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Recap / The Twilight Zone (1959) S2E15 "The Invaders"
aka: The Twilight Zone S 2 E 51 The Invaders

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Rod Serling: This is one of the out-of-the-way places, the unvisited places, bleak, wasted, dying. This is a farmhouse, handmade, crude, a house without electricity or gas, a house untouched by progress. This is the woman who lives in the house, a woman who's been alone for many years, a strong, simple woman whose only problem up until this moment has been that of acquiring enough food to eat, a woman about to face terror which is even now coming at her from the Twilight Zone.

Air date: January 27, 1961

A woman (Agnes Moorehead) living in an old shack is cleaning up her house for the night. Suddenly, she hears a loud noise coming from above, which stops after a short while. The woman goes up to her bedroom and hears something on the roof. She finds a small UFO that releases a tiny alien in a spacesuit. Terrified, the woman goes back into her shack to hide, only for the alien to follow her inside.

Sometime later, she finds a second alien has entered the shack, which starts shooting at her, its weapon leaving bruises and welts on her arm, face, and chest. The woman continues to hide from the aliens until she finds a knife. As she moves, one alien attacks her foot with a knife. Screaming in pain, she now realizes that these aliens intend to harm her. She captures one of the aliens in her bedsheets and beats it to death against her nightstand.

The woman goes to the roof with a hatchet and starts tearing the UFO apart. The surviving alien notifies "Central Control", in perfect English, that the planet they've landed on is inhabited by an "incredible race of giants" and his comrade is dead. Despite them saying they have no capabilities to mount another counter attack and warning them to avoid the planet, the woman fully destroys the UFO and kills the alien. As the woman sags in relief and returns to her shack, the destroyed ship is shown to read "U.S Air Force Space Probe No. 1", revealing that the aliens were humans and the woman was an alien giantess.

The Tropevaders:

  • Action Girl: Despite being a rustic farmer who, in Serling's own words, has never worried about anything beyond "getting enough food to eat," the woman proves herself extremely capable of defending herself against the titular invaders. She does have an incredibly large size advantage, but she's clearly terrified of what's going on and has to summon a lot of courage to protect her home.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Subverted. While one of the titular invaders does start beaming a distress signal in English at the end of the episode, it's because he and his crewmate are only "aliens" in the sense that they're humans from Earth who ventured to another planet. In contrast, the actual alien never speaks.
  • Asshole Victim: Considering how the "aliens" (human astronauts) spend most of their time pointlessly antagonizing an old farm woman, it's hard to feel that much sympathy for them after one of them gets beaten to death against a nightstand and another is axed to pieces (even with the later reveal that they were Human All Along).
  • Bottle Episode: The whole episode takes place in a small dark cabin with just one cast member. The space ship is a recycled prop from Forbidden Planet, the invaders themselves are simple hand puppets, and there isn't even any spoken dialogue aside from Serling's opening & closing narration, along with the emergency broadcast sent by the surviving invader at the end. Naturally, Tropes Are Tools, as this is widely considered to be one of the most iconic, unsettling, and suspenseful episodes in the original series' run.invoked
  • Bullying a Dragon: It doesn't end well for the astronauts, who harass and attack the woman for no real reason.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the opening shot of the episode, the woman is using a knife to prepare food and hangs it on the wall when she first goes to investigate the noise on her roof. Later, she comes back downstairs and sees that the knife is gone, since one of the invaders stole it.
  • Creator Cameo: The only dialogue we hear in this episode, other than Rod Serling's narration, is that of director Douglas Heyes. He provides the voice of the "alien's" emergency broadcast at the end.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The invaders, given how tiny they are (barely coming to above the woman's ankle), are left to try this on the woman, using their laser guns to create a few welts and stabbing at her ankles with a massive knife. It doesn't work, given the woman is bigger and more resourceful than they.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The reveal that the invaders were humans not only flips the perspective of who the audience was rooting for, but also goes a long way to explain many of the plot elements. There isn't any dialogue because the woman doesn't speak English, or any language from Earth, and the lack of technology like gas or electricity is because the planet's dominant species presumably hasn't developed anything more advanced yet.
  • Foreshadowing: The lack of dialogue is quite neat, but is also crucial to The Reveal.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Given the nature of this episode, this is the only time that Rod Serling gives his opening monologue at the start of the prologue, rather than the end. Also, it's one of the few times that he is clearly seen walking on and offscreen.
  • Homage: The story as a whole can be seen as a broad one to Gulliver's Travels, specifically referencing Gulliver's voyage to Brobdingnag, where a tiny human interacts with a race of giants, as well as the heavy undertones of how Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Human Aliens: The planet the episode is set on seems to be populated by human-like giants.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The invaders spend a pointless amount of time antagonizing a poor old woman in a lonely farmhouse seemingly for no real reason other than they can, particularly when one realizes that if they're exploring a planet of giants, it would make more sense to keep a low profile and just stay away from the giants if they don't want to be killed.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Apparently, humans are creepy little space weirdos (whose pressure/environment suits look more like hollowed-out versions of Robby the Robot) that like to attack old ladies for no clear reason.
  • Improvised Weapon User: The woman, lacking any weaponry beyond her knife (which the invaders steal) and a small hatchet, is ultimately forced to capture one of the aliens in a bedsheet and beat it to death using the corner of her nightstand.
  • Lilliputians: Subverted. It appears for most of the episode that the invaders belong to a race of tiny aliens, but it turns out that they are actually normal-sized humans on a planet of giants.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only one actor appears, who plays the harassed woman.
  • No Name Given: We never find out what the woman's name is, or if she even has one. We also get the name of only one of the two invaders (Gresham).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The lack of dialogue and complete mystery about the invaders elevates the episode from spooky to downright terrifying. It's almost worse when the little guys aren't on screen—because you don't know where they are or what they're planning to do.
  • Oh, Crap!: This is the woman's reaction when she sees that the knife hanging from the kitchen wall has gone missing.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The ending reveals that the woman in the cabin is roughly fifty feet tall.
  • Silence Is Golden: Other than Serling's narration and several lines at the very end that are used for The Reveal, there is no dialogue in the episode.
  • Square-Cube Law: The woman violates it rather flagrantly, or at least she would if she was on Earth.note 
  • Tomato Surprise: It is revealed in the final scene that the seemingly tiny aliens are actually humans from Earth and that the woman belongs to a race of giants.
  • Twist Ending: The invaders were humans all along, and the old woman was a giant alien.
  • Villain Ball: The invaders don't seem to realize that pointlessly antagonizing a fifty-foot-tall resourceful giant when you're actually supposed to be exploring an alien world is just asking to get yourself killed.
  • Wham Line: The emergency broadcast sent by the invaders to their control center. Not only is it in perfect English, but it mentions that no rescue should be sent for them and they have invaded a planet home to a "race of giants", revealing that the cabin-woman is actually an alien.
  • Wham Shot: The United States Air Force's name on the saucer, cementing The Reveal that the invaders were from Earth.

Rod Serling: These are the invaders. The tiny people from the tiny place called Earth, who would take the giant step across the sky to the question marks that sparkle and beckon from the vastness of the universe only to be imagined. The invaders, who learned that a one-way ticket to the stars beyond has the ultimate price tag. And we have just seen it entered in a ledger that covers all the transactions of the universe, a bill stamped 'paid in full,' and to be found on file in the Twilight Zone.

Alternative Title(s): The Twilight Zone S 2 E 51 The Invaders