Here's my list of favourite episodes, in order.
This final episode would make the top of many 'best of' lists, and for good reason. Bill Mumy plays that omnipotent little boy psychopath, Anthony Freemont, the little monster with the ability to read thoughts, create monsters, eliminate entire parts of the universe, and, chillingly, has the power to banish anyone he doesn't like into “the cornfield”. Like “Living Doll, this episode is truly scary, and it doesn't get any less so over the years. In the later incarnation of the Twilight Zone, he reprised his role in 'It's Still a Good Life'. As a kid I also imagined having such powers, from levitation to mind reading, but it became terrifying when I imagined those things given to someone else. A good lesson here.
# 9 LIVING DOLL
Who doesn't love this episode? The terrifying little girl's doll, Talkie Tina, takes control of a household and terrorises Telly Savalas (with hair, even!). “My name is Talkie Tina, and I don't like you”, is something that I never personally want to hear. Frightening to the extreme. I'll admit, for the record, that dolls and Ventriloquist dummies scare the tar out of me, most notably the trailer for the 1978 Anthony Hopkins thriller MAGIC, which scarred my ten-year-old brain for life.
Evil, evil, evil, EVIL!!!!
#8 THE BEWITCHIN' POOL
A little girl and boy escape from their bellicose parents into a magical world beyond the bottom of their swimming pool. It's a Utopian children's realm; a mystical Mark Twain fantasy with fishing holes and forests, whose caretaker, the motherly Aunt T., makes pies and cakes, and doles out bits of wisdom to all in her charge. As a country boy with similarly bickering grownups around (divorcing just a few years after my first viewing of this episode), I often escaped into the forests with it's streams and ponds, looking for such a wonderful place
#7 TO SERVE MAN
It's a cookbook!
This episode is a futuristic display of the credibility of the saying, “beware Greeks bearing gifts”. An alien race comes to Earth, promising to lead humans into a perfect future, and they leave a book written in an alien language. Lloyd Bochner plays a code breaker brought in to decipher the tome. In a tragedy of timing, just as he boards a ship going to the alien home planet, he finds out what, or should I say, who, is on the menu. A great little science fiction treat!
Note to aliens: I taste bad. Move on.
#6 QUEEN OF THE NILE
A reporter goes to interview and Elizabeth Taylor-like actress, who is apparently supposed to be stunningly beautiful (I never thought so, but I've never found Taylor that attractive, either). As the episode continues, her mother is revealed as her daughter, and our curious chap is reduced to dust by an ancient Egyptian scarab, who has transferred the poor man's youth to our vamp...a former Queen of the Nile. The combo of ancient Egypt and immortality, I've loved it since early childhood.
Apparently the reports of her death were greatly exaggerated.
#5 LITTLE GIRL LOST
I really love this one. A little girl and her dog are lost in another dimension, having crawled through a (rapidly closing) hole in her bedroom wall. Her distraught parents enlist the aid of a physicist friend, hoping to bring their precious child back. A great story, which finds quite a bit of support in actual current science, not to mention current science fiction.
I've looked for inter-dimensional doorways ever since, but, as yet, I've not found one. Check back from time to time...just in case.
#4 THE HOWLING MAN
Beware of ancient Gothic castles with hirsute Monks within, for they may contain the Devil himself!
Not much more needs to be said, wot?
#3 A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY
The story of a man trying to escape the rigours of modern life into the past is an oft-repeated theme on the Twilight Zone; Rod Serling must have had these issues himself, I think. In this one, a man with a battleaxe of a wife and a torturer of an employer finds solace on his commute to and from work. As he naps on the train, he awakes each time to see the quaint, turn of the century town Willoughby; a beatific place of band concerts in the square, with the nostalgic slower pace of life that he so longed for. I myself have sought that (and even found it for a couple of years), so I sympathise with this poor fellow.
#2 LONG LIVE WALTER JAMESON
Immortality again! Walter Jameson, who has lived for two thousand years, is found out by a professor friend, the father of his current fiance. Walter reveals that eternal life is a drag, like a very long day made immortal. It's an amazing story, and very similar to my introduction to old time radio, in the form of Arthur Conan Doyle's story 'The Ring of Thoth' (which I wrote about HERE).
Though I don't know from experience, I disagree with Jameson; I would LOVE another few thousand years!
#1 WALKING DISTANCE
And the final entry, here at last, is the king of the hill for me. Martin Sloan (played by Gig Young) is a man burned out my big city life and his fast-paced career. In an escape burst, he ends up within walking distance of his home town. Of course, this being the Twilight Zone, he ends up walking into his own past, complete with his parents and his ten-year-old self. As the episode rolls on, the adage, “you can't go home”. Is made starkly clear. I initially enjoyed this for the time travel aspect, but as I've grown into middle age, I've witnessed the reality of the story.
Special shout out to Frank Overton, who plays his father.
Let's just hope that we're not on an alien menu anytime soon, wot?
#11 BACK THERE
I'm not saying that there is a number eleven on this list, for, after all, this is a Top Ten list, but if there were, it would have to be this one. It involves a modern man, who, after a discussion about the nature of time travel and the changing of history, gets the opportunity to do just that. It's a common subset of the time travel mythos, in which modern people show a strong desire to save the life of Abraham Lincoln.
It really speaks to how pleasant his legacy is to the average American.