On October 2, 1959, the first episode aired of what would turn out to be a seminal work of science-fiction television. For the first time the famous four-note musical motif played, and for the first time Rod Serling told viewers that they were “entering a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.” Yes, it may be hard to believe, but today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the premiere of The Twilight Zone.
The first episode, titled “Where Is Everybody?” and starring Earl Holliman, was written by Serling and very much set the tone for the series: Holliman plays a man, dressed in an Air Force jumpsuit, who wanders about a town that seems to have no other people in it, though has evidence of very recent habitation (food on the stove, burning cigarettes in ashtrays, etc.). It turns out (SPOILER ALERT) that he is imagining the whole thing, and that he’s actually been put in isolation to see if he can stay sane for a trip to the moon.
It’s safe to say that every science-fiction TV series since owes something to The Twilight Zone: in the fall of 1959, even “Doctor Who” and “The Outer Limits” were four years away from their premieres. Serling proved that science-fiction had a place on television. Many of the episodes may be obvious, even trite; but there are many excellent ones. Some have become classics, such as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “To Serve Man,” and “Time Enough at Last.” And who will ever forget that most-deadpan-voice-ever style of Serling’s?
A substantial number of the show’s episodes are available for free online (for viewers in the U.S., at least), and we at GeekDad encourage you to celebrate today by watching a few of them. That’s a signpost up ahead. Your next stop: The Twilight Zone!