The 13th Floor

The Five Most Brilliant Episodes From Season 3 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE

While the third season of Rod Serling’s magnum opus THE TWILIGHT ZONE feels just a tad uneven, the brightest moments shine so brightly they just about leave us forgetting about the amazing episodes from the other four seasons of this classic series. So prepare yourself to see some of the most recognizable episodes of the original TZ’s amazing five-year run — you may be surprised to see how many iconic episodes were featured in Season Three!

The Shelter

This episode is, in truth, a perfect balance of paranoia, selfishness, racism, betrayal and a dark disregard for those who might qualify as a friend… under typical circumstances. Interestingly enough, all of those emotions run full circle until the episode’s characters — and to an extent the viewer — collide face-first into much-deserved guilt.

An impending apocalyptic impact (presumably enemy bombs) is barreling toward the US, whose President issues a warning essentially like this: If you want to save your ass, get down into a bomb shelter and lock those doors tight until the catastrophe has passed. One family is fully equipped with such a shelter, stocked with plenty of food — but what of this family’s friends and neighbors, who aren’t so fortunate?

To Serve Man

One of the many TWILIGHT ZONE episodes to focus on the arrival of extraterrestrial beings, this isn’t just one of the finest installments featured in the third season — it’s one of the absolute finest TV episodes ever created. It’s witty, it’s visually stunning, and it delivers one of the greatest twists you’ll find in five full seasons.

“To Serve Man” sees aliens arrive on earth, projecting a positive message and a desire to develop a friendly relationship with humans. But there’s an amazing ulterior motive for this alien visit — it’s quite sinister, but there’s an opposing undertone of comedy that leaves the episode rather endearing.

What does it mean “to serve man?” You just might be surprised…

The Fugitive

This remains one of the lesser-appreciated episodes in the series — which is a little strange, as the story is loaded with enraged guardians, crippled children, mysterious “officers” (if you will), and best of all “Old Ben,” an amazing elderly gent who carries with him a very intriguing secret.

Is Old Ben a villain? Is he a hero? Or is he a man far-distanced from his place of origin? The answers unravel in rapid fashion, and the constant deceptive hooks leave us wondering whether he is indeed a hero… or something much worse. The men on the trail of this seemingly caring old coot would indicate there’s a dark side to the man — but in the twilight zone, nothing is ever as it seems.

It’s a Good Life

You might remember this story, even if you haven’t tuned into Rod Serling’s first-wave TWILIGHT ZONE run. Why, you ask? Because this was one of the creepiest, most resonant segments in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE — which, believe it or not, is actually more disconcerting than the original… which is saying a lot, because this episode is damn disturbing on a number of levels.

When we think of monsters, we think of hideous beasts with foot-long teeth and tentacles sprouting from every orifice — we don’t think of young freckle-faced children, allegedly capable of murder. That’s why we love THE TWILIGHT ZONE: it’s one of the earliest productions to turn a child into an outright villain.

This is an episode that can’t be spoiled — it’s too special, and too damn emotional. So, if you did happen to see TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, you have an idea of what you’re in for… although this particular rendition feels extremely different, and far, far less comical.

The Dummy

This is one TWILIGHT ZONE episode that feels far better suited to the horror genre than any other — clowns, dolls, and dummies have a tendency to strike a sensitive nerve in a great deal of viewers. Even grown men can be terrified by a well-assembled doll… or the far more paralyzing creation, the ventriloquist dummy.

There’s something depressing about watching one man’s sanity crumble to pieces… but that’s another reason “The Dummy” is remarkable; the episode is stuffed tight with emotions eager to run amok. There’s an exploration of deep desperation, and eventually we see that it ends on a shocking note. It’s the finale that every horror fan craves — whether on the big or small screen.