Plastic surgery, youth obsession, technology overload, climate change: all of these subjects have been touched upon in the world of The Twilight Zone, the kitschy sci-fi series that ran from 1959-1964. Thanks to the show's prophetic plotlines (and indelibly creepy theme song), we can look across the decades and see which foretold fates plague us today. Below is a compilation of episodes that were ahead of their time and served as possible harbingers for modern America.
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You" (Original air date: January 24, 1964)
Portrait of a young lady in love — with herself. Improbable? Perhaps. But in an age of plastic surgery, body building and an infinity of cosmetics, let us hesitate to say impossible. These and other strange blessing may be waiting in the future, which after all, is the Twilight Zone.
A beautiful girl named
Marilyn Cuberle is next in line to undergo the Transformation, a
procedure that physically alters young women to be replicas of models of their choosing. This episode is a telling example of
the lengths to which people will go to feel beautiful and accepted,
even if it means that individuality is obsolete. The most frightening aspect is the brainwash that
accompanies the surgery; Marilyn no longer recognizes she was once
opposed to the treatment, and blissfully embraces her new body and the
clones around her. The infatuation with celebrity is a perfect
compliment to this theme of homogeneity and especially telling in today's tabloid-obsessed culture.
"From Agnes-With Love" (Original air date: February 14, 1964)
Advice to all future male scientists: be sure you understand the opposite sex, especially if you intend being a computer expert. Otherwise, you may find yourself, like poor Elwood, defeated by a jealous machine, a most dangerous sort of female, whose victims are forever banished to the Twilight Zone.
it is almost impossible to find a place not laden with technology, so
the fact that a computer could become enamored with its owner is not
entirely far-fetched. Agnes, the super computer, dispenses love advice
to hapless scientist James Elwood, which he takes blindly and eagerly. He soon realizes that Agnes is quietly sabotaging his
chances because she is in love with him. Love affairs with technology
are certainly nothing new, except nowadays we are the ones who are
hopelessly attached. When was the last time you dropped your iPhone and felt a little part of you die?
"The Midnight Sun" (Original air date: November 17, 1961)
The poles of fear, the extremes of how the Earth might conceivably be doomed. Minor exercise in the care and feeding of a nightmare, respectfully submitted by all the thermometer-watchers in the Twilight Zone.
Norma, a delirious woman bedridden with a fever, has a nightmare that the Earth
is rotating out of orbit and quickly approaching the sun, resulting in
dangerously high temperatures. She tries to assuage her landlady's fears of dying from the heat by painting a
portrait of water, which invokes mania and ultimately kills
the landlady. Global warming? Greenhouse effect? Whether it's Mayan
predictions or rising CO2 levels, mankind's preoccupation with our planet's doom is everywhere, and global climate change is
the main focus. Makes you want a glass of water now, doesn't it?
"Queen of the Nile" (Original air date: March 6, 1964)
Everybody knows Pamela Morris, the beautiful and eternally young movie star. Or does she have another name, even more famous, an Egyptian name from centuries past? It's best not to be too curious, lest you wind up like Jordan Herrick, a pile of dust and old clothing, discarded in the endless eternity of the Twilight Zone.
Pamela Morris has been living for centuries as a youthful woman amongst
mortals. She sucks the lives from the unsuspecting with a scarab beetle,
and her latest victim is Jordan Herrick, a reporter smitten by her
beauty and trapped by lust. The obsession with youth and beauty is more
prevalent than ever, as any Kardashian can attest. The entire episode centers
around Pamela Morris evading her age, insisting that age is only
relative. She'd fit in just fine in 2013, in a culture that does everything in its power to reverse the aging process.
"Time Enough at Last" (Original air date: November 20, 1959)
The best-laid plans of mice and men — and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone.
Henry Bemis, a devoted bookworm, is the lone survivor of a hydrogen bomb that wipes out mankind.
All he ever wants to do is read, and now he is afforded ample time to
do so — until his glasses break. Many themes are explored in this episode, particularly society's
depiction of literature in decline. The scene of the glasses breaking eerily foreshadows the ways we read today, and how without
electricity and online mediums to present published work, reading could possibly
become a tradition of the past. A true nightmare, indeed.
written by Alta Swyers