Series / The Twilight Zone (1985)

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The first revival of The Twilight Zone (1959), informally known as The New Twilight Zone, aired for two seasons on CBS from 1985-87, and aired a third season in first-run syndication from 1988-89. Although not as successful as the original, it was considered by many to be an often worthy successor.

For its first season it aired in hour-long installments consisting of two or three stories of varying lengths. This format continued at the start of the second season, but after being put on hiatus the show returned in a half-hour format. After being canceled midway through the season, the remaining stories were aired in hour-long installments. The series was picked up for a third season in syndication, airing in half-hour one-story episodes like most of the original show.

Unlike the original, the show didn't have an on-camera host, having just a narrator instead. For its first two seasons the narrator was Charles Aidman (who acted in two episodes of the original, "And When the Sky Was Opened" and "Little Girl Lost"), and Robin Ward narrated the third season.

Tropes:

  • Aliens Are Bastards/Human Aliens/"Well Done, Son!" Guy: "A Small Talent for War" features a race who sowed humanity on Earth in the distant past, and so, yes, we look like punier versions of them. Humanity's desperate attempt to impress our "fathers" end badly.
  • Alternate History: According to "Extra Innings", an up-and-coming baseball player (Monty Hanks) died in 1909, two years into his career, after getting hit in the face with a pitch. However, thanks to a magic baseball card, Ed Hamner (who also played baseball, until he got injured) actually winds up preventing his death. What's more, after the card is torn up at the end, keeping Ed in Monty's body, went on to have a long and successful career.
  • Author Avatar:
    • The lead character of "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" was directly based on Harlan Ellison, who wrote the original story - to such an extent that (according to his audio commentary on the DVD) he actually wept while watching the filming of one scene.
    • "Personal Demons", tells the story of a writer named Rockne S. O'Bannon, dealing with a severe case of writers block. It was written by... Rockne S. O'Bannon.
  • Balancing Death's Books: In "Welcome to Winfield", a man, Matt, wakes up after being near-death from a coma. His girlfriend takes him to the titular town of Winfield, where the occupants struck a deal with Chin, an agent of death, to not die (this was 100 years ago). But when St. George, the current agent of death, finds Matt, the situation becomes this: either Matt is spared in exchange for Winfield, or Winfield is spared in exchange for Matt. After calling Chen, St. George decides to spare both parties.
  • Baseball Episode: "Extra Innings" is this to a T. The main character is an ex-baseball player whose career ended because of an injury, thanks to a magic baseball card that he got from his baseball-loving friend, he can possess a baseball player who died in 1909 as to continue playing baseball, and because of the card being torn up, gets to have a long, fruitful baseball career. ...baseball.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • "The Leprechaun-Artist": Three young boys get a wish apiece from the leprechaun they capture. It goes badly, and the boys end up under arrest by the police before the leprechaun takes pity on them and re-sets everything to normal.
    • "The Library": A woman gets a job in a magical library, the books of which can re-write people's lives. She can't resist the temptation to meddle, again things go badly before again (hopefully) being re-set to normal.
    • "Cold Reading": A egotistical old-time radio director rhetorically wishes that all the sound effects from his current jungle-adventure program came from something real. Unfortunately, he is indeed holding a real voodoo relic as he does so. Hilarity Ensues.
    • "Act Break": An unsuccessful playwright wishes for a better writing partner than the one he currently has. He finds himself sent back in time, where he meets William Shakespeare. He ends up with every line that Shakespeare ever wrote stuck in his memory, and is forced to become Shakespeare's ghost writer, without getting any of the credit or accolades.
  • The Blank: The faceless blue construction workers in "A Matter of Minutes".
  • Blind and the Beast: In "To See the Invisible Man", the only person to be kind to Mitchell during his punishment is a blind man who cannot see the implant telling others to ignore him.
  • Brown Note /Go Mad from the Revelation/Mind Virus: "Need to Know" features a Horrible Truth spreading through a small town via word of mouth, causing insanity in anyone who hears it.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Several stories warn of the dangers of not taking a more active role or interest in world affairs. One perfect example is "A Little Peace and Quiet", where a harried housewife also refuses to take note of the fact that the Soviet Union and United States are on the brink of war, and that she – thanks to an amulet that can get people to "Shut up!" and "Start talking!" – might just be wearing the thing that can bring world peace. Instead, she uses the amulet selfishly (when her family gets to her or wants to deal with annoying visitors) ... and the United States pays a dear price in the end, thanks to her disinterest in world affairs and her not realizing that she held a gift of world peace – leaving her to finally stop time just an instant before a nuclear bomb detonates and wipes out much of central and southern California.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Need to Know", the fact that pretty much everybody in town listens to the same local radio station all the time...
  • Clothes Make the Maniac: In "Dead Woman's Shoes", a shy woman tries on a pair of haunted high heels at a thrift store that make her assertive, self-confident—and send her on a murderous mission.
  • Darker and Edgier: While somewhat tame compared to other 80s anthologies like Tales from the Darkside or Freddy's Nightmares, the show still had several segments which were purely horror in nature, unlike the original series.
  • Dark is Not Evil: "Rendezvous in a Dark Place" is essentially the original series' "Nothing in the Dark" flipped around: instead of being fearful of Death and needing to be convinced it isn't scary, Barbara LeMay actually finds beauty in Death... and wants to join him. In fact, Death himself is flipped around: instead of being compassionate from the get go, he basically needs to learn how.
  • Dead All Along: In an extremely disturbing way, "Kentucky Rye" ends on this note. After managing to walk away from a car crash, Bob Spindler (drunk at the time) wanders into a bar and, after befriending the patrons and the owner, winds up buying it (after getting a little help from a somber looking man). The next morning, Bob wakes up in the bar... which is dusty and abandoned. The somber man is with him. And as they look outside, they see police and ambulance workers clean up a car crash outside the "Kentucky Rye". The victims? The somber man... and Bob (who hit him, then crashed).
  • Dead to Begin With: "Take My Life...Please!" depicts a callous stand-up comedian's unpleasant experiences in the afterlife.
  • Deal with the Devil: "Dealer's Choice," "I of Newton," "Time and Teresa Golowitz," and "Crazy As a Soup Sandwich" all feature humans making deals with literal devils, though in the case of "I of Newton", it happens involuntarily. Surprisingly, they all end fairly happily for the wish-makers.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "Rendezvous in a Dark Place" plays with this in that Barbara LeMay doesn't fear Death, she actually finds beauty in it. But Death isn't interested in her...
  • Downer Ending: Happens fairly regularly. Examples mentioned elsewhere on this page:
    • "The Beacon": The lighthouse gets its sacrifice.
    • "Examination Day": Do too well on the government test, get killed.
    • "Gramma": She takes over her own grandson's body.
    • "Need to Know:" The insanity spreads throughout the entire town, and will probably end up going world-wide.
    • "Shadow Man": Take your pick: either there's more than one Shadow Man going around killing people, or Danny's turned on him.
    • "A Small Talent For War": Humanity's alien creators wanted warriors, we're a bunch of useless second-raters and all get exterminated.
    • "Something In The Walls": The main character is replaced with a doppleganger, who leaves her trapped inside the wall.
  • Dream Apocalypse: The remake of "Shadow Play", in which a man is trapped in the same repeating nightmare.
    • It's actually worse in the remake, since it's implied that unlike the original, where Grant was simply having the same nightmare every night, this is a nightmare Grant has yet to wake up from.
  • Doppelgänger: Appropriately enough, the first story of the series ("Shatterday") concerns this: after accidentally dialing his own number, Peter Jay Novins winds up talking to... Peter Jay Novins.
  • Dystopia:
    • "Examination Day" has child prodigies being killed for scoring too well on government tests.
    • "To See the Invisible Man", possibly; the protagonist undergoes a lengthy government-mandated Cool and Unusual Punishment aimed at correcting his morality rather than due to a specific crime, and there are enforcement drones buzzing around everywhere, but the society as a whole seems peaceful and prosperous.
  • Emergency Broadcast: The premiere episode is the apocalyptic "A Little Peace and Quiet," which at the end features a live announcer trembling through an EBS alert, losing his attempts to keep calm as nuclear war breaks out between the Soviet Union and the United States.
  • Evil Old Folks/Grand Theft Me: "Gramma," where a young boy has to spend a night watching over his monstrous bed-ridden witch-grandmother. that second trope tells you how it ends. Written by Harlan Ellison and based on a Stephen King short story inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Exact Words: It Makes Sense in Context, but this is how Sam beats the demon wanting his soul in "I of Newton":
    Sam: ...get lost.
  • Fantastic Time Management: In the 1980s episode "A Little Peace and Quiet", a harried housewife finds a magic sundial that allows her to stop and restart time. She uses it to literally make time for herself, enjoying a peaceful breakfast or leisurely shopping for groceries while time is stopped for everyone else. Everything is perfect until nuclear war breaks out and she stops time while a missile is 10 feet above her head. She will have to choose between dying with everyone else and living her life forever trapped between two instants of time.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: The Wrights find the blue wrench thrown at them in a phone booth in "A Matter of Minutes".
  • From Bad to Worse: The situation in the radio studio in "Cold Reading" as all the jungle-themed adventure-show perils come to actual life; the director has to desperately re-write the show while in progress to head off even worse disasters, including an elephant stampede, an earthquake and a plane crash.
  • Funny Background Event: Not quite the background, but a lot of the humor in "I of Newton" comes from the demon's ever-changing Fun T-Shirt.
  • The Grim Reaper:
    • "Welcome to Winfield" has "agents of death", in particular St. George (dressed in all white) and Chen (the previous agent who St. George succeeded).
    • Since "Rendezvous in a Dark Place" is the original series' "Nothing in the Dark" but flipped, Death being one of the characters is a given.
  • Haunted Technology: "Her Pilgrim Soul" has a woman's (benevolent) spirit briefly possess a hologram-projection system.
  • Henpecked Husband/Schmuck Bait: "Button, Button" has a shrewish wife and down-beaten husband being given a button, which if pressed with give them wealth at the cost of killing a complete stranger. They end up pushing the button, which is then taken away... to be given to a complete stranger.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
  • Hope Spot: In "Need to Know" Sayers manages to mash Amanda's radio so that she at least doesn't hear the Horrible Truth that's just been broadcast all over town, but then it turns out she's already had a couple of visitors drop by...
  • Human Popsicle: "Quarantine" stars a twentieth-century man revived into a seemingly idyllic but stagnant future. It's eventually revealed to be... not so stagnant...
  • Inertial Impalement: In "The Once And Future King," Gary Pitkin, an Elvis impersonator, gets transported to 1953, where he meets the real Elvis Presley. At first, Elvis thinks Gary is his stillborn brother Jesse, Back from the Dead. However, when Gary begins coaching Elvis about his music, Elvis is reviled. The two men begin to fight, breaking a guitar at the neck. Then Elvis lunges at Gary; Gary rolls aside, and Elvis impales himself fatally on the jagged guitar neck.
  • Infant Immortality/Would Not Hurt A Child: Both tropes are Inverted in "Examination Day." The fascist government gives tests that identify child prodigies—who are then killed before they can grow up to question or threaten the power structure.
  • Invisible Jerkass: In "To See the Invisible Man", Mitchell Chaplin is punished by being given a mark on his forehead that means others have to ignore him and act as if he was not there. He initially does things like walking into a women's change room, but then... see Irony below.
  • Ironic Echo: In "Button, Button", the couple offered the titular button are told that if they press it, they'll receive a large sum of money, but someone they don't know will die. At the end of the episode they've pressed the button and gotten the money, and are assured that the next recipients of the button will be "no one you know".
  • Ironic Hell:
    • "The Misfortune Cookie" features a cruel food critic and a Chinese restaurant whose fortunes turn out to come true. After receiving the fortune "You're Going To Die", he storms out and finds himself surrounded by Chinese restaurants, but perpetually hungry. Eventually, he receives another fortune: "You're Dead".
    • In "Kentucky Rye", a man dies in a drunk-driving accident that he caused, and ends up in a deserted bar where all the bottles are empty.
    • And in "Take My Life... Please!", a self-centered comedian who beat his girlfriend and knowingly stole material from a young, starving colleague winds up in a hell where he is forced to recount all the most horrible things he has ever done to an audience that will only laugh at his flaws and crimes, not his jokes.
  • Irony: "To See The Invisible Man". The main character is sentenced to a year of invisibility(where others are to shun him or face being shunned themselves) for the crime of 'coldness', yet he and others are forced to be 'cold' towards the 'invisibles'; In the end he defies this and comforts an 'invisible' woman with whom he had attempted to interact while under punishment.
  • It's All About Me: In "To See The Invisible Man", a character is sentenced to one year of invisibility. He manages to chat with a blind man for awhile, before the man is told that the stranger talking to him is 'invisible' and he shouldn't be talking to him or even acknowledging his presence. When alerted to this, the blind man mutters something in the vein of "Damn you!"
  • Jungle Japes: "Cold Reading" features these coming to life inside a radio broadcast studio, including a native beating on a drum.
  • Just One Second Out of Sync: Or rather, between time, in "A Matter of Minutes".
  • Language Barrier: In "Wordplay", a man discovers that the English language has changed overnight when he starts hearing wrong words in other people's speech. The number of wrong words increases until all the man can hear is them. The episode ends with him starting to learn the "wrong word" version of English so he can understand everyone else.
  • Lighter and Softer: "The Star", an adaptation of the short story of the same title. The ending in the original had a priest in despair after finding out how an advanced and peaceful civilization perished, but the adaptation reverses the originally nihilist ending when the astrophysicist with him shows him a poem that this civilization should not be grieved for, as they were peaceful and joyful, but to grieve for those still in the dark.
  • Lighthouse Point: The titular object in "The Beacon." Another episode concerned a lighthouse that was sort of a waypoint on the afterlife, where the newly dead arrived before being sent on their way.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium" is a magical shop, the entrance to which teleports around; some people stumble on it, others have to commit years of diligent effort to track it down.
  • Living Shadow/Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: In "The Shadow Man", the murderous titular entity takes up residence under a boy's bed and offers him immunity to his/its attacks. Only it turns out there's more than one of them...
  • Louis Cypher: In "Dealer's Choice" a group of friends find themselves playing poker with a stranger named "Nick", who keeps getting three sixes in every hand he is dealt...
  • Message in a Bottle: "A Saucer of Loneliness"; the small eponymous saucer arrives on Earth and passes on its message to an equally-lonely human.
  • Mirror Universe: "The World Next Door" is a rare example where the universe in question is not particularly evil, just different. The protagonist ends up permanently switching places with his alternate, to their mutual happiness.
  • Misfortune Cookie: "The Misfortune Cookie", obviously!
  • Murderous Mannequin: The remake of the "The After Hours", with a woman being stalked by mannequins in an after-hours department store.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: "What Are Friends For?", with a young boy meeting another youth in the woods, who turns out to be an immortal being of light.
  • Oh, Crap!: As noted above under From Bad to Worse, in "Cold Reading", when it's pointed out to the old-time radio-show director what kind of things are still coming in the jungle-adventure script that his unintentional magic wish has brought to life. And then again at the very end, he combines it with a Big "NO!", when he belatedly realizes what kind of story the announcer is plugging for next week's show.
  • Ontological Mystery: "A Matter of Minutes" opens with a couple, Michael and Maureen Wright, waking up to the sound of blue blank-faced workers loading stuff into their house, along with every other house in the neighborhood. This winds up being a short mystery, however, since after they wind up stumbling across a White Void Room, they meet a man dressed in orange who explains that they are essentially backstage time itself, seeing one particular minute being made. And now, he doesn't want them to leave...
  • Opening Shout-Out: An image of Rod Serling is featured in the opening credits.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: In "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich", a loser sells his soul to a demon in exchange for winning at the horse races, only to get cheated. He goes to the mobster he borrowed his betting money from, begging for protection and the mobster does—because he's an arch-demon in human form, and now the loser owes his soul to a worse demon.
  • Parting Words Regret: In "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", a man visits his old hometown and finds himself in the past. During that time, he meets his father. Not telling who he is, he tells him how his father is always angry but never got the chance to tell him that he loved him.
  • Passing the Torch: "Paladin of the Lost Hour" features a dying elderly man passing on the titular object (a pocket watch containing the last hour of the world) to a new bearer.
  • Past-Life Memories: In "Memories," everyone has the ability to recall the memories of their past lives. Memories that include past grudges, traumas, and every stressful event they've experienced. Plus, if their current life sucks, they have a chance at a new one.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: "Examination Day", in which the government exterminates anyone who scores too high on a mandatory examination at a young age.
  • Place Worse Than Death: At least two episodes make jokes about Newark, New Jersey being like Hell.
  • Plucky Office Girl: Karen Billings, played by Pam Dawber in "But Can She Type" who stumbles on a way to switch to a parallel universe where secretaries are treated like supermodels.
  • The Remake: Several episodes from the original series were remade, including "Dead Man's Shoes" (Gender Flipped as "Dead Women's Shoes"), "Night of the Meek" being played more as a comedy, "Shadow Play" having the implication that it's not a reoccuring nightmare, but rather an ongoing nightmare, "The After Hours" being played more as horror, and "A Game of Pool" using George Clayton Johnson's original script and its original ending, where the challenger loses... without informing Johnson, which he did not appreciate.
  • Rerouted From Heaven: In the episode "Dead Run", a truck driver takes a job delivering dead souls to Hell. However, the people he's delivering there seem way too nice to deserve damnation. It turns out the new Celestial Bureaucracy that has taken over is using an overly-literal fundamentalist interpretation of The Bible, mainly due to them being paper-pushing Obstructive Bureaucrats, rather than actual malevolence.
  • Secret Shop: Wong's Lost and Found Emporium in the episode of that title is a combination of this and The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday.
    You won't find it in the Yellow Pages or advertised in the local papers. Its reputation is spread purely by word-of-mouth, from one satisfied customer to another. But if, like most of us, you've lost something in your time, look for this door. And if you don't find it at first, don't lose hope, because even that can be found again...in the Twilight Zone.
  • Subtext: "Extra Innings" had a washed-up former baseball star who was good friends with a tween or teen girl. Nothing too creepy, yet. He and she trade cards a lot, and she gets him this 1909 card of a rookie who looked just like him and had exactly the same stats as him. Then, he discovers that the card allows him to take control of the rookie on the card, which also takes him back to 1909. Then, the next day, he tells the girl about it, and at first she doesn't believe him. When he shows her the stats, she believes him, as they have changed. Then, when he takes her back in time with him, before the card opens the portal, he puts his arm around her. Between her face there and the dialog, which sounds like it came from a Very Special Episode about child molestation, the creepy subtext is amazing.
  • Talking to Themself: "Shatterday" features Bruce Willis's character doing this with a mysterious doppelganger.
  • Tanks For The Memories: The protagonist of "The Mind of Simon Foster" sells chunks of his memories to pay his liviing expenses.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The Twist Ending of two episodes.
    • "The After Hours," like the original, the protagonist learns/remembers she's actually a mannequin.
    • "A Day in Beaumont" shows an astronomer and his girlfriend witness a UFO landing, apparently the start of an alien invasion. At the end, they discover that they themselves are aliens, and everything that happened is part of a training exercise to help the aliens infiltrate Earth society.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: "The Beacon" depicts a doctor stumbling into a small town protected by an enigmatic lighthouse that demands a human sacrifice for its services.
  • Truman Show Plot: "Special Service" features a man who learns that the last five years of his life have been scripted as a television show. This example stands out because it was made before The Truman Show.
  • Time Stands Still/Un-Paused: Among others, "A Little Peace and Quiet" in the 1985 premiere. Penny, a typical 80's frazzled housewife, finds an amulet that allows her to stop and re-start time with the commands "Shut up!" and "Start talking!"); she abuses this privilege until the next night, when nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union breaks out. Penny is able to freeze time just seconds before her hometown is destroyed by a nuclear missile.
  • The Vietnam War: "Nightcrawlers" depicts the lingering and quite nasty after-effects of a military experiment conducted on a squad of soldiers during the war.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: In the short "A Matter of Minutes", the foreman of a group of people (played by Adolph Caesar) takes time to explain to a couple who end up 'outside time' how time really works, even showing them an animated computer graphic prepared for such an event.

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