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Series / The Twilight Zone (1959)

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Your next stop... the Twilight Zone.

"There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to Man. It is a dimension as vast as space, and as timeless as infinity. It is the middleground between light and shadow, between science and superstition; and it lies between the pit of Man's fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call...the Twilight Zone."

One of television's most revered series, The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959–64) stands as the role model for TV anthologies. Its trenchant sci-fi/horror/fantasy parables explore humanity's hopes, despairs, prides, and prejudices in deep, metaphoric ways conventional drama cannot.

Creator Rod Serling wrote the majority of the scripts, and produced those of such now-legendary writers as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. The series featured such soon-to-be-famous actors as Robert Redford, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Peter Falk, Donald Pleasence and Bill Mumy, as well as such established stars as silent-film giant Buster Keaton, Art Carney, Mickey Rooney, Ida Lupino, and John Carradine.

Twilight Zone: The Movie, a big-screen adaptation that featured individual segments produced by Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, John Landis and George Miller was released in 1983. Tragically, the movie is best remembered for a horrible accident in which three actors (two of them children) were killed during shooting of an action scene in Landis' segment.


An often worthy revival series ran on CBS from 1985–87, and in First-Run Syndication in 1988. Another revival ran on UPN in the 2002–03 season, which reunited Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman in a sequel to the classic TZ chiller "It's a Good Life". A third helmed by Jordan Peele is set to air in 2019 on CBS All Access. A licensed Pinball game, The Twilight Zone, was released in 1992, filled with references and Shout Outs to various episodes, and is today one of the most popular pinball games of all time. But it's the daring original series that shows every sign of lasting the ages as the literature that it is.

The Twilight Zone had a rather remarkable ability to take silly story concepts, combine them with preachy, moralistic writing, and produce some truly outstanding episodes. (Seriously, you think The West Wing was heavy-handed? Aaron Sorkin's got nothing on Rod Serling in full righteous-anger mode.) The ghost of Adolf Hitler travels to the United States and teaches Dennis Hopper to become an effective demagogue ("He's Alive")? It works. A former concentration camp commander travels back to Dachau after World War II and is put on trial by the ghosts of his victims ("Death's Head Revisited")? It works. William Shatner hams it up and yells about the monster on the wing of the plane ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet")? It works.


Almost all episodes ended with Aesops; "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," "Be tolerant," "Democracy is good," etc. Occasionally, however, you'd get a Family-Unfriendly Aesop. Perhaps the most notorious example was the episode "Time Enough At Last," which starred Burgess Meredith and seemed to tell the viewer, "Even if you are a good and decent man, you can still have horrible things continually happen to you and end up with no hope at all", and became one of the most famous episodes of the original series. Other notorious examples are episodes that use recycled scripting employing a family unfriendly Aesop version of the original episode's end in order to force a (rather disturbing, especially in the context of the original episode) twist. Other times, aesops seemingly conflict with one another. "The Gift" tells you not to be bigots toward aliens, because they might just be bringing you the cure for cancer. But "To Serve Man" has all of humanity accepting and tolerant of aliens, which turns out to be a bad thing. It was really a sign of this show's capability of showing different aspects of the spectrum. Tolerance and acceptance is good but blind submission and passiveness is bad.

Many television shows have borrowed liberally from the Twilight Zone, especially The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and Futurama's "The Scary Door" and "Anthology of Interest".

There's also a thrill-ride inspired by the series in Disney Theme Parks which inspired its own non-canon TV film in 1997.

See also the episode Recap page.

The show has a Best Episode Crowner.

See Franchise.The Twilight Zone for information on this series' many adaptations.

Submitted for your approval, multiple tropes, each unique in their very own way... in the Tropelight Zone:

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     Tropes A-B 
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: "The Jeopardy Room". A Soviet commissar tricks a defector into drinking wine mixed with a sleep drug by drinking first. He built up an immunity to the drug by repeatedly taking increasing doses over time.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: "Two", and more literally "Probe 7 - Over and Out".
  • Adaptation Expansion: Due to being anywhere from 5-10 minutes longer than the episodes they're based on, the radio adaptations of the episodes tended to add in additional material to make up for the length ("Time Enough at Last", for example, added in a character who's pretty much the only person actually nice to the protagonist of the story). It also constantly adds material or dialogue that was cut from the original TV script for being pointless or which there was not enough time for.
  • Adult Fear: The show was full of this in addition to more supernatural threats. The episode "In Praise of Pip" shows a bookie receiving news that his son Pip, who has gone to Indochina in the opening months of what is about to become The Vietnam War, has been seriously wounded in combat and is possibly dying. The rest of the episode revolves around the man hallucinating(?) that Pip is a ten year old boy again while he is dying of a gunshot wound. In what is a massively sad scene, he begs his son not to die and apologizes for not being a better father and role model to him while promising to do better, even though he realizes it may be too late for both of them. In the end, the father trades his own life for Pip's.
  • An Aesop: Once per Episode, with some exceptions.
  • After the End: The episodes "Time Enough At Last", "The Old Man in the Cave" and "Two" all take place after a civilization-ending war. In the first two episodes it's specifically a nuclear war on Earth.
  • The Ageless: The titular character from "Long Live Walter Jameson" was granted this form of immortality in Ancient Greece by an alchemist. He says that he came close to death many times over the centuries due to injuries and disease, "but never close enough". At the end of the episode when he is shot, he begins to age rapidly as he dies until he is nothing but a pile of dust.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: "From Agnes - With Love". The AI begins falling in love with whoever's been trying to deal with Agnes' "problem".
  • Aliens Speaking English: Pretty consistently played straight. Averted in "The Invaders".
  • All Just a Dream: "Where Is Everybody?", "Perchance to Dream", "The Arrival", "The Midnight Sun", "Person or Persons Unknown" (with an added twist), "The Time Element" (also with an added twist), "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge".
  • The Aloner: "Where Is Everybody?", "King Nine Will Not Return", "Time Enough at Last", and "Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room."
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The twist ending of "The Little People". After astronaut Peter Craig becomes mad with the power he has over the tiny aliens on the planet on which he and his now departed fellow astronaut have landed, another group of aliens who are as large to him as he is to the planets' natives land to repair their spaceship; one of them picks him up out of curiosity and accidentally crushes him to death.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Horace Ford in the episode "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" acts like a small child and often has No Indoor Voice, but he's a brilliant designer. Also, he keeps bouncing around and never seems to focus on one subject.
  • Amnesiac Costume Identity: In the episode "Where is Everybody?", a man finds himself walking along a road wearing a green jumpsuit, with no idea who he is. When he later sees a movie poster with a U.S. Air Force crewman wearing a similar suit, he realizes that he's in the Air Force.
  • Amnesia Episode: In the very first episode "Where is Everybody?", a man finds himself walking along a road with no idea who he is. The episode shows him discovering and exploring a deserted town, trying to find out his true identity and what's going on.
  • Anachronism Stew: In "Mr. Denton on Doomsday", the town bully Hotaling forces the alcoholic Denton to sing "How Dry I Am" for a drink. The episode is set in the Old West, but the song as we know it probably didn't come into existence until around 1919 or so.
  • Ancient Keeper: Mr. Wickwire, the caretaker of the mortuary asteroid in "Elegy". Justified because he's a robot.
  • And I Must Scream: In "A Kind of Stopwatch", Patrick McNulty uses the stopwatch that can freeze time to rob a bank, only to drop the watch and break it, leaving him frozen in time forever.
  • Angel Unaware: In "A Passage for Trumpet", Jack Klugman plays Joey Crown, a down-on-his-luck trumpet player. Joey is saved from committing suicide by a mysterious stranger, who convinces him that life is worth living. As the stranger is leaving...
    Joey: I didn't get your name!
    Stranger: How's that?
    Joey: Your name, I didn't get your name!
    Stranger: My name? Call me Gabe.
    Joey: "Gabe"?
    Gabe: Gabe; short for Gabriel. [shows off his trumpet] Goodbye, Joey. [walks off into the shadows and disappears]
  • Art Shift: In "Once Upon a Time", the story partly takes place in 1890, where the format changes to that of a silent movie, complete with cutaways to subtitles and an overlaid piano track.
  • Artistic License: To be expected, given the nature of the show. Examples include:
    • "The Fever" there's no way a man as visibly agitated as Franklin would be allowed to continue to play. Especially in the 1960 climate of Las Vegas. He certainly wouldn't have been able to push down the machine without getting tackled by 3-4 security guards.
    • "Rip Van Winkle Caper" would have us believe that gold bricks are no more heavy than concrete bricks. Not true. Each one weighs around 30 pounds. Not only could the men not carry them in the backpack (it would rip open), but even the vehicle wouldn't have been sufficient to transport the whole stash. Not to mention that two middle-aged men couldn't possibly carry around 400 pounds in a desert for any length of time.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • When a protagonist is driven to murder, it usually involves being pushed over the edge by one of these. Not that this protects them from Laser-Guided Karma, mind you...
    • Some of the protagonists also qualify, such as Archibald Beechcroft from "The Mind and the Matter". Most of them, though, learn their lesson by the end.
    • It's pretty hard to feel sorry for anyone involved in "The Rip Van Winkle Caper."
    • The main character of "Death's Head Revisited" is a Nazi war criminal. He deserves everything that the vengeful ghosts of his victims inflict on him.
  • Author Avatar:
    • According to biographies, "A Stop At Willoughby" was Serling's favorite episode, and he identified with the main character. The stops on the Northeast line were the same stops on the commute he made into Manhattan daily.
    • "Walking Distance" was another of Serling's favorite episodes. The old-fashioned town in the story is based on the town he grew up in and the main character (as an adult and a little boy) was based on him.
  • Balancing Death's Books:
    • In "One for the Angels", Lou Bookman tries to outsmart Death by asking for time enough to put together a truly great sales pitch - "one for the angels" - before he dies, then declaring his retirement from the sales profession. Death tells him that he's taking someone's life tonight, and if it isn't Bookman, it will be a gravely ill young girl who lives on the street on which Bookman peddles his wares.
    • When Max Phillips, protagonist of "In Praise of Pip", finds that his beloved son Pip has been mortally wounded in combat in South Vietnam, he begs God to take his life and let Pip live. God obliges.
  • Bandaged Face: The Reveal of a few episodes involved one of these, perhaps most famously in "Eye of the Beholder".
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Hyder Simpson in "The Hunt" does this to himself. He's allowed into what appears to be heaven, but he isn't allowed to take his dog Rip with him. He decides that an afterlife without his dog is a fate worse than death (so to speak), so he refuses to enter and will just wander the path in between heaven & hell forever. Subverted when the angel comes to bring him to Heaven after the gatekeeper (of Hell) turned him away. The angel mentions that while some people walk into Hell with both eyes open, the Devil can't fool a dog, who warned his master of the danger. Turns out that a life without his trusty dog wasn't heaven, it was hell. Heaven allows dogs in.
  • Based on a True Story: "The Fever," to a degree. When Rod Serling's Twilight Zone contract was renewed, he and his wife went to Las Vegas to celebrate. Much like Franklin, Rod got hooked on the slot machines, and took a real beating.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Many. A few examples include "The Chaser", "The Last Night of a Jockey", "A Game of Pool", and "Jess-Belle".
    • The advice is followed in "I Dream Of Genie". The protagonist thinks out several wishes he could make and realizes that they would all end in him being miserable. After discarding love, wealth, and power, he finally wishes to be a genie himself so he can help the needy.
    • "Time Enough at Last" plays with this trope: Burgess Meredith's character never wishes for what eventually happens to happen, but he's always griping about never having enough time for his true love, reading. Then a nuclear apocalypse happens. Then his glasses break, just as he's settling down with his books.
  • Be Yourself: The protagonist of "Mr. Bevis" learns this Aesop after his Guardian Angel makes him a Slave to PR.
  • Becoming the Costume:
    • At the end of "The Masks", Jason Foster's worthless heirs discover their faces have conformed to the hideous shapes of the masks he has made them wear for the last several hours.
    • "The Night of the Meek" concludes with department store Santa Henry Corwin becoming the real thing, leaving for the North Pole with an elf in a reindeer-drawn sleigh to get a start on next year's Christmas.
  • Becoming the Genie: "I Dream of Genie". however, unlike most versions, this is an entirely voluntary example.
  • The Bet: "The Silence" is about Jamie Tennyson, who makes a bet with Archie Taylor that he can remain silent for a whole year in exchange for $500,000.
  • Betty and Veronica: In "A World of His Own", Gregory West is married to a Veronica and has just created a Betty.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: In "The Hitch-Hiker", Nan Adams is driving from New York to Los Angeles and having her car repaired after a near-fatal accident. After the repairs, she keeps seeing a strange man trying to hitch-hike, and becomes convinced he is trying to kill her when she almost ends up in the path of an oncoming train. It turns out her accident was more than near-fatal, it was fatal, and the hitch-hiker is the personification of Death, trying to guide her to the afterlife.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: In "The Shelter", a suburban doctor's birthday party turns into a mad scramble for survival when a nuclear alert is announced—and the doctor's fallout shelter has only enough room for himself and his family.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Back There", Peter Corrigan was never able to stop Abraham Lincoln's assassination, but his actions resulted in the cop who believed him to become a millionaire, and his descendant (who in the original timeline was an attendant at a club) to inherit his fortune
  • Blatant Lies: "To Serve Man". The Kanamits say "There is nothing ulterior in our motives. Nothing at all." It turns out that they're trying to lure humans to their planet in order to eat them.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Subverted twice
    • "Once Upon A Time", has a scientist go back with the protagonist to 1890 expecting simpler times, only to realize that they also didn't have the simple pleasures of his time, so he the protagonist sends him back to his own time.
    • "No Time Like the Past". After thrice failing to fix history, the protagonist decides to go back to 1881 where none of modern problems exists. After inadvertently causing a fire he intended to stop, he accepts that history has always had disasters none of which he can stop, so he decides to return to his own time deciding to work to make a better future
  • Bothering by the Book: Death does this in "One for the Angels", at least partially to get some mild revenge on the pitch-man that had duped him.
  • Bottle Episode: Several, including "The Whole Truth". A good tell is if the episode is on tape instead of film.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Rod Serling not only provides narration, frequently on-camera, but he actually becomes part of the story in "A World of His Own." Temporarily, at least.
    • In "One For The Angels", Mr. Death suddenly looks up at the camera as Serling identifies him in his opening narration.
    • In "Number 12 Looks Just Like You", just as Rod Serling mentions being beautiful, Marilyn, who up until this point had been a free spirited young girl and is now a conformist looking exactly like her friend Val, looks directly into the camera when Serling muses if this might be possible in the near future.
    • At the end of "To Serve Man", Michael Chambers directly talks to the audience, asking if "[we're] still on Earth, or on the ship with [him]", following it up by saying: "Really doesn't make very much difference, because sooner or later, all of us will be on the menu... all of us."
    • A brief example: after Fats' ghost leaves in "A Game of Pool", Jesse Cardiff asks the audience if they saw him sink the winning shot, before going off on a spiel not directed to the audience but rather to himself about how now he's the greatest.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: "The Trouble With Templeton", focusing on a washed-up old actor who still clings to the memory of his dead wife while the present and future seem horrendously bleak. He seems to have finally reunited with his wife, but she acts strange and old, before telling him to leave a party they're attending, filled with actors he used to know. It turned out it was part of a play staged by the dead to get him to move on and focus on the present. It works: he demands a bigger role, tells off a jerk co-actor, and takes a younger actor under his wing.
  • Brown Note: How Frisby's harmonica affects the aliens in "Hocus Pocus and Frisby".
  • The Butler Did It: In "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?", a group of people get off a bus and gather at a cafe where they are served food and drinks by the local counter jerk and dine. It is later revealed by the police that one of the people on the bus seems to have been an alien. Ten Little Murder Victims ensues, the resolution of which is only a half-subversion of The Butler Did It: one of the people from the bus was The Mole, but the cafe worker who served them all and remained very much in the background throughout the story was also an enemy alien from a different planet, and was two steps ahead of The Mole the whole time.
  • Butter Face
    • ""Eye of the Beholder" (aka "A Private World of Darkness")". What the surgery is supposed to correct, and everyone else in the episode.
    • Toyed with in "The Masks". Only after Fosters' relatives remove their masks do they become this.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Henry Bemis of "Time Enough At Last". This man cannot catch a break.
    • Burgess Meredith was kind of the master at this; see also "Mr. Dingle the Strong".
    • Also, the titular "Mr. Bevis".

     Tropes C-D 
  • Calling Your Shots: In the episode "A Game of Pool", Fats and Jesse call their shots in a game of pool. The most impressive shot is when Jesse calls the side pocket after bouncing off three banks and making it.
  • Came Back Wrong: "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" plays with this. Although Jeff came back to life, he doesn't seem that off. But then again, he lit a match without striking it...
  • Canon Sue: In-Universe; the main character in "Showdown with Rance McGrew" plays one in a TV Western... and Jesse James isn't pleased with it at all.
  • Captivity Harmonica: In the episode "Shadow Play", and used to escape in "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby". In "Shadow Play", Adam acknowledges it's a trope, saying he learned it from watching prison movies.
  • Chess with Death: The climax of "One for the Angels". Lou Bookman convinces Death to let him make one last pitch before he takes him, one for the angels. He then decides to retire... at least until Death decides to go after a little girl. As such, to make sure he misses his appointment, Lou decides to distract him by making a big pitch, ultimately selling him all of his wares. Thus making his big pitch...
  • Christmas Episode: "The Night of the Meek" is set on Christmas Eve, and involves alcoholic, despairing department store Santa Henry Corwin wishing he could help the poverty-stricken residents of his neighbourhood, then finding a mysterious bag which produces gifts on request. He spends the night giving gifts to children and adults alike, and when the bag is empty, he wishes he could do the same thing every year. At which point a reindeer-drawn sleigh appears, and an elf sitting in the sleigh tells "Santa" that they need to get a start on next year's Christmas...
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The lead character of the episode "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Hotel Room" tries to light up to relieve the stress of being called on to kill someone for the first time. He can't because he's out of matches. His reflection, on the other hand, happily puffs away while berating him.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Of the more nightmarish variety — "Talky Tina" and a guitar.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Dell Comics published two issues in 1962, after which Gold Key picked up the ball and continued publishing a Twlight Zone-based comic book until 1982. Now Comics published a Twlight Zone comic in the 1990s, and in the last few years Walker & Co. has published several graphic novels adapting specific episodes of the original series, updated to today in some cases. The Gold Key title ramped up the creepiness factor by continuing to feature a cartoon version of Rod Serling introducing each story, even years after the real Serling died.
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: In the episode "A Penny For Your Thoughts", the protagonist gains the ability to read minds, and hears a disgruntled bank employee planning to rob the bank. After he denounces him, though, it turns out that the man's been idly thinking about robbing the bank for years, but he'd never actually go through with it.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: In "The Gift", an alien brings a message to the people of Earth. The alien gets killed and the message burned. Then someone reads the message, which is something like, "As a symbol of our friendship we offer the following, a cure for all forms of cancer." The rest is burned away.
  • The Corrupters: The aliens in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", of the exacerbate-preexisting-character-flaws variety. They qualify as Magnificent Bastards because their corrupting of the people is all done by suggestion and playing on fears; they never show themselves.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: William J. Feathersmith in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", Wallace V. Whipple in "The Brain Center at Whipple's" and Alan Richards in "The Jungle".
  • Cosmic Horror Story: "And When the Sky was Opened" concerns three astronauts after a mission where they fly the X-20 DynaSoar, during which they briefly disappear off of radar. Afterwards, they each disappear one after the other (and nobody remembers that they even existed after) until finally, the X-20 vanishes as well.
  • Crazy Memory: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" is about a man who tells outrageous lies to his friends about his past... and is promptly kidnapped by aliens, who think his lies are true.
  • Crippling the Competition: In "Mr. Denton on Doomsday", the title character, a washed up Retired Gunfighter faces off against a young wannabee in a duel, both using a potion granting quick draw abilities. Both men manage to inflict hand injuries preventing each other from ever using guns again. Denton sees this as a blessing, as it will prevent either from engaging in any more reckless duels.
  • Cruel Twist Ending:
    • "Time Enough at Last" ends with Henry Bemis, the lone survivor of an apocalypse, finally having time enough to read all the books he likes... only to break his glasses, leaving the pages an indistinct blur.
    • In "The Purple Testament", a soldier gains the ability to see which of his comrades will die when they begin emitting a strange glow. His superiors decide he needs to be sent away to recuperate, and he sees the glow on his own face in a mirror, and again on the driver assigned to collect him. Sure enough, they are killed by a land mine.
    • "Young Man's Fancy" opens with newlywed couple Alex and Virginia Walker preparing Alex's late mother's house to sell. However, Alex becomes so engrossed in childhood memories that Virginia feels she is competing with his mother for his attention. At the end of the episode, Alex has regressed to childhood and his mother has returned from the dead, and both of them dismiss Virginia.
    • In "Number 12 Looks Just Like You", Marilyn Cuberle rebels against the Transformation, a surgical process which all humans undergo as adolescents so that everyone looks like one of a small number of standard "models", having been inspired by her father, who gave her banned books about the pre-Transformation years and committed suicide out of regret over his Transformation. Her attempts to persuade her family and friends that Transformation is morally wrong go unheeded, and when she finally undergoes the process, she is also mindwiped into blind, blissful acceptance of the status quo, implying that Transformation is now more than just a physical alteration.
    • "Black Leather Jackets" features three aliens tasked with poisoning Earth's human and animal population so that their race can colonise the planet. The youngest alien falls in love with the girl next door and tries to persuade her to run away with him to escape the mass death that will soon take place. Terrified, she calls the police, and the policeman who arrives turns out to be another alien sent to punish the would-be defector, and it is implied the poisoning will go ahead unimpeded.
    • "What's in the Box?" features unhappily married couple Joe and Phyllis, the former of whom berates the repairman working on their television. After the repairs, Joe discovers that the television now gets a station which broadcasts the past, present, and future, and he sees himself killing Phyllis, being tried and convicted for her murder, and executed by electrocution. When he tries to tell Phyllis what he has just seen, she taunts him, and in his anger he attacks her and accidentally kills her, and is taken away by the police.
    • "Caesar and Me" features ventriloquist Jonathan West, whose dummy, Caesar, has a mind of his own and persuades him to turn from their unsuccessful stage act to a life of crime. One such conversation is overheard by Susan, a little girl in the same boarding house as Jonathan who taunts him for his lack of professional success. After overhearing a second conversation, Susan tips off the police about Jonathan and Caesar's crime spree, and when Jonathan tries to get Caesar to confess, Caesar remains silent, leading the police to suspect Jonathan has lost his mind. He gives himself up and is led away, at which point Caesar turns his attention to recruiting Susan as a partner in crime.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?", the old man (played by Jack Elam) accuses Mr. Ross of being the "most suspicious of the bunch". Jack Elam's character also suggests that they check under Ross's coat for wings. Had they done so, they would have seen his third arm and known he was the real Martian.
  • Cue the Billiard Shot: The episode "A Game of Pool" starts with one of these. The camera follows the ball's trajectory, then focuses on Jack Klugman's character's reaction to it.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: "The Hitch-Hiker".
    "I believe you're going my way..."
  • Dark Is Not Evil
    • Death in "Nothing in the Dark". He takes the form of Harold Beldon, a young cop who is injured outside of reclusive elderly woman Wanda Dunn in order to show her that dying is nothing to be afraid of.
    • "One for the Angels". Although he is insistent on taking Lou (and then a little girl when Lou refuses to go), he's simply just doing his job. In fact, it's implied that he deliberately bought into Lou's big pitch in order to spare the girl. He even lets Lou know that yes, he is in fact going to Heaven.
  • Dead All Along: Episodes "Judgment Night", "The Hitch-Hiker", "The Passersby", (one possible interpretation of) "The Thirty-Fathom Grave", "Deaths-Head Revisited", "Death Ship", and "Ring-a-Ding Girl".
  • Death of Personality:
    • In "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", a cowardly criminal is confronted by his better self, on the other side of a mirror. Eventually the other personality takes over. This is a rare example of this trope being a Happy Ending.
    • In "The Lateness of the Hour", a woman discovers that she is actually a robot. Unable to cope, she goes mad and her "parents" reprogram her as a maid, effectively destroying her personality.
    • In "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You," it's revealed that the Transformation is one of these when the formerly free-spirited and rebellious Marilyn is forced to go through the process and becomes an empty-headed conformist who loves being pretty more than anything else.
  • Devil in Disguise: The Devil usually appears in the guise of a regular person. In "The Howling Man" he appears to be some poor guy who's been imprisoned by a madman, but when someone takes pity and releases him his horns and tail reappear.
  • Diving Save: Near the end of "I Sing the Body Electric", the robot grandmother pushes a young girl out of the way of an oncoming car and is hit herself. She gets better.
  • Divine Intervention: Possibly in "I Am the Night - Color Me Black". The Sun fails to rise on the day of a man's execution, and, once Jagger's been hanged, the darkness starts spreading everywhere.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Norma in "The Midnight Sun" is barefoot for the entire episode. Justified because the story's premise is the Earth heating up as it moves closer to the sun.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper:
    • "Nothing in the Dark" features elderly shut-in Gladys Cooper, who lives in fear that Death will take her if she leaves her basement apartment. A policeman played by a young Robert Redford is shot during an altercation outside her door, and she eventually agrees to let him in. He is revealed to be a gentle, well-meaning version of The Grim Reaper, sent to show her that death is nothing to be afraid of, and they leave together.
    • In "The Hitch-hiker", department store buyer Nan Adams has had a near-fatal car crash while driving from New York to Los Angeles, but begins seeing a mysterious hitch-hiker everywhere she goes. In fact, the car crash was fatal, and the hitch-hiker is Death, trying to gently guide her toward the afterlife.
  • Dripping Disturbance: This is one of the ordinary noises played with in "Sounds and Silences".
  • Driven to Suicide: The fate of Chief Bell in "The Thirty-Fathom Grave". Seeing ghosts of his dead crewmates from a sunken submarine which he served on in World War II and experiencing massive Survivor Guilt, Bell flings himself off the side of the ship and drowns.
  • Dropped Glasses: "Time Enough at Last". The man who wanted nothing but time to read finally gets all the time he wants, the rest of his life—everyone else being dead in a nuclear holocaust—only to drop his glasses, which shatter.
  • Dumb Blonde: In "Penny For Your Thoughts", the main character hears the thoughts of anyone standing near him. When tries to read the mind of a blonde woman in the bank, he can't hear anything.
  • Dying Dream: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek," the Academy Award-winning short, based on the Ur-Example of the trope, the Ambrose Bierce story.

     Tropes E-F 
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first season had neither the iconic theme nor Rod Serling appearing in the beginning to introduce the episode; instead it had a shorter theme, and Serling introducing the episode by voiceover. The familiar theme and Serling's onscreen presence both started in Season 2.
  • Earth All Along: "I Shot an Arrow into the Air", "Probe 7 - Over and Out". Inverted in "Third from the Sun" and "The Invaders".
  • Enclosed Extraterrestrials: In the episode "The Invaders", a woman living alone on a farm is menaced by two small aliens in form-concealing armor. At the end of the episode we learn that the 'aliens' are actually human astronauts and the woman is a giant alien
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The fate of two characters in "Long Live Walter Jameson" and "Queen of the Nile".
  • Engineered Public Confession: Romney Wordsworth in "The Obsolete Man", who has been convicted of owning books and believing in God, chooses a televised execution with his own personal assassin. At the eleventh hour, he summons the Chancellor into his room, where he plans to destroy himself and the Chancellor by suicide bombing. Wordsworth calmly reads passasges from the Bible, and the Chancellor begs to be let go "in the name of God". Wordsworth relents, dying by suicide bombing, and releases the Chancellor. When the Chancellor leaves Wordsworth's room, he is put on trial and declared obsolete for the crime of invoking God's name in an authoritarian dictatorship whose totalitarian, atheistic government has decreed that God does not exist.
  • Episode on a Plane: Most famously in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". Also in "The Odyssey Of Flight 33".
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville". Miss Devlin is a manipulative devil, and ordinarily maintains a charming persona when dealing with Feathersmith. However, during her final dressing down of Feathersmith and his faults, she allows herself to slip into some genuine anger.
  • Everybody Smokes: What with the show being made in the 60's.
  • Every Episode Ending: Nearly every episode ends with a short commentary from Rod Serling, usually to deliver An Aesop, almost always ending with " the Twilight Zone."
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Mr. Radin in "One More Pallbearer" sets up a fake bomb scare scenario and expects three people who once humiliated him in the past to make them apologize to him, and he seems mystified that they would rather spend their last moments with their loved ones than try to save themselves.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: "The Hunt". An agent of the Devil is trying to lure a recently-deceased Hyder Simpson into entering Hell. Hyder's dog Rip growls, warning him not to enter, and he avoids the trap. Later, an angel remarks "...a man, well, he'll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But not even the Devil can fool a dog!"
  • Evil Laugh: In "The Jeopardy Room", the Soviet commissar uses a particularly nasty laugh at the end of the taped message he leaves for the defector he's toying with.
  • Exact Words: To Serve Man. Also from that episode, the alien subjected to polygraph states that he sincerely hopes humanity will believe that their motives are benevolent, not that said motives actually are.
  • Exposition of Immortality: In the episode "Long Live Walter Jameson," the titular character is a history professor who knows his stuff, has a retiring colleague who comments on his appearance and who is seen in an American Civil War period picture, revealing just how he knows that period so very well.
  • False Innocence Trick: "The Howling Man" is basically one of these from start to end.
  • Fate Worse than Death: "A Kind of a Stopwatch" ends with the entire world except for McNulty being frozen in time forever, when the stopwatch breaks.
  • Fattening the Victim: In the episode "To Serve Man", after the hero discovers the alien Kanamits eat the humans they take to their planet as "ambassadors", he is taken prisoner aboard their ship. In the last scene a Kamamit is exhorting him to eat his dinner. More terrifying is the idea that everything the Kanamits did was a form of this—they put nitrates in the soil to end world hunger and shared technologies that made weaponry obsolete, which removed all of humanity's problems and allowed them to become fat and complacent, like cattle.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: The lead characters of the Time Travel episodes, especially "Execution".
  • 555: "Night Call" used the KL-5 variant.
  • Fortune Teller: A little coin-operated fortune-telling machine in a diner, that answers yes-or-no questions, in "Nick of Time". A superstitious William Shatner starts to think it's giving out accurate answers and gets obsessed, and his wife tries to talk sense into him. This is a definite case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, and a lot of questions if it is magic. All of the following are possible: the machine accurately predicted the future as it was meant to, it was designed for/attempted to trap people (which would be a lot of trouble for a few pennies), its only ability was to make you think it made accurate predictions, or it was in fact an ordinary machine and the seemingly accurate predictions were a series of improbable coincidences.
  • Fresh Clue: In "Where is Everybody?", a man finds himself all alone in a deserted town with a case of amnesia. While he's exploring a police station he finds a lit cigar smoldering in an ashtray. When he looks in a cell he finds a sink with the water running and shaving equipment (including a brush with wet shaving cream) sitting around. All of this is evidence that someone was there not too long ago. The Twist Ending is that he's actually in a hallucination caused by isolation.

     Tropes G-H 
  • Gaslighting: "What's In the Box?" : Joe accuses his wife and the TV repairman of plotting to drive him crazy after his recently fixed TV shows him incriminating scenes of his life.
  • Genre Blindness: Some of the protagonists are a bit slow to realize they're in a paranormal situation. For instance, Hector spends half an episode reading people's minds in "A Penny for Your Thoughts" before realizing that no, they're not talking out loud while somehow keeping their mouths closed.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!
    • Episode "Death Ship". When Lieutenant Mason starts to freak out over their bizarre experiences, Captain Ross punches him in the face and knocks him down.
    • Episode "Dead Man's Shoes". When Wilma loses control over not knowing what's going on, Dane (in Nathan's body) slaps her to calm her down.
  • A God Am I:
    • In "The Little People", after two astronauts stumble on a civilization of the titular miniscule aliens, one of them goes power-mad and declares himself their god. He gets killed by some even bigger aliens when he attracts their attention by screaming that there's only room for one god here, and gets accidentally crushed.
    • In "On Thursday We Leave For Home", Benteen, a man who has become the leader of a group of would-be stranded settlers, is very protective of his position, and the soldier who comes to rescue them accuses him of thinking himself a god.
  • God Is Good: In "The Hunt", though unseen, the Christian God takes multiple measures to help the deceased along; even offering nonchristians a test of morality to keep them out of the devil's clutches. Heaven isn't just a fluffy place with hymns in the clouds, but a paradise for everyone as it takes the form of a beautiful back-country with coon hunts and square dances for a deceased woodsmen. And yes, dogs are more than welcome into Heaven.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Simon and Barbara in "Uncle Simon", especially to each other.
  • Hanging Up on the Grim Reaper:
    • "One for the Angels". Death comes for pitchman (street salesman) Lou Bookman, but Lou doesn't want to go and argues with him. Death finally agrees to postpone Lou's departure until he makes "a pitch for the angels". Lou then says that he's going to give up being a pitchman and never make the pitch again, allowing him to literally cheat Death.
    • "Nothing in the Dark". Many years ago, Wanda Dunn saw Death kill a woman just by touching her. Ever since she has hidden inside her apartment, refusing to come out in fear of the same thing happening to her. One day she reluctantly allows a wounded police officer inside. She eventually learns that he is Death, finally come for her. She initially refuses to go, but he eventually convinces her to take his hand and pass on.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In "Caesar and Me", unsuccessful ventriloquist Jonathan West breaks into a nightclub at the insistence of his evil dummy, Caesar. While there, they are found by the night watchman, who starts asking them questions. Caesar's response: "Who are you, the house dick?" At the time, "dick" was slang for a detective, but today, the idea of a "house dick" in a nightclub might bring something else to mind.
  • Here We Go Again!:
    • In "Judgment Night", U-Boat captain Carl Lanser is doomed to endlessly relive the sinking of a ship which he ordered torpedoed, but as a passenger on the ship with only a vague sense of impending disaster.
    • In "Mr. Dingle the Strong", Luther Dingle's superhuman strength has been revoked by his Martian benefactors, who found his use of it disappointing - but a group of Venusians have just given him superhuman intelligence, beginning the cycle anew.
    • In "Shadow Play", convicted murderer Adam Grant tries to persuade everyone around him that his impending execution by electric chair is just his own nightmare. At the end of the episode, he is executed, and wakes up from the "nightmare" to be sentenced to death again, but with the "roles" in his dream rotated among those who played them.
    • In "Dead Man's Shoes", the homeless man who put on the dead mobster's shoes and was taken over by his spirit to avenge his death is shot and killed - and another homeless man finds his body and puts on the shoes.
    • In "Person or Persons Unknown", David Gurney wakes up to find that all evidence that he ever existed, including other people's memories of him, seems to have vanished. The episode ends with Gurney waking up from a nightmare - to discover that his wife, though she acts and talks as she has always done, looks nothing like he remembers.
    • In "Death Ship", a trio of astronauts land on a barren planet to discover a wrecked copy of their ship and their own dead bodies in the cockpit. Eventually, they decide that it must be a hallucination to discourage them from landing and collecting samples, but at the end of the episode, they find themselves reliving their original decision to land on the planet to explore it.
    • In "Uncle Simon", Barbara Polk looks after her rich but cruel inventor uncle, Simon, purely because she is his only heir and aims to inherit his fortune when he dies. When he does die, she is freed from his cruelty, but his will requires her to look after his final invention, a robot which eventually takes on his voice and personality, and she ends the episode as she began it, listlessly bringing hot chocolate to her ungrateful, now robotic, uncle.
    • In "From Agnes - With Love", computer programmer James Elwood tries to fix a bug in Agnes, an office computer, which his predecessor could not solve. However, Agnes falls in love with him and begins breaking her programming - just as she did with his predecessor. At the end of the episode, Elwood is told to go on leave by his employer, and it is implied that Agnes will fall in love with his replacement as well.
    • In "Spur of the Moment", Anne Henderson sees a woman in black screaming her name from a hilltop and flees in terror. She later determines that the woman was her older self, trying to warn her against marrying the wrong man. Eventually, she sees her younger self and tries to give her the same warning, but her younger self flees in terror.
    • In "Queen of the Nile", columnist Jordan Herrick interviews actress Pamela Morris, who has somehow remained youthful despite her long screen career. He learns the hard way that she feeds off the life of young people around her using an Egyptian scarab - she is, in fact, Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, now over two thousand years old. As the episode ends, another columnist arrives for an interview.
    • In "The Time Element", bartender Peter Jenson tries to warn the personnel at Pearl Harbor of the impending Japanese attack - which he knows will happen as he was killed in the attack and has been reliving it ever since.
    • Implied in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," as the aliens state that this will happen again, and again on other streets, much like the first.
    • Rod Serling states the oh-so-familiar Big Bad of "He's Alive" will continue to "offer advice" again and again indefinitely in his closing speech.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: "He's Alive" has Adolf Hitler hijacking a neo-Nazi campaign.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Paul Driscoll in "No Time Like the Past" is determined to use a time machine to avert historical catastrophes, but when he goes back to August 1939 to assassinate Hitler, he is interrupted by a hotel housekeeper and two SS guards. His attempt to prevent the sinking of the Lusitania is similarly thwarted when no-one on the ship believes his story.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In "The Jeopardy Room", the assassin sent to kill Russian defector Kunchenko is killed by the bomb he set up to kill his target.
    • In "The Brain Centre at Whipple's", a leader in a factory replaces all his men with machinery...and is himself replaced by a robot.
  • Hope Spot:
    • "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" ends with the implication that the toys in the bin will some day find children who will play with them and love them.
    • "The Midnight Sun" does a rather cruel one. Over the course of the episode, the Earth is getting closer and closer to the Sun, and everyone is pretty much doomed. But wait, it's All Just a Dream! The Earth isn't moving closer to the Sun, and no one is going to roast to death. The bad news: the Earth is actually moving away from the Sun, and everyone will freeze to death in total darkness instead.
  • Hot as Hell: "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville," starring Julie Newmar as Satan.
  • How We Got Here: "To Serve Man" opens with Michael Chambers in a sparse cell on a cot being commanded to eat by a voice through a loudspeaker. The rest of the episode is his reminiscence of meeting a race of ostensibly benevolent aliens for whom humans are a dietary staple.
  • Human Aliens: The majority of aliens that appear in the series look exactly like humans. Probably due to the low budget.
    • Part of the plot of "People Are Alike All Over." The protagonists of "Third from the Sun."
    • "Probe 7, Over and Out".
  • Humanity Came From Space: The ending of "Probe 7, Over and Out".
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    • In "I Shot an Arrow Into the Air", one of the astronauts kills the other two after they apparently crash on a distant asteroid.
    • In "The Invaders", it turns out that the "aliens" stalking the woman throughout the episode are actually U.S. astronauts on a planet with gigantic Humanoid Aliens.
    • In "The Gift", the inhabitants of a small town murder a benevolent alien.
    • In "The Shelter", a doctor's friendly neighbors turn into a hostile mob when an alert goes out to get to their shelters, and he's the only one on the block who has one.
    • In "I Am the Night - Color Me Black", darkness appears all over the world in places where hate abounds.
    • Most famously, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street". Aliens plan to utilize humanity's own self-hatred, loathing, and fear to destroy the Earth, block by block.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: "The Little People" tells the story of two astronauts, William Fletcher and Peter Craig, repairing their spacecraft on a planet populated by a tiny alien race. Craig proclaims himself the god of the tiny aliens and makes them build a life-size statue of him. The power he holds over them due to his size immediately goes to his head, and he begins bullying them into obeying him. In an example of Laser-Guided Karma, another group of spacefarers land on the planet, and they are as large to Craig as he is to the natives; one of them picks him up to look at him and accidentally crushes him to death.
  • Humans Are Flawed: Even when the main character(s) aren't straight up bastards, many episodes still focus on them dealing with a flaw or psychological problem.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The twist ending of "The Invaders" reveals that the strange creatures in the flying saucer who have terrified the old woman in a remote cabin are American astronauts, and the old woman is an alien on a distant planet.

     Tropes I-J 
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The twist ending of "To Serve Man" reveals that the title book is a cookbook; the seemingly benevolent aliens are harvesting humans for food.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: There were actually two of them. The first season featured a haunting, string-laden theme composed by Bernard Herrmann; this was replaced in Season 2 with a different and much more familiar theme (featuring the iconic high-pitched four-note guitar riff) composed by Marius Constant.
  • Interactive Narrator: At the end of "A World of His Own", Rod Serling appears to give his closing speech, only to be interrupted and then erased by Gregory's Reality Warper powers (complete with a This Is Gonna Suck remark from Rod before he vanishes). This was actually his very first onscreen appearance: it proved so popular that it set the tradition of him appearing onscreen to give the episode narration.
  • In the Doldrums: "Time Enough at Last" has a man who only wants to read be the sole survivor when everyone else on Earth is killed off. He finally has all the time in the world to read! And then he breaks his glasses.
  • Ironic Death:
    • "A Most Unusual Camera". After the main characters die, the waiter smugly counts the number of bodies: "One... two... three... FOUR?!" Cue screaming.
    • The Chancellor in "The Obsolete Man", having sentenced librarian Romney Wordsworth to death for being obsolete, is lured into a trap wherein Wordsworth locks him in his apartment with the time bomb he has chosen as his method of execution. The state will not rescue the Chancellor for fear of losing face, and eventually, in front of the television audience Wordsworth has requested be witness to his execution, the panicked Chancellor begs to be set free in the name of the God the state denies even exists. His cowardice causes him to be sentenced to death as obsolete.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Wordsworth does this to the Chancellor a couple of times in the penultimate scene of "The Obsolete Man":
      Wordsworth: You're cheating the audience. Face the camera.
      Wordsworth: You must face the camera. It's very important. You said so yourself.
    • The semi-Title Drop of "People Are Alike All Over".
      Marcusson: Don't be afraid Sam! I've got a hunch... if there's anyone out there, they'll help you... As long as they have hearts and minds, they have souls! That makes them people! And... people are alike... they're bound to be a-like...
      Sam (inside a Martian zoo): Marcusson! Marcusson, you were right! You were right... People are alike... people are alike everywhere...
  • Ironic Hell:
    • In "A Game of Pool", Jesse Cardiff laments that he will never be regarded as the greatest pool player as long as people compare him to the deceased "Fats" Brown, and wishes he could play a game against him to settle the question once and for all. When Brown's ghost appears and Cardiff defeats him, his "reward" is to spend the afterlife as Brown had previously done, defending his "greatest" title against people who wish they could play a game against him to settle the question of whether or not they really are better than he was.
    • In "A Nice Place to Visit", Rocky Valentine is a small-time crook shot dead by a policeman after a robbery, but in the afterlife, he finds his every desire catered to with no effort whatever, and he wins every game he plays, and assumes he has gone to Heaven. However, he soon grows bored of endless effortless victory, and asks Pip, the spirit guide who greeted him in the afterlife, if he can go to "the other place" for a while. Pip menacingly informs him that he's in "the other place", and will spend eternity being driven insane by getting everything he wants without trying.
  • Irony: Besides its frequent use on the show, there's a meta example. A year before Dennis Weaver played a man afraid to go to sleep in the episode "Shadow Play", he played a man with the opposite problem in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Insomnia".
  • Is This a Joke?: Standard explanation for anything unusual and unexplainable.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: "The Masks" tells the story of wealthy but terminally ill New Orleans resident Jason Foster, who is visited by his useless daughter and her even more useless husband and children. The day of this visit happens to be Mardi Gras.
  • Jackass Genie: "The Man in the Bottle". A genie grants a man four wishes. The man's third wish is to become the head of a contemporary foreign country who can't be voted out of office. The genie turns him into Adolf Hitler at the end of World War II, in a bunker under attack. The man has to use his fourth wish to escape this fate.
  • Jerkass Façade: Fitzgerald Fortune from "A Piano in the House" is an arrogant bully because he secretly has the emotional maturity of a child. He is afraid of people, and as a result acts like an insufferable dick to everyone around him. He's even shown to be a Loving Bully (of the emotional variety) towards his wife because of it. In the end, the piano makes him reveal this to everybody in the room.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: "The Jungle" takes place in the African jungle, yet the kookaburra sound pops up.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: "The Brain Center at Whipple's" has a Corrupt Corporate Executive replacing factory workers with robots, a plot that was still science fiction in 1964.

     Tropes K-L 
  • Karma Houdini: This trope is averted through most of the series, but shows up in some fifth season episodes (such as "What's in the Box?" and "Caesar and Me"). In his book The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree identifies this as a symptom of Seasonal Rot.
  • Language Barrier:
    • "Probe 7 - Over and Out". Two humanoid space travelers from different races, a man and a woman, are stranded on a planet. After they meet, they have to learn how to communicate with each other.
    • "Two". Two soldiers who survived an apocalyptic war, a man and a woman, are wandering in a deserted city. They don't speak the same language. After they meet, they have to learn how to communicate.
  • Large Ham: More often than not, an episode will have at least one.
    • Rod Serling himself is a pretty big ham almost constantly in his narrations.
    • William Shatner stars up in two episodes. (Although to be fair to Mr Shatner, he is quite reserved in his acting in "Nick Of Time". Which is ironically likely the reason most people only remember his other Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".)
    • "The Obsolete Man" is filled to the brim with ham...and some interpretative dance towards the end.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • In "Judgement Night", German U-Boat captain Karl Lanser is forced to relive the sinking of a British passenger liner by a torpedo fired by his submarine over and over - but as a passenger on the liner, unable to convince anyone aboard of the impending disaster.
    • "Deaths-Head Revisited" features SS captain Gunther Lutze, former commandant at the Dachau concentration camp, returning to the camp to reminisce. The ghosts of the Jewish inmates whose deaths he ordered appear and force him to mentally experience the torture and agony to which he subjected them, and he is driven insane in a matter of hours and is taken away to an asylum.
  • Laugh Track:
    • The Poorly Disguised Pilot "Cavender is Coming" featured a laugh track during its original showing and early syndication. It was removed from the syndication prints in the mid eighties.
    • The Night Club scenes in the episode "The Dummy" have an obvious laugh track standing in for the audience laughter.
  • Life Drinker:
    • The title character in "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" found that he could obtain abstract or otherwise normally non-transferable attributes from other people by simply making the deal with them. Among other attributes, he restored his youth by "buying" it from younger men who thought him to be a kook giving them money for nothing. He only took a year from each man, but was able to become young again. Incidentally, he was only an old man because he had previously sold his own youth to an elderly millionaire (he came out financially ahead after the exchanges were complete).
    • "Queen of the Nile". A woman uses a scarab beetle to drain the life force of men so she can maintain her eternal youth. It's implied that she's the actual Cleopatra of Egypt.
  • Louis Cypher: "The Chaser" features a character named Professor A. Daemon. His name is suspicious enough to make the viewer wonder about his true nature, albeit that doesn't seem the case at least until the end of the episode.

     Tropes M-N 
  • Magical Seventh Son: In the episode "Still Valley", a Confederate soldier met an old man who had magical powers because he was the seventh son of a seventh son. He also had a Deal with the Devil thing going on.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: The Twist Ending was a major staple of the series that earned the show a reputation for this, though it wasn't quite as "mandatory" as it's remembered as being.
  • Matter of Life and Death: "Perchance to Dream".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • "The Thirty-Fathom Grave." Early on in the episode, Doc finds seaweed in the corridor where Bell claims to have seen the ghosts of his dead comrades. Additionally, one trip to the submarine reveals that a piece of the ship swinging loose could have been responsible for the banging noises...but it also reveals that one of the dead sailors was holding a hammer.
    • In "The New Exhibit," a passionate (and slightly unhinged) man named Martin Senescu takes care of wax figures of famous killers in his basement after the wax museum where he works closes down. He firmly believes that they're alive, which disturbs his wife, brother-in-law, and former boss. All three end up being killed, apparently by the figures—but the ending suggests that it was actually Senescu committing the murders, and simply imagining the figures did it as a coping mechanism. It's not clear which is true.
    • "The Fever": The events of most of the episode could be explained by Mr. Gibbs becoming increasingly unhinged through obsession and lack of sleep. Subverted at the end when the slot machine moves after his death.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: In "The Rip Van Winkle Caper", a group of gold thieves put themselves to sleep for 100 years to escape the cops, only to start backstabbing and killing each other off once they awaken, just so they can hoard the gold for themselves. And then it turns out in the future, gold is worthless. Fittingly, the last of them dies begging a nearby driver for water in exchange for a bar of gold, much to the driver’s confusion.
  • Mechanistic Alien Culture: Many episodes of the classic sci-fi anthology featured aliens with ambiguously robotic characteristics. "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," for example, featured one with two heads.
  • Mental Time Travel: "Static" ends this way for a bitter, regretful old man, giving him a second chance.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: "A Penny for Your Thoughts" has the hero discovering how petty and self-centered the people around him can be when he becomes inexplicably psychic. It's not as bad as some cases (and it helps him get the girl), but he's still relieved when his newfound power vanishes.
  • Mobile Kiosk: "One for the Angels". Lew Bookman has a mobile pitch: a suitcase with extendable legs. When he finishes a pitch, he collapses the legs back into the suitcase and moves on.
    • The old man in "What You Need" has a similar setup
  • Mood Whiplash: "A Kind of a Stopwatch" is a very funny episode until the watch breaks, trapping McNulty in a timeless world forever.
  • Motor Mouth: McNulty, the main character of the episode "A Kind of Stop Watch.”
  • The Multiverse: The main character of "The Parallel" discovers that he has accidentally stumbled into a parallel world with a similar chronology to his own.
  • Mundane Wish: Appears in "The Man in the Bottle". The couples' first wish (out of four) is to have a pane of glass in their shop repaired, in order to test the genie's power first. The couple then proceed to waste their remaining wishes, but in the end console themselves with the thought that at least the glass got repaired. Guess what happens next.
  • Murder Ballad: Used as a Plot Device in "Come Wander with Me".
  • Murderous Mannequin: Subverted in "The After Hours"; Marsha is, at first, understandably terrified when the mannequins come to life, but it soon becomes apparent that they are friendly, and only want her to remember that she is also a mannequin.
  • My Grandson Myself: In "Queen of the Nile", Pamela lives with the elderly Mrs. Draper, ostensibly her mother. She is actually Pamela's daughter and Pamela is hundreds of years old, heavily implied to have been Cleopatra.
  • Nazi Protagonist:
    • "Death's Head Revisited" centered around a former concentration camp officer at Dachau who revisits the camp to relive his happy memories of the many atrocities he committed during the war. He eventually receives karmic justice from the souls of his victims.
    • The main character of "He's Alive" is an American Nazi who becomes increasingly popular thanks to guidance from a mysterious advisor. Since said advice includes murdering one of his own followers to create a martyr, justice catches up with him too.
    • The Reveal of "Judgment Night" is that the main character was one of these all along.
  • The Night That Never Ends: The subject of "I Am the Night—Color Me Black". It only happens in certain areas of the world that are dominated by hatred.
  • No Antagonist: Many episodes.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: In the episode "A Nice Place to Visit", an inveterate criminal dies and goes to the afterlife: a pleasant place where he gets everything he wants and all his gambles always pay off. He becomes dissatisfied and asks to be sent to The Other Place, saying he doesn't belong in Heaven. The reply he gets: "Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!"
  • No-Dialogue Episode: "The Invaders." Throughout the episode, the main character makes plenty of noises as she fends off tiny aliens, but none of it is dialogue. Aside from Serling's narrations, the only spoken dialogue comes when the last and soon-to-be-killed invader sends a distress call back home. The tiny invaders are then revealed to be humans from Earth. This revelation subsequently justifies the trope, as the woman is a (giant) alien and wouldn't know English or any other language from Earth.
    • "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", one of the final episodes - actually an unrelated, Oscar-winning short film that Serling purchased the rights to and had re-edited into an episode - also contains virtually no dialogue beyond Serling's narration.
  • No Ending: We never learn what happens at the end of "The Odyssey of Flight 33".
  • No Immortal Inertia: "Long Live Walter Jameson". A man lives more than 2,000 years due to drinking a alchemical potion of immortality. When he's shot and mortally wounded, the effect wears off and he ages into dust in minutes.
  • No Time to Explain: "Passage on the Lady Anne". As it turns out, it's a ship only meant for dying/wanting to die people.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Happens in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville". Corrupt Corporate Executive Feathersmith makes a Deal with the Devil to go back in time and relive his life, in order to enjoy once again the climb from a nobody to a tyrannical titan of industry. However, things in his youth weren't exactly as nice as he remembered. For example, he forgets that vaccines weren't invented at that time, the streets are still unpaved, and the girl he reminisced about was nowhere near as attractive or charming as he remembered. This is on top of all the other mistakes he makes...
  • Not So Different: Between the Central American dictator and Ramos Clemente in "The Mirror".

     Tropes O-P 
  • Oddball in the Series:
    • First season finale "A World of His Own" marked the first time Rod Serling appeared on screen, but at the end, not the beginning. It's also the only time that Serling is a character in the story interacting with the other characters.
    • "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is a French silent film adaptation of the classic Ambrose Bierce story, which Serling acquired and ran on American television as a Twilight Zone episode, with only a few minor edits.
  • One Character, Multiple Lives: In the episode, "A World of Difference", Arthur Curtis finds himself switching between two worlds - one where he's a normal businessman, and another where he's an alcoholic actor named Gerry Raigan who's playing the role of businessman Arthur Curtis in a movie.
  • One-Word Title: "Elegy", "Execution", "Dust", "Static", "Two", "Mute", "Miniature" and "Steel".
  • On One Condition:
    • In "The Masks", Jason Foster tells his daughter and her family that unless they wear the Mardi Gras masks he has made for them until midnight, their inheritance when he dies will consist solely of train fare back to their home in Boston.
    • In "Uncle Simon", Barbara Polk is told she has inherited her misanthropic uncle's entire estate, as long as she sells none of it and looks after his last invention: a robot which gradually takes on his personality, and eventually speaks in his voice.
  • On the Next: Each episode ends with Rod Serling telling the audience about the next episode. For season four, clips from the episodes were also shown.
  • People Zoo: In "People Are Alike All Over", the inhabitants of the planet Mars put an Earth astronaut in a house that acts as a zoo habitat.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: This theme was explored in several episodes.
    • "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" shows us Retired Gunfighter Al Denton, who took the lives of so many challengers who wanted to defeat him and claim his title of Fastest Gun in the West that it psychologically broke him and turned him into a washed up drunk. When he regains his gunfighter abilities, he has to go through it all for a second time against a new set of challengers. When his hand is crippled at the end of the episode so that he'll never be able to use a gun again, he considers it a blessing.
    • "A Game of Pool" throughly deconstructs this trope. Jesse Cardiff, a pool shark praised as the best living player, complains that no matter what he does, he'll never be as good as "Fats" Brown, a deceased legend. Fats arrives from the afterlife to play a game which will determine which of them is truly the best. As they do, they discuss what it means to excel at something—Fats points out that while he's only a pool player, he's the greatest pool player, which allows him pride. The ending, though, reveals that whoever holds that title is forced to spend his or her entire afterlife defending it from those who want to try for it, until someone else defeats the champ. Serling sums it up when he remarks that "being the best of anything carries with it a special obligation to keep on proving it."
  • Persecuted Intellectuals:
    • In "Time Enough at Last", everyone looks down on and picks on Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) for being a reader.
    • In "The Obsolete Man", Romney Wordsworth, the librarian (also played by Burgess Meredith) is considered obsolete, as books have been banned.
  • Phone Call from the Dead:
    • In "Night Call" an invalid starts receiving mysterious phone calls. The calls are eventually traced to a cemetery, where a fallen phone line is in contact with the grave of her deceased fiancé.
    • "Long Distance Call" has a grandmother calling from beyond the grave and urging her beloved grandchild toward acts of suicide so they can be together again.
  • Pilot Movie: In 1958, Rod Serling wrote a teleplay ("The Time Element") which he hoped to turn into a weekly anthology series. It's often included in the series' canon as its lost pilot episode.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: A rare non-dying example occurs at the end of "A Piano in the House." The titular instrument reveals that Jerkass Fitzgerald Fortune's cruelty is simply a mask for his true persona: a misanthropic, frightened child terrified of the world and unable to react to others with anything but disgust and hatred. This revelation comes during a party, and all of the guests (including Fortune's wife) leave after Fortune's breakdown; he screams like a toddler, declaring that he doesn't want them to go and threatening to be "very naughty" if they do.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Mr. Bevis" and "Cavender is Coming" were both intended as possible pilot episodes for a spinoff show, but this never materialized.
  • Pow Zap Wham Cam: Used in episodes such as "Third From The Sun" and "The Howling Man".
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Episodes adapted from short stories were often massaged a bit. In Damon Knight's short story "To Serve Man" the alien representatives are described as looking like pigs. The producers thought the audience would find this too silly, so the alien makeup is the more conventional tall-head variety. (Ironically, another iconic episode, "Eye of the Beholder", did feature characters wearing pig-like masks.)
  • Prestige Peril: The episode "The Man in the Bottle" has a man wish to be the leader of a modern country who cannot be voted out of position...only to find that he's Adolf Hitler, and it's the end of World War II.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some furs are worn in some episodes, such as "Twenty-Two", and especially in "A Nice Place to Visit" to show the supposed grand nature of the place.

     Tropes Q-S 
  • Reality Warper: Anthony Fremont in "It's a Good Life", and Gregory West in "A World of His Own", though the latter needs a dictation machine.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • The unpleasant family in "The Masks" receive one from Jason Foster, just before he finally dies.
    • Fitzgerald Fortune is on the receiving end of several of these in "A Piano in the House," but he shrugs them off, largely because he's using a magical player piano to force people to reveal their hidden secrets. At the end of the episode, though, one of the piano's songs prompts Fortune to give a Reason You Suck Speech to himself.
    • Feathersmith gets one too in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville".
  • Referenced By: William Shakespeare:
    • Three of the episode titles are "Perchance to Dream," "The Purple Testament" and "A Quality of Mercy"; Rod Serling even quotes Portia's words to Shylock at the end of the latter episode ("The quality of mercy is not strained, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath: it is thrice blessed, / It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes"; The Merchant of Venice, IV.i).
    • A running joke in "The Bard" (in which a hack would be tv writer brings Shakespeare to life and puts him to work writing for television) has Shakespeare quoting his plays, title and verse. At one point the Bard says, "To be or not to be - that is...." looks confused, and then exits.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe example with "I Sing The Body Electric." A widowed husband gets a robot granny to help raise his children, but the oldest child rejects her for not being her deceased mother.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Rod Serling said that when he first called for scripts, ""I got 15,000 manuscripts in the first five days. Of those 15,000, I and members of my staff read about 140. And 137 of those 140 were wasted paper; hand-scrawled, laboriously written, therapeutic unholy grotesqueries from sick, troubled, deeply disturbed people." The other three were well-written, but unsuitable for the show.
  • Rule of Three: In "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up", said Martian has three arms. The Venusian has three eyes.
  • Same Language Dub: In "The Bewitchin' Pool", it happened to Mary Badham of To Kill a Mockingbird fame, whose lines and voice in the outdoor scenes were so unintelligible, the directors had to have June Foray dub her lines.
  • Satan: Popular character. Played by Julie Newmar (in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville") and Burgess Meredith (in "Printer's Devil") among others.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Several No Sense of Distance examples.
    • In "On Thursday We Leave For Home" an Earth colony is stranded on a hellish planet orbiting two suns. The planet is described as being two billion miles from Earth, which would make it closer to the Sun than Neptune.
    • "Third From the Sun". Aliens living on a Earth-like planet say they're going to Earth, which is 11 million miles away. Since it would be impossible for another Earth-like planet to be that close without us knowing about it, the writers must have thought that a planet 11 million miles away could be in another solar system.
    • "Elegy". The episode says that the astronauts are "lost amongst the stars" in a "a far corner of the universe" and they end up on an asteroid in a solar system with two suns, which shows that they're outside Earth's solar system. However, they say (twice!) that they're 655 million miles from Earth, which shows that not only are they not lost but they're actually inside the Earth's solar system between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn!
    • "Probe 7: Over and Out". The pilot of a starship from Earth says that he has crashlanded on a planet 4.3 light years from Earth (presumably in the Alpha Centauri system). In the narration Rod Serling says that he's "several million miles" from his launching point, which would put said point somewhere in the Alpha Centauri system itself, not Earth.
    • "To Serve Man". Prior to boarding an alien spaceship, a woman says that the aliens' planet is "billions" of miles from Earth. The nearest it could possibly be is in the Alpha Centauri system, around 4.3 light years (more than 25 trillion miles) away. By comparison, Pluto is on average 3.67 billion miles from the Sun.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Jason Foster in "The Masks", though this is both a subversion and a Justified Trope. Jason's cranky and crotchety because he knows he's going to die soon and he's surrounded by Jerkass family members waiting for him to die like vultures. However, while certainly cranky, he never comes off as needlessly cruel to his doctor or his servants and shares a sort-of rapport with them. They're also quite understanding of why he's cranky, and share his contempt for his so-called "family".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: "The Howling Man."
    Rod Serling: Ancient folk saying - you can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Invoked in the ending of "A Game of Pool", alongside Be Careful What You Wish For. Yeah, Jesse Cardiff defeated the legendary Fats Brown and is the best pool player ever. What prize does he get? Spending eternity defending his pool title until he loses.
  • Secret Test
    • Episode "The Hunt". A man and his dog both drown. They then find themselves walking down a path. At one point, they meet a man who says that they've reached Heaven, but dogs aren't allowed. The dog's owner says any Heaven that doesn't allow his dog can count him out. Further down the road, he found it was a test, as an actual angel tells him the previous man was Satan and the place he wanted the dog's owner to enter was Hell. The angel warmly invites the man and his dog into the real Heaven.
    • Episode "Valley of the Shadow". A newspaper reporter learns too much and is taken prisoner by the inhabitants of the title valley. An attractive woman sets him free and he takes advantage of this to steal their secrets, killing several of them in the process. After he escapes with the girl, she turns on him, revealing that the whole set-up was a test of his worthiness to know the information. He failed.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • "The Time Element." Especially heartbreaking because the main character not only is unable to prevent the death of a young couple (oh, and prevent the mass death and disaster at Pearl Harbor), he also gets himself killed and part of his life erased from existence as well. This episode not only shot the shaggy dog, it skinned and made it into a floor rug.
    • Nonlethal version in "The Big Tall Wish".
    • "It's a Good Life". No, it isn't!
  • Silence Is Golden: "The Invaders", written by Richard Matheson, has no dialogue until the very end (when what little dialogue the episode has constitutes The Reveal).
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty:
    • The show plays with this in the famous episode "Eye of the Beholder", where a woman undergoes plastic surgery to become beautiful because she falls into the Most Horrible Ever category (there's a village made just for ugly people so nobody would be forced to look at them). Of course being The Twilight Zone there's a twist: it's reversed. Being ugly is beautiful and vice versa.
    • Also played with in "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You", in which a young Common Beauty is described by others as "hideous" because she hasn't traded her original appearance in for a carbon-copy World Class Beauty body.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 0 (Non-Linear Installments).
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" concerns neighbors on a street who become paranoid when the power goes out and odd things start happening, putting the blame on aliens and then turning on one another due to suspicion.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Lieutenant Katell in "A Quality of Mercy" wants to be one, wanting to prove himself and completely destroy the enemy (in this case, the Japanese during World War II). The Karmic Twist Ending forces him to the other side, where a gung-ho Japanese soldier does the same thing he was about to do to some wounded Americans hiding in the very same cave. He doesn't like it.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • "Cavender Is Coming", a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a prospective comedy series starring Jesse White as the title character, an apprentice guardian angel who assists a klutzy mortal played by Carol Burnett.
    • Also, the comedy episodes, such as 'Mr. Bevis', 'A Penny For Your Thoughts' and 'Once Upon A Time'. The most sitcom-y one of all (complete with Here We Go Again! ending, even) is probably "The Bard", which, as mentioned above, is one giant Author Tract about the pitfalls of network television.
    • For the episode "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" Rod Serling ditches his usual method of introduction and says, apparently out of character, that tonight they're going to do something very special that they've never yet done in the five years they've been running the show and show you a French film made by somebody else. Justified, in that it's up to the show's usual quality.
    • For Season 2, six episodes were recorded on videotape using four video cameras on a studio soundstage at CBS Television City, as a cost-cutting measure mandated by CBS programming head James T. Aubrey. However, videotape was a relatively primitive medium in the early 1960s, thus the editing of tape was next to impossible. Even worse, the requisite multicamera setup of the videotape experiment made location shooting difficult, severely limiting the potential scope of the storylines, so the crew had to abandon the videotaping project. The six "videotape episodes" are: "The Lateness of the Hour", "The Night of the Meek", "The Whole Truth", "Twenty-Two", "Static", and "Long-Distance Call".
    • The entire fourth season which CBS expanded into an hour, creating scripts that were for the most part overly padded, and signaled to many the Zone Jump the Shark moment.
  • Space Madness: Discussed in "Where Is Everybody?" The town the protagonist is in is just a hallucination. He's really in an isolation chamber, and he's part of an experiment the government is running to see how humans would handle a solo mission to the Moon. He does make it through the experiment though and seems optimistic about mankind's chances of actually reaching the Moon despite his mental breakdown.
  • Space Whale Aesop: "Stopover In a Quiet Town": Don't drink and drive, or you'll wake up in a toy town owned by a gigantic extraterrestrial little girl after having been abducted.
  • Speculative Fiction: The Sci-Fi elements and stories.
  • Spooky Silent Library: "Time Enough at Last" ends with a lone man, an empty library, and a broken pair of glasses. Possibly better known by now through parodies than through the original.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The countdown and launch footage from "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" was reused in "People Are Alike All Over".
    • Footage of the C-57-D from Forbidden Planet appears in some episodes. At the end of "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" the footage is disguised by being shown upside down and backwards - this was achieved by simply turning the clip upside down before splicing it in. In "To Serve Man", however, although the full-size C-57-D landing ramp is used, the Kanamit spaceship's takeoff is represented by one of the eponymous Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, animated by Ray Harryhausen.
    • The Little People uses footage from a Mercury Program launch.
  • Subtext: "The Fugitive" might also seem creepy to modern eyes. Especially when it's revealed that the elderly man eventually marries the little girl. Of course, he's a shapeshifting alien who's actually handsome and can take on a younger form and he waited until she got older before marrying her, but it still sounds a bit squicky.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: In the episode "Shadow Play", Dennis Weaver is on Death Row trying to convince people that the world is a nightmare he keeps having, night after night, over and over again. The Warden is finally convinced he must be insane, and calls the Governor to ask for a stay. The stay comes too late, the electric chair is fired up, and we find he was right: everyone else dies, and his nightmare starts all over again.

     Tropes T 
  • Take That!:
    • The entirety of "Showdown with Rance McGrew" against the TV westerns of the time. It also serves as a deconstruction of sorts. Serling hated the Westerns of the time, deeming them too unrealistic and predictable, and later went on to make a Western series (The Loner) himself.
    • The hour long episode "The Bard" features a hack writer who, while researching a book of black magic, inadvertently brings William Shakespeare back from the dead, and uses him as a literal ghost writer. Serling uses this setup to parody everything about television at the time including sponsors making inane changes, and the concept of taking a half hour show and making an hour show of it, such as CBS did to Zone that season, much to Serling's dismay.
  • Taking the Fight Outside: In the episode entitled "The Bewitchin' Pool", Sport and Jeb enter the titular pool at the behest of a boy named Wit, who appeared there suddenly while their parents were arguing. They descend to a place for unloved children and meet "Aunt T" an elderly, loving matriarch. Wit makes a comment that upsets Sport and she resolves to fight him. Aunt T calmly hands them each a pair of boxing gloves and tells them to go outside, fight fair and to avoid hitting below the belt. She then turns to Jeb and asks for help frosting the cake she's made. Sport asks to help too only for Aunt T to reply "But I thought you two were gonna beat each other up." Wit and Sport inform her that they'd rather frost the cake instead.
  • Talking to Themself: "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" features a small-time gangster holding a conversation with his reflection in the mirror, with the latter determined that he, or rather they, should stop being so cowardly and actually make something of themselves.
  • Tall Tale: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" features a man who continually tells tall tales. During the episode he's abducted by aliens (ironically, because they believe all his stories) and escapes, but when he tells his friends, they believe he is just Crying Wolf. (Of course, the whole episode could be a tall tale... from Rod Serling's point of view.)
  • Taxman Takes the Winnings: In "The Man in the Bottle", the Castles' second wish is for a million dollars in cash. After they give away some of the money, an IRS agent shows up and gives them a bill for the taxes (Federal and state) they owe on it. This leaves them with only five dollars.
  • This Isn't Heaven: When petty crook Rocky Valentine goes to the afterlife in "A Nice Place to Visit", he finds his every desire fulfilled with minimal effort, and assumes he has gone to Heaven. Before long, getting everything so easily starts to drive him insane, and he begs to go to "the other place"... only to be told he's already there.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: A number of episodes leave open the question of how much of what the audience sees is real. Most overtly explored in the episode "The Arrival", which ends with Rod Serling outright asking the audience to decide whether we've been watching the main character's mental breakdown or his encounter with the supernatural, and "The Mirror" is much the same.
  • Title Drop: With the exception of "Jess-Belle," which skipped the closing narration, every episode opens and closes with a narration from Rod Serling. In many of the opening narrations, and in almost every closing one, the narration ends with "The Twilight Zone." After setting the premise for the episode, the opening narration often states the character(s) is/are about to enter The Twilight Zone. The closing ones summarizes the events of the episode in an eerie and cryptic manner, and a moral or message about what happened is either hinted at or outright stated; but it always ends in the phrase "The Twilight Zone." The exceptions are "The Four of Us Are Dying," "He's Alive," "Long Live Walter Jameson," "Deaths-Head Revisited" and "On Thursday We Leave For Home."
    • In the original broadcast of "Night of the Meek" Serling expresses a holiday greeting after the " the Twilight Zone" statement, which was generally edited out in syndication.
    • Almost every episode will feature a character saying the episode title. If they don't you can expect the narrator to chime in.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The first season opening is often pasted over by the second season opening in syndicated reruns.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: "The After Hours," "The Lateness of the Hour," "In His Image," "Ring-a-ding Girl". Ironically, played with in "The Mirror".
  • To Serve Man: Trope Namer are in the titular episode, where aliens come to Earth and establish diplomacy. It's only at the very end when the humans decipher their handbook, To Serve Man, to be a cookbook, and not in time to save the life of one Mr. Chambers.
  • Troll: Oliver Crangle in "Four O'Clock". Did he shrink because what he was trying to do went wrong, was the whole thing a hallucination...or did every single evil person on Earth actually shrink, including him because he was evil?! The last possibility would have had very interesting results (some reminiscent of Steve Martin on "getting small").
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Some episodes could get pretty bad about this.
    • Pity that by the 1990's we hadn't even traveled to the nearest galaxy yet. And we never will.
    • The episode "The Elegy" lays out a distinct timeline; a trio of spacemen from 2185 discover a cemetery on a distant asteroid consisting of a replica of daily life on Earth that was supposedly started in 1973, and mention a nuclear war having happened in the 1980's.
  • Twist Ending: Became infamous for this sort of thing.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes
    • A weird and somewhat baffling variation occurs in the episode "To Serve Man", when the human protagonist onboard a flying saucer in transit asks his alien captors what time it is, only to be told there isn't one, because there's no way to measure time in space, to which the hero responds "What time is it on Earth?
    • "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby". After Mr. Frisby is lured into a flying saucer, the aliens' leader tells him that they will be taking off in "fourteen minutes, by your measure of time".

     Tropes U-Z 
  • Unbuilt Trope: The episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" milked the concept of sentient toys for all its inherent horror and existential angst about three decades before Toy Story made the idea famous. The ending, where we find out that the titular five characters are actually dolls dumped in a Salvation Army bin by their owner, is absolutely terrifying.
  • Un-Paused: "A Kind of a Stopwatch", until the stopwatch breaks.
  • Urban Fantasy: Anything that takes place in a city, natch.
  • Villain Protagonist: Several episodes feature them, and they usually end up badly.
    • "The Four of Us Are Dying" is about a petty crook who uses his Voluntary Shapeshifting power to defraud people.
    • The main characters of "A Most Unusual Camera" are a trio of not so bright thieves.
    • "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" also focuses on a gang of thieves.
    • The aforementioned Nazi Protagonists of "Death's Head Revisited", "He's Alive" and "Judgment Night".
    • The disguised alien invaders in "Black Leather Jackets".
    • In "Mr. Garrity and the Graves", the titular character is a Con Artist.
  • Wait Here: In the episode "Still Valley" a Confederate scout gives orders to his partner.
    Paradine: Now you stay here. If you hear a shot, you get back to the lieutenant at a fast gallop...If you haven't heard from me in 15 minutes, you get back there anyway.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: According to Billy Mumy (who played him), Anthony from "It's A Good Life" is honestly trying to make the world a better place, he simply doesn't grasp that what makes him happy isn't best for everyone. In short, his immaturity prevents him from taking other's views into consideration. This is explored further in the short story on which the episode is based. A notable example excluded from the episode is his reanimating a man's corpse after hearing his widow mourn his death, much to her (and everybody else's) horror. The town folk mostly try to avoid any negative thoughts at all after that, because Anthony might make things so much worse by trying to make them better.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Bob and Millie in "Stopover in a Quiet Town" wake up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, only that they had far too much to drink the previous night and tried to drive home anyway, only for a large shadow to pass over their car.
  • Wham Line: A memorable one in "The Man In The Bottle"... "Well?? What about it, Fuehrer?!"
    • Paired with a shot of Arthur: he wished to be a the leader of a modern and powerful country in which he cannot be voted out of office: he's now Adolf Hitler, moments before his suicide in the bunker.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve
    • In "Shadowplay", Adam Grant is a convicted murderer sentenced to be executed at midnight, who claims that the whole situation is a dream he's having. Prosecutor Henry Ritchie talks with newspaper editor Paul Carson about it:
      Carson: That's another thing. Why does this always happen around midnight?
      Ritchie: Because that's when it happens!
      Carson: Yeah, but why?
      Ritchie: You tell me why!
      Carson: According to Grant, he doesn't know anything about these matters except what he sees in the movies. In the movies it always happens at midnight.
      Ritchie: Because movies are technically accurate!
      Carson: Yeah, that's strange too when you come to think of it.
    • In "One for the Angels", a sidewalk pitchman is scheduled to die at midnight. When he tricks Death into not taking him, a young girl is scheduled to die in his place at that time. He must make his best pitch ever to distract Death from taking her.
    • "The Obsolete Man". When the prosecutor asks Mr. Wordsworth when he wants to be executed, Wordsworth picks the traditional time: midnight.
    • "The Masks". The dying Jason Foster forces his evil relatives to wear their masks until midnight, on pain of losing their inheritance. Foster dies at the stroke of midnight, but when the relatives remove their masks they discover that something unusual has occurred.
    • "Mr. Garrity and the Graves". Mr. Garrity tells the people of Happiness, Arizona that he will resurrect the people buried in Boot Hill at midnight.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Man in "Two" gets into a fistfight with an enemy soldier, who is a woman, and knocks her out.
  • Writer on Board: Serling was an outspoken liberal, even for his day, and many of the show's recurring themes of corporate oppression, racism, censorship, isolationism, and the horrors of war were not simply ideas he liked to discuss, but the very reason he created the series was to use as a sounding board for such taboos.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The premise of the episode called "Five Characters in Search of an Exit": An Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, along with a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they got there.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Or at least, you can't change the past. Several episodes revolve around characters trying to avert disasters, but failing or only making small changes.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: A common occurrence in the series, but especially in "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby".
  • You Never Asked: "A Nice Place to Visit". Rocky automatically assumed he was in Heaven and Pip was an angel. Pip chuckles, essentially, "Whatever gave you that idea?"
  • Zeerust: A lot of outer space-themed episodes take place in the year 2000 or the late 90's.
    • "Steel", in which human fighters have been replaced by boxing robots, takes place in the far off year of 1974.
    • "Third from the Sun" showcased a sleek white phone that gave off soft, elevator-like tones when it rang. In fact, the rotary dial was on the bottom!
    • "Elegy" starts with the landing of a rocket that in many ways works like how we imagine a UFO. They open the hatch, and down comes a ladder on a hinge.

Guess what? Your whole life has been a dream, one of your family members is a robot, and that nice man that just moved into town is a Martian. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Hey, look at that weird mirror!