The Twilight Zone is a 1959-1964 black and white thriller series of mind-bending, psychological stories that showcase humanity’s disturbing qualities. While these episodes are fantastically written on their own, a good deal of the scripts are influenced by literary triumphs. Here is a list of the sci-fi, horror, and superstitious episodes that closely and thematically reflect renowned stories.
“Where Is Everybody?” | The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury | Season 1 episode 1
“Where is Everybody?” is the first episode of the Twilight Zone, and it mirrors Ray Bradbury’s prose, “Silent Towns,” in The Martian Chronicles. The plot centers around an man who wakes up not remembering anything about himself, except that he is wearing an Air Force uniform. The town he is in is completely devoid of people, and his terror rises as he searches for an explanation. The ending of this episode is a unique resolution.
“Perchance to Dream” | Hamlet by William Shakespeare |Season 1 episode 9
“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream” are the words uttered by Hamlet in his famous monologue, “To Be, or Not To Be,” where he contemplates suicide. In this Twilight Zone episode, the protagonist seeks help from a psychiatrist, for he has not slept in four days. He has a heart condition, where he must sleep or else his heart is strained. But, each time he sleeps, he is terrified he will be killed. Strangely, he sleeps in chapters, as if he is a part of a serial killer flick. The last time he slept, his dream was about a carnival where a female dancer was trying to murder him. He finds that the receptionist of the psychiatrist’s office looks identical to the female dancer at the carnival.
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” | The Crucible by Arthur Miller | Season 1 episode 22
This is one of the most famous episodes of the black and white thriller series. In “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” a 1950s neighborhood appears picturesque and living the American Dream. However, when the electricity goes berserk, the neighbors begin to go mad with accusations, showing humanity’s calamitous victimization. This mirrors The Crucible well by showing how quickly humans are to blame others in order to save themselves, much like the events during the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Trials, both in which Arthur Miller was using as influence in his play.
“People Are Alike All Over” | Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut | Season 1 episode 25
An astronaut lands on Mars after his shipwreck to find that the martians look like humans and appear to treat him nicely. However, he soon finds that he is a part of a bigger plan the martians were creating, and he is unable to return home. This episode reflects how Billy Pilgrim was treated when he was abducted by the Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five, but I won’t say exactly how or else the ending will be spoiled. So, you just have to trust my word and watch it for yourself.
“The Rip Van Winkle Caper” | “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving | Season 2 episode 24
In “Rip Van Winkle,” Rip flees from his controlling, nagging wife by escaping into the mountains to relax. He wakes up and heads back to town, noticing that everything looks different, and he has slept for a very long time. In the episode, “Rip Van Winkle Caper,” a group of four men escape after stealing one million dollars of gold bricks. One of the four men is a scientist who has built a shelter that will preserve their bodies as they sleep for 100 years until they can safely spend their money.
“The Obsolete Man” | 1984 by George Orwell & Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury| Season 2 episode 29
Much like 1984, “The Obsolete Man” takes place in a dystopian dictatorship where his job as a librarian and his belief in God are ruled as obsolete, for books are banned and God is legally declared nonexistent (similar to Fahrenheit 451). The man is sentenced to death, but he is able to choose his own execution method.
“Deaths-Head Revisited” | Night by Elie Wiesel | Season 3 episode 9
Night is a memoir of a Jewish teenager in the Holocaust. This Twilight Zone centers around a former Nazi returns to the ruins of a concentration camp that his haunted by the ghosts of its victims. These ghosts terrify the Nazi, as they create a paranormal trial against the Nazi, in order to reestablish justice.
“Four O’Clock” | Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka | Season 3 episode 29
Metamorphosis is about a man who wakes up one day to find he is turned into a giant bug. Similarly, “Four O’Clock” is about an insane man that keeps track of the “evil” people in the world and believes they all work together in a conspiracy to take over the government. In order to get rid of these immoral beings, he decides to shrink them all down to two-feet tall.
“Something in the Walls” | “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman |Season 3 episode 54
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman who goes crazy from her oppression by seeing people in her yellow wallpaper. Uniformly, the episode “Something in the Walls” follows a woman that checks herself into a psychiatric hospital. She is obsessed with solid colors and begins to see faces in the pattern of the wallpaper. Out of all the Twilight Zone episodes, this one is almost exactly like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s masterpiece.
“The Bard” | William Shakespeare |Season 4 episode 18
This episode is not about a particular piece of literature, but is created off of William Shakespeare. The protagonist is a struggling television writer who toys around with a book on black magic and accidentally conjures William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is now to be of service to the writer and is used as ghost writer for the protagonist’s film script.
“No Time Like the Past” | Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut | Season 4 episode 10
Vonnegut hated war and violence and humanity’s self-destruction, which propelled his antiwar novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Similarly, the main character of “No Time Like the Past” loathes the issues that were intertwined with World War II, such as atomic weapons. He creates a time machine to travel back and forth in time (like Billy Pilgrim of SH-5) and attempts to correct the bombing of Hiroshima and assassinate Adolf Hitler.
“The Masks” | “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe |Season 5 episode 25
“The Masque of the Red Death” is about a masquerade party that is a Prince’s attempt to hide from a fatal plague. In “The Masks” a dying grandfather invites his heirs over to celebrate Marti Gras. In order for his children to receive their money after his death, he asks them to wear these masks the entire party. However, when they take off their masks, their true personalities are visible on their faces.
Thank you for reading this post, and I hope you watch these episodes and enjoy. See you soon for another review!