YMMV: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone (the original series)

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In "Living Doll", is Talky Tina really evil or was she just trying to protect Christie?
    • The names "Christie" and "Tina" are both nicknames for Christina. Knowing this, could the doll be the side of Christie that wants to hurt her stepfather?
    • Was Erich a man trying to become a father to a little girl that not only wasn't biologically his but a constant reminder that he couldn't have children of his own? Or was his passive-aggressive behavior to his wife and stepdaughter a sign of emotional abuse?
      • In "One for the Angels", was Death really going to take the little girl only to be distracted by Bookman, or was the whole thing a Batman Gambit to let Bookman die on his own terms?
  • Complete Monster: While most of The Twilight Zone lacked anything resembling pure evil, Gunther Lutze from season 3's "Deaths-Head Revisited" was the exception. A former Nazi concentration camp captain at Dachau, the opening narration describes Lutze as existing only to give pain; an animal strutting in a black uniform, walking the earth without a heart. Lutze revisits Germany, and plays a game where he mentally torments a woman at a hotel who recognizes him and is utterly terrified. After this, Lutze visits Dachau, reminiscing about his atrocities and flashing back to the times when he had innocent victims hanged, shot or experimented on as if those were the best years of his life, until he is confronted by Dachau's "caretaker," a former inmate named Becker. Lutze had murdered so many he can't even initially remember he actually killed Becker years ago before he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims. While The Twilight Zone often had Smug Snake villains to receive a comeuppance, Lutze was the most singularly vile. As the ending narration by Rod Serling states, he is representative of a time when a group of men tried to turn earth into a graveyard, and into it they threw away their compassion and humanity.
  • Downer Ending: "Mute" depending on how you look at it, where a gifted telepathic girl is put in a normal school and encouraged to give up her powers, becoming a Muggle by the end.
    • Number 12 Looks Just Like You.
    Marilyn: And the best part of all Val? I look just like you!
  • Ear Worm: NENE-NENE-NENE-NENE...
  • Fair for Its Day: While most episodes are timeless in their Aesops, a few that deal with bad marriages have become less-resonant with modern values, now that divorce isn't as stigmatized as it was back in the 1960s. While "The Bewitchin' Pool"'s message that children should be cherished is still potent, its implication that a divorce will drive children away from their parents forever definitely comes across as short-sighted today (not to mention the implications that the kids are committing suicide by drowning themselves).
    • Actually, it came across more about not taking the children's needs into consideration. The parents were already neglectful before they decided to divorce, and then forced to kids to decide who would be going to live with which parent. The mother had the gall to chastise the kids for making it more difficult for herself and their dad, as if just choosing if you're going to live with your mother and father and being separated from your sibling for who knows how long was a trivial decision.
  • First Installment Wins: There have been a few revivals and spin-offs of the series, but the original show is easily the one most people remember and most people do consider the best.
  • Heartwarming In Hindsight: The death of Jonathan Winters gives a new layer of meaning to this speech he delivered during his guest spot in "A Game of Pool", as renowned billiards champion "Fats" Brown:
    Dead? Not really. As long as people talk about you, you're not really dead. As long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn't die just because the man does.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Set during World War II, "A Quality of Mercy" sees a lieutenant in the American forces sent back in a time by a few years and into the body of a lieutenant on the Japanese side. This main character here was played by Dean Stockwell, who would be on another show with a similar time travel concept about thirty years later.
  • It Was His Sled: The endings of several episodes. Among the most famous:
    • The identity of the monsters in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street": humanity itself, with all its paranoia and prejudice.
    • The real meaning of the title "To Serve Man": it's a cookbook, with man the main dish.
    • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". William Shatner is carried off by the doctors, and we pan to the plane's wing... and see evidence that there really was a gremlin destroying the wing.
    • The true nature of the condemned man's escape in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge": it was merely a hallucination in the last seconds before he died.
    • The twist at the end of "Eye of the Beholder", when we see just what sort of appearance the patient was trying to change: to the audience, she looks perfectly normal, but in the bizarre world she inhabits, she is the only one who does.
    • "Time Enough At Last". Everyone knows what happens to Burgess Meredith. "No! There was time now! It's not fair!"
  • Jerkass Woobie: Erich Streator in "Living Doll". Even the writer of that episode stated that he's not a good guy and yet you can't help but feel for him in this situation. He wants to improve himself, but the evil talking doll keeps screwing up his chances.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The Twilight Zone Theme Tune is spookiness.
    • "Imagine, if you will..."
    • "Submitted for your approval..."
  • Narm: The episode "The Fever", which focuses on gambling addiction. It mixes the anti-gambling message and supernatural elements really badly and ends up looking like a hilariously over-the-top PSA that literally ends with a slot machine causing an old man to fall through a window to his death.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Perhaps the Ur Example. Every single episode has had its plot reused, redone, or parodied by some sci-fi/horror show, movie, or book. Most modern viewers watching the series for the first time will often find themselves scratching their heads and asking, "How did people think this was scary? The story's been done to death." It's been done to death because Twilight Zone did it first (and because other shows — most notably The Simpsons and Futurama — have parodied the stories, specifically "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "It's a Good Life," "To Serve Man," among others). It really can't be overstated how explosively original (and at the time, controversial) a lot of the plots were, and the fact that they've since been repeated and redone is a testament to The Twilight Zone's success as a show.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped/ Values Resonance:
  • Space Whale Aesop: The Reveal of "Stopover in a Quiet Town" borders on this: Don't drink and drive, or you'll be captured by a giant alien and given to her daughter as playthings for her model town! Granted, it's an important lesson, but the ludicrous nature of the repercussions steer this into Narm Charm territory.
  • The Woobie: Many, many characters, usually the protagonist of any given episode unless they're an Asshole Victim.

The New Twilight Zone (2000s)

The Twilight Zone (pinball)