8 Most Controversial Episodes of The Twilight Zone, Ranked

The Twilight Zone thrills, delights, and terrifies audiences, but it hasn’t shied away from controversy now and then with its themes and narrative.

Highlights

  • The Twilight Zone sidestepped censorship by addressing complex issues allegorically but still faced controversy over time in certain episodes.
  • Some iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone did not age well due to problematic themes and language, causing discomfort for modern viewers.
  • The Twilight Zone was known for progressive storytelling, but some episodes, like “The Encounter,” faced backlash for controversial content.

Towards the end of the 1950s, TV writer Rod Serling was growing increasingly frustrated with how the corporate sponsors of television dramas interfered in the production process, censoring themes that undermined the products they were trying to sell. His solution was to sidestep this restriction by making an anthology series that addressed complex issues in subtle, allegorical ways: The Twilight Zone.

Split image showing stills from two Twilight Zone episodes (

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However, while this approach was successful in dodging the censorship imposed by advertisers, neither Serling’s initial series nor the franchise that it spawned has ever been completely free of contentious moments. From tragic behind-the-scenes events to problematic storylines, The Twilight Zone has been no stranger to controversy.

8
The Bewitchin’ Pool

A Thin Plot & Reused Footage Makes For A Poor Episode

Image from The Twilight Zone's "The Bewitchin' Pool".

  • (1964) Season 5, Episode 36

The initial iteration of The Twilight Zone is still remembered for iconic episodes like “Time Enough at Last” and “The After Hours”, and part of the reason for its enduring success is the remarkable consistency demonstrated throughout the show’s five seasons. It’s unfortunate, then, that the show’s final episode, “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, fails to stick the landing. Nominally a story about the impact of divorce on children, the episode is plagued by reused footage, poor dubbing, and a dangerously thin plot.

The result is a confusing mess that fails to honor the legacy of the groundbreaking show that it serves to conclude. “The Bewitchin’ Pool” is not only a weak episode of The Twilight Zone; the fact that it forces the original series to end with a whimper rather than a bang makes it one of the most controversial in the anthology show’s canon.

7
The Toys of Caliban

Problematic Language Is Used To Describe The Disabled

Image from The Twilight Zone's "The Toys of Caliban".

  • (1986) Season 2, Episode 5

Long before Game of Thrones made George R.R. Martin a household name, several of the writer’s scripts were used in the first television reboot of The Twilight Zone. “The Toys of Caliban” is one such script. However, despite some memorably spooky scenes and a tragic ending, certain aspects of the episode have not aged well.

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Split image showing images from spooky Twilight Zone episodes (The After Hours, Living Doll, and The Dummy).

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The episode revolves around Toby, a mentally disabled teenager who has the power to physically manifest any object that he sees an image of, from donuts to body parts. Much of the language used to describe Toby in the episode is now widely considered to be problematic, which has somewhat dated an otherwise intriguing episode. Ultimately, any controversy around “The Toys of Caliban” is the result of real-world social progress rather than any ill intention on Martin’s part, but the episode nonetheless leaves some modern viewers feeling uncomfortable.

6
The Wunderkind

A Clunky Satire Of Modern American Politics

Image from The Twilight Zone;s "The Wunderkind".

  • Season 1, Episode 5 (2019)

Science fiction and fantasy stories have great potential to satirize the wilder parts of contemporary life, but good satire requires a degree of subtlety that 2019’s “The Wunderkind” sorely lacks. Produced in response to Donald Trump’s presidency, the episode imagines a scenario in which a petulant child is elected to run the United States of America. The Twilight Zone is capable of writing great stories about power-crazed children (such as 1961’s “It’s a Good Life”), but many viewers found this more recent effort to be just a little too on the nose.

Viewers from across the political spectrum were disappointed at the installment, with even those who agreed with its satirical angle finding it clunky. Nor was the resulting controversy enough to draw viewers en masse to Jordan Peele’s take on The Twilight Zone; the CBS All Access series was quietly canned after two seasons and is currently unavailable on Paramount+.

5
The Chaser

A Non-Consensual Relationship Played For Laughs

Image from The Twilight Zone's "The Chaser".

  • (1960) Season 1, Episode 31

Comedy is not only subjective but linked to prevailing social attitudes. The sentiment that “you couldn’t get away with writing this today” is common, but it may well be true in the case of “The Chaser”, in which a man (George Grizzard) uses a suspicious potion in order to trick a beautiful woman (Patricia Barry) into falling in love with him. This story is played for laughs, only to culminate in Grizzard’s character plotting to murder the woman of his dreams after she becomes annoyingly clingy.

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Split  Image William Shatner, Inger Stevens, Bill Mumy in Twilight Zone

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On its initial broadcast, “The Chaser” was a frivolous romantic comedy that boasted some impressive sets and some good performances. However, the passage of time has not been kind to the episode, as contemporary concerns about equitable relationships mean that Robert Presnell Jr.’s script comes off less like a comedy and more like a horror movie. Time, like love, makes fools of us all.

4
The Mighty Casey

A Behind The Scenes Tragedy Plagues This Episode’s Production

Image from The Twilight Zone' "The Mighty Casey".

  • (1960) Season 1, Episode 35

As one of The Twilight Zone‘s more humorous episodes, it may seem surprising that the otherwise innocuous “The Mighty Casey” could generate any significant controversy. However, while the lighthearted tale of a robotic baseball player was all smiles in front of the camera, the situation behind the scenes was a different story.

McGarry, the owner of the baseball team, is played by Jack Warden in the broadcast episode, but this was not always the plan. Originally, the episode was shot with Paul Douglas playing McGarry. However, when Douglas passed away shortly after filming wrapped, Serling realized that he had captured the symptoms that would lead to Douglas’ death on film. An uncomfortable Serling paid to have much of the episode reshot, and very little footage of Douglas made the final cut.

3
The Big Tall Wish

An All-Black Cast In The 1960s Was Controversial During The Civil Rights Movement

Image from The Twilight Zone's "The Big Tall Wish".

  • (1960) Season 1, Episode 27

Some episodes of The Twilight Zone are controversial because changing societal attitudes have moved beyond negative tropes or behaviors, as in the case of episodes like “The Chaser”. However, other episodes were controversial because of their relatively progressive stances when they were initially broadcast. While an otherwise unremarkable episode from the anthology series’ first season, “The Big Tall Wish” is notable for its genuinely groundbreaking casting.

An all-black main cast for an episode may seem unremarkable in the 2020s, but such a casting decision was a controversial one during America’s Civil Rights Movement. However, as Serling himself pointed out, the most important thing is to cast talented actors, regardless of their skin color. “The Big Tall Wish” demonstrates that controversy can, in fact, be a positive thing, and shows the strides that society has made over the last six and a half decades.

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2
Time Out

An Actor & Two Child Actors Died In A Helicopter Crash During Filming

The title card of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

  • Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

As a segment of 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie rather than an episode of any TV iteration, “Time Out” is something of a (dis)honorable mention, but its troubled production represents a controversial moment not only in terms of The Twilight Zone but in the film-making world as a whole. The segment, which serves as a loose adaptation of 1961’s “Back There”, stars Vic Morrow as a bigoted man who is given a taste of his own medicine.

horror anthologies mortuary collection

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Tragically, Morrow and two child actors who had been hired illegally were killed when a helicopter crashed during filming. While the accident did lead to the implementation of better safety laws in Hollywood to prevent future tragedies, it generated an understandable amount of controversy, with lawsuits continuing for many years.

1
The Encounter

A Pulled Episode, Due To The Sensitive Nature Of Pearl Harbor

Image from The Twilight Zone's "The Encounter".

  • (1964) Season 5, Episode 31

The initial iteration of The Twilight Zone was relatively progressive for the era in which it was produced, featuring innovative stories that were genuinely ahead of their time. However, not every episode has aged as well as these trendsetters. Season 5’s “The Encounter” generated enough controversy to be excluded from syndicated reruns of the series in the United States for decades after its original broadcast.

The titular encounter between a World War 2 veteran (Neville Brand) and a young Japanese-American (a pre-Star Trek George Takei) exposes each man’s prejudice towards the other, but it is the revelation that the traitorous father of Takei’s character was complicit in the attack on Pearl Harbor that earned the episode its black mark. The airing of this historical conspiracy theory resulted in an understandable push-back from Japanese-American viewers, making “The Encounter” the only episode of The Twilight Zone to be pulled for content reasons.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

HorrorMysteryDrama Sci-Fi

Release Date

October 2, 1959

Seasons

5

Creator

Rod Serling

Number of Episodes

156

Network

CBS

Fuente: successacademy.edu.vn
Categorías: Trend

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