Rod Serling: Maple Street, U.S.A. Late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43pm on Maple Street. This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street, in the last calm and reflective moment before the monsters came.A group of families on Maple Street are enjoying an evening when a supposed meteor flies closely overhead...and doesn't crash. Soon the power goes out, and when everyone starts asking questions, a boy comes forth with a comic book about aliens landing and disguising themselves as normal people. While everyone initially ignores him, they start thinking...As a few hours passes, and no restoration of normal circumstances happens, paranoia soon gets the better of the people on Maple Street, and they start a borderline Witch Hunt, as people in the neighborhood who have been perceived as acting suspicious, even if it is just minor stuff like having a slightly different daily routine than everybody else, are accused of being aliens in cahoots with whoever is behind the power outage. It doesn't get any better when the power in some houses along Maple Street starts randomly turning on and off, and their inhabitants now have the blame cast on them.It is in the midst of this thick atmosphere of fear that a man from the street who returns from checking on neighbors is shot, and this finally pushes everyone over the edge; the whole neighborhood goes insane, running around and committing acts of wanton assault and vandalism, as they blame everyone around them for being one of the enemy.On a nearby hill, it is revealed the mysterious meteor that had flown overhead was, indeed, an alien spaceship. Its inhabitants, two alien observers, are watching the riot on Maple Street while using a device to manipulate the neighborhood's power. One of the aliens explains to his colleague that they have done this all over the planet, and the result has been the same each and every time. They don't have to fire a single shot to conquer the planet; the humans quickly become paranoid when faced with an unusual situation and can easily be tricked into destroying each other and themselves.
Rod Serling: The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own - for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.Remade as "The Monsters Are On Maple Street" for the 2003 revival, with the fear of aliens being changed to one of terrorists.
- Alien Among Us: Nope. There actually were aliens, just not among them.
- Alien Invasion: Double subverted, the aliens plan to manipulate humanity into destroying themselves before taking over.
- Batman Gambit: The aliens' plan.
- Blame Game
- Can't Argue with Elves: The aliens are right; Humans Are the Real Monsters.
- Close-Knit Community: Steadily become undone as the episode goes on.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: Tommy is the one who proposed the idea (from his comic book story) that alien invaders shut off the electricity to deliberately hold the people back from leaving Maple Street to stir up mistrust and dissent. Unknowingly, he was correct. There actually were alien beings subjecting them to a Paranoia Gambit. Unfortunately, Tommy was not savvy enough to realize that actually letting Steve and Charlie leave Maple Street likely would've prevented the whole thing. Thus he walked the crowd right into the aliens' trap, and ultimately got the ire of the community later on.
- The Corrupters: The aliens' modus operandi comes straight out of Othello.
- Divide and Conquer: The Alien Race uses Humans Are the Real Monsters to their advantage. Stir mistrust and dissent among the populace and let them destroy themselves.
- Fantastic Aesop: Played with. We probably won't be subject to alien conquest any time soon, but suspicion can tear people apart without aliens premeditating it, as the last line of narration proposes. Note that this was the era of the Red Scare.
- Hanging Judge: Charlie. He's very quick to jump on and immediately convict neighbors who are accused of being alien invaders.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: The aliens don't need to attack Earth, they just let the dark side of human nature allow the humans to destroy themselves.
- Jerkass: Charlie continually stirs the pot and is quick to jump on fellow neighbors who are accused.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Charlie blames Tommy for starting the whole mess around the neighborhood. He was right. Tommy's storytelling of comic book plot about alien invasions did get the people of Maple Street to get suspicious and paranoid of each other.
- Let's You and Him Fight
- Never My Fault: Charlie shoots and kills the "monster", but when said "monster" is revealed to be their neighbor Pete Van Horne, Charlie refuses responsibility for killing him, blaming the darkness and asking how he was supposed to know who Pete was when all he could've done was call out his name.
- Not Helping Your Case: Steve refuses to let the others see his hand radio set in the basement, and prove to them that it's just that, without a search warrant for lord knows what reason.
- Not So Above It All: Despite his skepticism, Steve Brand slips into believing the Space Monster story a few times.
- Only Sane Man: Steve Brand
- Paranoia Gambit: A large-scale version.
- Poor Communication Kills: For both sides. The crowd sees a mysterious figure walking out of the darkness. Knowing how tense everything is at the moment, Instead of calling out to the figure, or the figure calling out to them, Charlie instead grabs a shotgun and shoots the figure. Turns out it was one of their neighbors, Pete Van Horne, who was going over to the next block to see if the next street had power. They killed him for nothing. It gets worse when you realize what Pete could've told them.
- Shaming the Mob: Steve does this to the neighbors for quickly accusing and blaming others. But it didn't last.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: If Tommy hadn't told everyone about his Alien Among Us comic books, it's possible the entire plot wouldn't have happened.
- The Government: A Government Conspiracy is the one responsible for the blackout this time, as a counter-terror experiment.
- Not Helping Your Case: The family that rarely leaves their house. After being told by the Only Sane Man of the other neighbors' accusations, they refuse to leave the house or explain themselves.
- Karma Houdini: The government agents who conducted the experiment receive no retribution for causing the panic and for inadvertently being responsible for an innocent family being burned alive. Though they are deeply disturbed by the results of the experiment.
- Oh, Crap!: The soldiers worry how quickly the neighbors reacted during the blackout they caused.
- Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: Thus the story was changed from 'Aliens Among Us' to 'terrorist cells amongst us' paranoia, which increased the mundanity of the story and yet still maintained the original story's allegory perfectly.
- Setting Update
- The War on Terror: The reason for the blackout was a government experiment to see how long it would take for an average American community to descend into anarchy if a wide-spread attack ever happened. To the horror of the observers, the answer to that question is that an "average American community" would be going into full Torches and Pitchforks mode very quickly (it wouldn't stand a single afternoon).
- With Us or Against Us