One Step Beyond, also known as Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, was a TV anthology show created by Merwin Gerard that aired on ABC. It predated its better-known competitor The Twilight Zone (1959) by nine months (it premiered on January 20, 1959; Twilight Zone debuted in October). It was hosted by John Newland, who referred to himself on camera as "your guide to the supernatural" (he was also the series' director).
Like The Twilight Zone, the series presented stories that were supernatural and eerie in nature. Unlike The Twilight Zone, the show claimed to be a Docudrama; every spooky episode was (supposedly) inspired by true events and was presented as a reenactment. Topics included death premonitions, astral projection, ghosts, Psychic Powers, unexplained phenomena and strange coincidences.
Many soon-to-be famous actors guest starred on the show, including Warren Beatty, Charles Bronson, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lee, Jack Lord, Patrick Macnee, Yvette Mimieux, Elizabeth Montgomery, Edward Platt, Donald Pleasence, Pernell Roberts, William Shatner, David White, and Peter Wyngarde.
One Trope Beyond:
- Documentary: The series had one non-scripted episode that broke format: "The Sacred Mushroom", in which Newland went to Mexico to investigate rumors that "magic mushrooms" would give their users Psychic Powers. Newland talked to a local shaman, then took several of the mushrooms while his reactions were filmed. The episode became famous (and controversial) as an early example of the psychedelic movement being exposed to the mainstream.
- Fish People: "Ordeal on Locust Street" is about Jason Parish, a young man in turn of the 20th century Boston whose family hides him from the world because he has a deformity that gives him the appearance of a fish person. Or so we're told, because all we see of Jason is one scaly hand before a hypnotist somehow psychically heals him, giving him a normal appearance.
- Historical Domain Character: The series depicts George Washington and Abraham Lincoln encountering the supernatural.
- Mirror Monster: In "The Clown", a jealous, abusive husband kills his wife when he finds her in a circus trailer with a mute clown. He flees, leaving the clown as a suspect — then everywhere he goes, he sees the clown in mirror/window reflections behind him reaching for his throat, and when he spins around the clown isn't there until he IS!
- Monster Clown: Inverted Trope in "The Clown". The titular character is the good guy, avenging a murder by haunting the killer.
- Mugging the Monster: "The Burning Girl" has an interesting version. Alice Deering is a quiet, put-upon young woman accused of starting fires and getting into (sexual) trouble. Fires do start when she's around, but not the way people think, and she doesn't remember what happens. It's only after a row with her aunt and an Attempted Rape by a local that the truth of her pyrokinetic abilities comes out.
- Open Heart Dentistry: Used in "Brainwave", when a World War II ship captain gets a shrapnel wound in the neck, and the only medically-trained crewman available is a pharmacist's mate. He's talked through the procedure via radio by a doctor from another ship, who gets killed mid-operation when his own ship is hit. Yet his voice continues issuing instructions that guide the mate through a successful extraction and closure: instructions so precise, it's clear before The Reveal that something supernatural is happening, because he can evidently see the operation in progress.
- Out, Damned Spot!: In "The Hand" Tom Grant, a piano player at a run-down dive, murders a beautiful young woman in a jealous rage with a broken-off beer bottle. After the police arrest a drunken derelict for the crime, Tom figures he's in the clear. Although he at first seems to have covered his tracks well enough, he soon discovers that, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot get the woman's blood off his hands. He forces a doctor to bandage the hand only to cause the blood to seep through. Eventually he breaks down when he is called into witness for the murder and has to lay the hand on The Bible and swear to tell the truth.
- Prophetic Fallacy: The series seemingly used this Plot Twist every other episode.
- Recycled Soundtrack: Harry Lubin's Theremin-dominated theme music had originally been composed for The Loretta Young Show — and would be used yet again (in a modified form) for the second season of The Outer Limits (1963).
- Revival: The Next Step Beyond, a low budget First-Run Syndication 1978 series that reunited John Newland and Merwin Gerard. About half of the stories were remakes of original One Step Beyond episodes.
- Space Whale Aesop: "Forests of the Night" teaches us that dabbling in the occult will cause you to turn into a leopard.
- Spiritual Successor: Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, which was also a Genre Anthology based on allegedly true stories of the paranormal.