The 10 most powerful closing statements from The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is best remembered for its twist endings. The true meaning of the book title To Serve Man. What lies under the bandages in "Eye of the Beholder." The ironic fate of Mr. Henry Bemis' spectacles. You remember the spoilers.
Rod Serling and his writers had a knack for clever closures. As each tale wrapped, the voice of Serling would return as the omniscient narrator. In almost all cases he is unseen (one of the few exceptions is below). Typically, the creator-host would confirm and explain the shocking twist you just viewed. He could be cheeky or darkly comic as he summed up the moral of the story.
But Serling was just as often provocative, philosophical and profound. When you look at them at a whole, recurring themes emerge. Clocks and time are frequently discussed. Nostalgia, fate, mortality and memory are common threads throughout all five seasons.
Few television creators wore their hearts and minds on their sleeves like Serling. Yes, that could sometimes mean whacking the viewer over the head with his message. That being said, this unabashed boldness is what makes The Twilight Zone such a lasting piece of art.
These following ten closing narratives from the original 1959–1964 series still stick with us. What are your favorites?
One of the earliest endings in the series is also one of the longest musings from Serling. Here, his thoughts on nostalgia and its potential trappings are laid in full.
"Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then too, because he'll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone."
"The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"
"It isn't enough for a sole voice of reason to exist. In this time of uncertainty, we are so sure that villains lurk around every corner that we will create them ourselves if we can't find them — for while fear may keep us vigilant, it's also fear that tears us apart — a fear that sadly exists only too often — outside the Twilight Zone."
"We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how, in what way? As we believe, as flesh-and-blood human beings, or are we simply parts of someone's feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it, and then ask yourself, do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live, instead — in The Twilight Zone?"
"The Obsolete Man"
This episode and "The Fugitive" stand out as the two rare instances when Serling appeared before the camera to deliver the closing message. That underlines its importance to the creator. It was originally scripted to be much longer. We have added back his omitted text in italics.
"The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions but convinces nobody; when it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all. Any state, any entity, any ideology which fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man...that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under "M" for "Mankind" — in The Twilight Zone."
"No moral, no message, no prophetic tract, just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight's very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone."
"Death's Head Revisited"
"There is an answer to the doctor's question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes — all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's Earth."
"Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare — Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami, Florida? Vincennes, Indiana? Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry. He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive."
"In Praise of Pip"
"Very little comment here, save for this small aside: that the ties of flesh are deep and strong; that the capacity to love is a vital, rich, and all-consuming function of the human animal. And that you can find nobility and sacrifice and love wherever you may seek it out: down the block, in the heart or in the Twilight Zone."
"Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone."
"I am the Night – Color Me Black"
"A sickness known as hate. Not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ — but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don't look for it in the Twilight Zone — look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether."