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
#18 - A Child’s Playthings, from “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” season five, episode 150
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr., directed by Ron Winston, starring Barry Nelson, Nancy Malone
Frequent contributing writer Earl Hamner, Jr. was a truly unique voice on the series and his idiosyncratic style shines through in many of his efforts for the show. Hamner arrived in the third season and displayed a skill in combining Southern folklore and rustic fantasy. Occasionally, however, Hamner’s stories fell more in line with the type of modernistic science fantasy typical of the series. Hamner’s fifth season episode, “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” is perhaps his strongest script and certainly his most fondly remembered episode by viewers of the show. This is primarily due to the outlandish, yet nightmarish, ending to the episode. “Stopover in a Quiet Town” concerns a drunken couple who awaken to find themselves trapped in what is essentially a doll’s house. And who are the dolls? And, a more frightening question, who is coming to play with the dolls? Haunted by the ephemeral, lilting voice of a young girl, the couple try in vain to escape their makeshift prison (for the exterior of the house proves as confining as the interior) only to discover the true horror of their situation in a brilliant, climactic reveal. Hamner uses elements of several previous episodes (including prominent use of “Where is Everybody?” and “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,”) to craft an atmospheric and engaging episode of supernatural persecution with an effective, and seemingly requisite, twist ending.
-The story of supernatural persecution was easily the most common story type on the series. Every regular series writer tried their hand at it and the results are a number of the show’s classic episodes, including “The After Hours,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “The Invaders,” “Perchance to Dream,” “The Dummy,” “Mirror Image,” and “Person or Persons Unknown,” to name a few. Hamner previously attempted this type of story with the earlier fifth season episode, “You Drive.” This episode type is quite unlike the other story types common to the show, and shares more characteristics with mystery and horror fiction than with science fiction, the latter of which is a term often erroneous used to broadly characterize the series. Even as early as the latter portion of the first season, the writers of the show began to borrow from one another to create this type of episode and this allows for fascinating juxtapositions between these familiar but versatile stories.