The Twilight Zone was created by Rod Serling and ran on CBS from 1959 though 1964. Using the framework of science fiction and fantasy, Serling hosted every episode himself, telling speculative stories that explored the Human condition and topics too sensitive for open public discourse. It won three Emmy Awards as well as three Hugo Awards.
The series was important for Star Trek in several ways. Many Star Trek: The Original Series actors got their start with the series, demonstrating their ability to work in the science fiction genre. Also, four of the writers and directors were contributors to the series. The series also exposed the general public to science fiction as a prime-time genre, whereas previously it had been aimed at juveniles (the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, and the Steve Holland Flash Gordon TV series, and the later Lost In Space series, for instance).
It were not just the actors for whom the series was important, the main supplier of the visual effects for the series, the then recently founded The Westheimer Company, too profited from the work they had done on the series, as they were the second effects company that was brought in early to work on The Original Series, mainly based on the strength of the work they had done on The Twilight Zone. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st. ed. , p. 143)
Thematically, The Twilight Zone also set the tone for Star Trek by discussing sensitive issues in an "other-worldly" setting. Essentially, both Serling and Gene Roddenberry were sneaking the touchy issues past the studio censors under the pretext that the episodes were not about the issues, but were just science fiction stories of the far future.
Rod Serling gave a mixed review of Star Trek in 1970. He stated, "Star Trek was again a very inconsistent show which at times sparkled with true ingenuity and pure science fiction approaches. At other times it was more carnival-like, and very much more the creature of television than the creature of a legitimate literary form." (Pioneers of Television: Science Fiction) On another occasion, Serling gave a positive opinion on the show, stating "The day Star Trek was cancelled, I could have cut off heads at the network. It was a marvelous show." (Starlog 2. (August, 1976), p. 15)
Additionally, several TOS episodes bear a strong resemblance to earlier Twilight Zone episodes:
- "People Are Alike All Over" and "The Cage": Both involve Humans being put in an extraterrestrial zoo. Interestingly enough, Susan Oliver appears in both. The former episode also featured Byron Morrow and Vic Perrin.
- "The Parallel" and "Mirror, Mirror": Both have space travelers who spend some time in a parallel, but altered universe.
- "It's a Good Life" and "Charlie X": Both involve a young boy terrorizing people with his god-like powers. Bill Mumy and Don Keefer starred in the Twilight Zone episode.
- "Mute" and "The Empath": Both episodes involve a mute female with ESP. The former co-starred Frank Overton.
- "The Lateness of the Hour" and "Requiem for Methuselah". Both involve a young woman who is really an android, created by an old scientist and kept within the closed world of his home. The scientist in the Twilight Zone episode was played by John Hoyt. This premise is also similar to The Twilight Zone episode "In His Image" and the TOS episodes "I, Mudd" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", where androids pass themselves off as humans.
The original Twilight Zone series was followed by a movie in 1983, a television film in 1994, and three revival shows from 1985-89, 2002-03, and 2019 onwards, respectively. The second revival series ran on UPN, while the latest incarnation is currently streaming on CBS All Access. The UPN incarnation debuted one week before "Carbon Creek" aired and was scheduled to air immediately after Enterprise, giving Tucker's dialogue reference, made only five minutes before the second episode of Twilight Zone aired, a metafictional context.
Crossover performers, writers, and directors
- Four main TOS actors appeared in The Twilight Zone: William Shatner starred in two episodes: "Nick of Time" in 1960 and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in 1963. Leonard Nimoy was part of the cast in "A Quality of Mercy" in 1961. James Doohan appeared in the episode "Valley of the Shadow" (1963) and George Takei in "The Encounter" (1964).
- William Windom (Commodore Matt Decker) was in two episodes: "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (1961) and "Miniature" (1963). John Hoyt (Dr. Phil Boyce) was in "The Lateness of the Hour" (1960) and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (1961). Robert Lansing (Gary Seven) was in "The Long Morrow". Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones) was in two episodes: "Once Upon a Time" and "Mr. Garrity and the Graves". John Fiedler (Mr. Hengist) was in "Cavender Is Coming" and "Night Of The Meek". Bill Mumy (Kellin (Crewman)) was in "Long Distance Call", "It's a Good Life", "In Praise of Pip", Twilight Zone: The Movie, and "It's Still a Good Life" from the 2002-2003 revival series. He also co-wrote the 2002 series episode "Found and Lost".
- "The Doomsday Machine" has five Twilight Zone alumni: Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Takei, and Windom.
- "Assignment: Earth" has six Twilight Zone alumni: Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Takei, Lansing, and Keefer.
- TOS writers Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson were regular contributors, as were directors Robert Butler and Robert Gist. Ralph Senensky also directed the episode "Printer's Devil". Jerry Sohl wrote three episodes uncredited, helping out his illness-stricken friend, Charles Beaumont.
- The made-for-TV movie that preceded the 1980s series included an adaptation of the Harlan Ellison short story, "Shatterday". Ellison would briefly serve as creative consultant on the series and also write another episode, "Paladin of the Lost Hour." However, production of another episode, "Nackles", with Ellison adapting a story by Donald E. Westlake and also directing, was halted, leading to his departure from the series.
- In the 1980s series, Terry Farrell starred in a remake of "The After Hours" (1986), an episode that was also in the 1960s series (although, it had no Star Trek actors in it).
- Jonathan Frakes appeared as "Single Guy" in the episode "But Can She Type?" (1985) in the 1980s series and directed the 2002 revival series episode "The Lineman".
- Brent Spiner played a draft dodger and John de Lancie played a dispatcher in "Dead Run" (1985) in the 1980s series.
- Nana Visitor played Lori in "Dead Woman's Shoes" (1985) in the 1980s series, a remake of the original Twilight Zone episode "Dead Man's Shoes" which starred Warren Stevens.
- Robert Duncan McNeill played Peter Wood and James Cromwell played Obadiah Payne in "A Message from Charity" (1985) in the 1980s series.
- Tim Russ played a police officer in "Kentucky Rye" (1985) and Archer in "Voices in the Earth" (1987) in the 1980s series.
- Ethan Phillips played Deaver in "Devil's Alphabet" (1986) in the 1980s series.
- After production of the 1980s series relocated to Canada, Trek comics writer J. Michael Straczynski wrote numerous episodes.
- Allan Kroeker directed the 1980s series episode "Something in the Walls" and three episodes of the 2002 series.
- Ira Steven Behr was an executive producer on the 2002 series of the The Twilight Zone.
- John Cho starred in the episode "Wunderkind" in the 2019 Twilight Zone series.
- James Frain starred in the episode "Point of Origin" in the 2019 Twilight Zone series.