The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series. -JP
#16 - Double Trouble, from “Mirror Image,” season one, episode 21
Written by Rod Serling, directed by John Brahm, starring Vera Miles and Martin Milner
Rod Serling’s “Mirror Image” is an underrated gem of the first season that brings an atmosphere of Gothic horror to a modern tale of malevolent doppelgängers. The episode is anchored by fine performances from Vera Miles, as a supernaturally persecuted woman slowly losing her grip on reality, and Martin Milner, as a sympathetic but doubting fellow traveler who soon learns the horrible truth of the situation. The episode benefits from a single, isolated set, a favorite motif of Serling’s episodes and one which he utilized to great effect in a number of classics (“The After Hours,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” “The Masks,” etc.). This serves to constrict the space around the characters and increase the intrinsic tension of the story. In a clever touch, Serling subtly insinuates the notion that stations of traveling exchange (train depots, airports, bus terminals) are areas in which the space between our world and a parallel dimension are thinnest, allowing for “others” to pass through. Director John Brahm combines steady framing shots with unnerving, and disorienting, perspective shots as the episode moves toward its harrowing conclusion. The image of a clearly malevolent Vera Miles glaring out from a bus window at her unfortunate counterpart is a highlight, but the strangely effective perspective shot of Martin Milner chasing after, and subsequently losing sight of, his grinning double is like a vision from a particularly vivid nightmare.
-During the first season, Rod Serling was fond of a story type in which a woman, always alone and particularly susceptible to mental breakdown, is pursued by a supernatural force eventually revealed to be an apparition contingent with the individual self. Along with “Mirror Image,” Serling also gave us the characteristically related episodes, “The Hitch-Hiker,” “Nightmare as a Child,” and “The After Hours” during the first season.
Read our full coverage of “Mirror Image” here.