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
We're moving into the top 10 most frightening moments!
#10 - It’s a Cookbook, from “To Serve Man,” season three, episode 24
Written by Rod Serling (from Damon Knight’s story), directed by Richard L. Bare, starring Lloyd Bochner, Susan Cummings, Richard Kiel
“To Serve Man” is easily one of the most popular, recognizable, parodied, and beloved episode of the entire series, and justifiably so, as it contains many of the elements which seem to remain with viewers, particularly the excellent twist ending. Though Rod Serling wrote a number of fantastic original teleplays for the series, one could argue that his true genius was in the adaptation of the works of others. Serling was never content to simply transpose a story into a teleplay. He always added nuances of character and setting, and expertly adapted the material for the unique narrative structure of half-hour television. “To Serve Man” is perhaps Serling’s finest adaptation (though one could argue for “Time Enough at Last” and “It’s a Good Life”) and features a number of unique touches not seen in other episodes. The episode features the uncommon use of a voice-over narration (by someone other than Serling) and even features a character breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience, all to the benefit of the episode’s overall effectiveness. The ending, of course, is what every viewer of the episode remembers, that and the towering figure of Richard Kiel as a morose, telepathic alien with an oversized head. The ending, and all that it implies, is truly one of the more imaginatively gruesome and unsettling moments of the series, all the more so because nothing explicit or violent is ever seen; all is left to the imagination of the audience. The Kanamits, a powerful alien race who deliver world peace in order to cultivate humans like cattle, are presented as benign, even gentle, beings, drawing more than one frightening parallel to our own relationship to the animals which we choose to eat.
-Damon Knight’s short story originally appeared in the November, 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. In Knight’s story, the Kanamits appear as pig-like creatures, drawing an even more horrible parallel to their intentions, as they closely resemble an animal frequently eaten by humans.