode that I can actually remember watching when the show was still in production. I was about 6 years old and it really scared me. When the leader wouldn't go back on the spaceship with the others, the realization that he was left all alone on that distant planet for the rest of his life was absolutely terrifying. I still get scared when I watch it 48 years later.
10. "Spur of the Moment" - Season 4
A young girl is frightened by a mysterious woman chasing her.
It's human nature to want to correct our past mistakes, although that's impossible. What's done is done. In this story, a young woman is haunted by her future remorseful self, an older, sadder woman who wants to change the past, but can't.
Now, my least favorite Twilight Zone episodes...
1. "Mr. Bevis" - Season 1
A guardian angel helps a man improve his life.
This is a very annoying story. A man is given money and prestige which changes his dreary, bumbling life. However, in the end he rejects it. Who would do this in real life? No one. The exact same story was reworked in "Cavender Is Coming" in Season 3, this time with Carol Burnett as the rejector of the good life. I didn't like that one, either.
2. "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" - Season 2
Two Martians give a loser salesman superhuman strength.
This one was just dumb. Every so often, a Twilight Zone episode tried to be goofy goofy. It rarely worked and this one didn't.
3. "Once Upon a Time" - Season 3
An 1890s janitor finds a helmet that enables him to travel to the future.
Time travel isn't always good, and it definitely isn't in this silly story. Same as "Mr. Dingle, the Strong."
4. "It's a Good Life" - Season 3
Small town residents must pretend they are happy so that a little boy doesn't read their minds and punish them.
This story is creepy. Why they decided to remake it in the Twilight Zone movie produced in 1983 is beyond me.
5. "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" - Season 3
An Army major, clown, hobo, bagpiper and ballet dancer find themselves in a giant cylinder and try to get out.
Another dumb story. The characters are toys dropped into a Christmas collection can.
6. "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" - Season 3
A man wakes up during his funeral.
One of the stories set in Hicksville. Where is that place? West Virginia? Arkansas? Actually, I don't think it ever existed. I'm still not sure what the show was about.
7. "Cavender Is Coming" - Season 3
A guardian angel tries to help a woman improve her life.
See the description for "Mr. Bevis." A cheap rehash of the same story that didn't work the first time.
8. "The Bard" - Season 4
A hack TV writer uses black magic to conjure up William Shakespeare.
Yet another dumb story. Shakespeare is reincarnated by a writer who steals his stories. Yeah, right.
9. "Come Wander With Me" - Season 5
The Rock-A-Billy Kid shows up in a small town searching for a new song.
Same setting as "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank," Hicksville USA. Also dumb.
10. "The Bewitchin' Pool" - Season 5
Two children escape from their divorcing parents to happy land underneath their swimming pool.
Another story from Hicksville. We're supposed to believe that these two kids talk like Huckleberry Fin and have parents who look like they just stepped out of a country club. It doesn't make sense. The story is supposed to be about two children trying to escape the cruelty of their parents who are getting divorced, but it totally misses the mark.
There you have it, my most and least favorite Twilight Zone episodes.