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Recap / 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.
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Air date: January 27, 1961

A woman (Agnes Moorehead) living in an old shack with no modern appliances is cleaning up her house for the night. Suddenly, she hears a loud noise coming from above her and after it drones on for a little while, it stops.

The woman goes up to her bedroom and hears something on the roof. On the top she finds a small UFO that drops down a stairwell and a tiny alien in a spacesuit emerges. Terrified, the woman goes back into her shack and starts hiding.

She hides in behind the hatch only for the alien to follow her into there. She opens a hatch which it falls down and she closes it.

After some time she goes back down terrified that there is another alien there shooting at her. And when she gets back to the inside she finds a small instrument running on electricity and both bruises and welts on her arm, face and chest from where she was shot.

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She finds one alien back in her bedroom so she tries to hide from it until she gets a broom to hunt it down. After prodding around, she finds an alien behind her door.

The woman continues to hide until she finds a knife. Once again said alien has followed her and hid in a cabinet, which she promptly closes, but she hears it break out.

As she's retreating, one alien attacks her foot with a knife. Screaming in pain, she now realizes these aliens intend harm on her.

She decides to end it by capturing one of the aliens firing at her in her bed sheet and beating it on her dresser till it dies.

She finds the other alien who blew a hole through her wall prompting her to follow it to the roof.

The woman goes to the roof with a hatchet and starts beating the UFO to scrap metal. After no dialogue the whole episode, we hear the commander of the spaceship notifying central control that the planet is inhabited by giants and this makes the woman beat it harder despite them saying they have no counter attack. After a few final swings, the UFO has been destroyed.

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As the woman sags in relief, the audience finally gets a clear look at the damaged ship, and the alien writing on it: U.S Air Force Space Probe No. 1. The spacesuited aliens were humans, and the woman a giantess.


The Tropevaders:

  • Action Girl: The woman, despite being a rustic farmer who, in Serling's own words, has never worried about anything beyond "getting enough food to eat," proves herself extremely capable of defending herself against the 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 very end of the episode, it's because he and his crewmate are only "aliens" in the sense that they're humans from Earth who are on another planet. In order to avert this trope, the actual alien never speaks.
  • Asshole Victim: Considering how the "aliens" (read: 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 table 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 narrations along with the emergency broadcast sent by the invaders 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: It doesn't end well for the astronauts harassing and attacking the woman.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or Chekhov's Knife in this case. 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 the roof. Later, she comes back downstairs and sees that the knife is gone—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 (just one barely comes 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.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The big surprise—that the invaders were humans—not only flips the perspective of who the audience was rooting for, but also goes a long way to explaining many 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 gave his opening monologue at the start of the prologue segment, rather than at the end. Also, it's one of the few times that he is clearly seen walking on and off screen.
  • Homage: The story as a whole can be seen as a broad one to Gulliver's Travels — more specifically, Gulliver's voyage to Brobdingnag, where a tiny human interacts with a race of giants and there are heavy undertones of how Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Human Aliens: The planet is presumably populated by human-like giants.
  • Humans Are Bastards: invoked The ending after a set up for Aliens Are Bastards. The astronauts 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 this 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 a 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 a 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 in a world of giants.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only one actor, 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 only get the name of 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 must be 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 this episode.
  • Square-Cube Law: The woman in the cabin 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 from Earth and that the woman belongs to a race of giants.
  • Twist Ending: The invaders were humans all along.
  • Villain Ball: The invaders don't seem to realize until way too late 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 back home. Not only is it in 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.
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