The Twilight Zone and Star Trek both occupy a special place in science fiction history. But, perhaps more interesting is the surprising amount of crossover between the two shows (and I’m not just talking about the more well-known instances a la Captain Kirk screaming on an airplane). Hit the jump to read my top 10 Twilight Zone episodes that every Trekkie should see.
CNN is currently running a series covering the last few decades of American history. Some of you may have been watching it. I was particularly eager for the episode profiling television in the 60s, to see what words they might have about Star Trek.
They mention it, but only really Plato’s Stepchildren, which featured the first televised interracial kiss (on American TV at least).
They do talk about the larger subject of using science fiction to discuss cultural issues of the day, but primarily focusing on The Twilight Zone. The two shows experienced a lot of crossover with cast and crew who worked on both shows, and of course fans who enjoyed both. There’s even an Enterprise where Trip hangs a lantern on the issue when he says T’Pol’s story sounds like an old Twilight Zone episode!
So I thought it would behoove me to write an article of my Top 10 Twilight Zone episodes for Star Trek fans. Note that this doesn’t include any of the famous ones that you probably already know (Eye of the Beholder, It’s a Good Life) or the ones famous for starring Trek actors (Nick of Time, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Quality of Mercy). I’ve also included some from the two subsequent TZ series to spice things up for those who may only know the 1960s show.
10 – The Encounter
So controversial at the time, this episode only aired once on broadcast television. It features a (very) young George Takei and lingering Japanese/American hostilities after World War 2.
Bonus GIF of George Takei jumping out a window with a katana
9 – The After Hours (1986)
So this episode is a remake of one from the original series, where a woman encounters mystery at a department store, but more remarkable to Trek fans because the lead is played by one Terry Farrell. (No spots, alas.)
8 – Mute
The TOS episode The Empath is extremely similar to this little-known TZ classic.
7 – But Can She Type?
Have you always been a fan of 1980s Jonathan Frakes but you wanted him as less of an executive officer and more of a pick-up artist? Well you’ll find that … in the Twilight Zone.
6 – The Passerby
This Civil War-era episode stars Joanne Linville, who plays the Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident (my favorite TOS episode). Luckily, this time she at least gets a name. Passerby also features a character from another Star Trek episode, whom I’ll let surprise you …
5 – One Night at Mercy
This is the only episode on my list from the UPN series (which Trip was helping promote to fans when he name-dropped the show on Enterprise). It features Star Trek fan and Voyager alum Jason Alexander (better known as George from Seinfeld) who plays Death and yadda yadda yadda there’s a twist at the end.
4 – Of Late I Think of Cliffordville
This episode does some clever pre-Trek things with time travel, while also featuring two future Trek guest stars: Julie Newmar (Eleen from Friday’s Child) and John Anderson (Kevin Uxbridge from The Survivors).
3 – The Hunters
OK this one I confess that I haven’t seen – it’s from the 1980s series and it stars Louise Fletcher, the Oscar-winning actress who DS9 fans know better as Kai Winn, so I had to put it on my list. And it’s in my queue to watch as soon as possible!
2 – Valley of the Shadow
This one explores some pre-Trek ideas that seem like the building blocks of the Prime Directive, and features a supporting role from James Doohan, speaking in his rarely heard native American (well, technically Canadian) accent.
1 – Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?
OK I’m cheating on my rule about no episodes that appear on top 10 best Twilight Zones. This one appears on many lists, and is my personal favorite. Notable to Star Trek fans, though, is the appearance of John Hoyt, who played Dr. Boyce in the first TOS pilot. Is he the real Martian? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Also honorable mention to “Walking Distance”, although – again – that’s probably on a lot of top 10 lists for the whole franchise. It’s JJ Abrams favorite episode, which he references in the movie Super 8. Enjoy watching! And I’ll see you … in the Twilight Zone.