In This Episode of The Twilight Zone…. by Lisa “Leigh M.” Lane
Continuing the guest blog series, here’s a post from Lisa “Leigh M.” Lane, a writer after my own heart. She had me at The Twilight Zone, but when she mentioned Richard Matheson, I was well and truly hers. Enjoy!
I was probably a little too young when I first started watching reruns of The Twilight Zone, my little, five-year-old head ill-equipped to process the disturbing imagery and the depth to most of the show’s storylines. Still, even then, I was hooked. A part of me must’ve seen through some of the childhood terror, seen something meaningful and important. Or maybe I’ve just always, even as a little girl, enjoyed a good twist.
If I had to choose one influence I felt had the most impact on my own writing, I’d be stuck in a draw between Rod Serling and Richard Matheson. Their work has haunted me in ways no gore or extreme horror ever could. They left me with the thrill of cosmic justice, the mystification of the bizarre and the outlandish, the dread that could result from one single unlucky decision. They made me think.
Of all the episodes that stuck with me long after I’d watched them, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” has probably had the most lasting impact on me. Sure, I could list dozens of others that twisted my brain in equally provocative ways, but the slice-of-life gone so easily awry hits closest to home. I’m too young to remember the McCarthy era, but I’m old enough to know we’re all just one catastrophe away from tearing one another’s throats out. Hell, we’re seeing similar behavior right now, the rancor between various political affiliations already having grown ugly and vicious enough to divide families and close friendships. The electricity has been cut, and the opposing party still has its lights on. Rocks have already begun to fly. I have to ask: Who’s sitting back, watching the entire ordeal, analyzing and planning around our next moves?
But that’s one of the reasons The Twilight Zone was—and still is—so meaningful: Its stories transcend time. The episodes dared to point out our collective flaws. They challenged complacency. They looked within to expose the darkness lurking outside.
They didn’t redirect overwhelmed minds with promises of a happy ending. They didn’t work to distract us from our grim reality. They used broadcast television as a tool to bring the most important of issues to the forefront.
To remind us all the ultimate price of complacency, conformity, and rash judgment.
I often wonder what Serling, Matheson, and crew would make of our world today. What would The Twilight Zone look like if they were writing the show now instead of decades ago? Aside from having fewer smokers, better technology, and a bit more social disconnect, would the episodes have ended up looking relatively the same? What would today’s world look like through Serling’s eyes? What kind of commentary would Matheson so bravely take on?
And if The Twilight Zone did have a voice today, offering a critical look at contemporary issues through a contemporary lens… would we listen?
You can find Lisa at The Cerebral Writer.