Submitted for your approval,
While most encounters with The Twilight Zone result in terrible death, loss of sanity or other horrible misfortune, a few lucky souls manage to survive their brush with the unknown and come out on the other side.
Embedded inside every episode of the Twilight Zone is a nugget of truth about human nature or society. While these stories did not take place in the real world, they often contained real world truths about the dangers of bigotry, superstition, censorship, fear mongering, and emphasized the need to cling on to the best parts of our humanity as we become more technologically advanced.
In an effort to learn some life lessons about how to survive one of the darker places of the human imagination, I’ve started to put together this list of special episodes where things don't go completely terribly wrong.
As a note, before you get started in here, there are several spoilers. Those who aren't already avid fans of the Twilight Zone will probably want to watch all 156 episodes of the original series before reading any further in this post.
The Escape Artists
We begin by highlighting the rare cases of people who managed to enter and exit the Twilight Zone.
Having Confidence In Your Own Future
Sometimes the key to success is finding the right balance of superstition and making your own fate. Don't dwell on the past, work towards making a brighter tomorrow.
While honeymooning William Shatner almost gets trapped in a paranoid frenzy by a penny operated predication machine that bosses him around. As they leave, we see another couple who didn't make it out.
Dealing with troubles in his personal and professional life, an aging actor revisits his glory days through his memories, only to be rejected by his former friends. Upon returning to the present he discovers that his recollections had merely put on a play of their own to trick him into not living in the past, giving him renewed strength to take on his current life challenges.
Disgusted with the present day, a scientist uses a time machine and tries to alter key historical events (such as killing Hitler) but after multiple failures he finds that time can not be altered. Learning his lesson, he resolves to work towards positively impacting the future instead of dwelling on the mistakes of the past.
When a coin lands on its side, Dick York temporarily gains the ability to read minds and though there are some misunderstandings, tries to use the new power responsibly. This leads to finding a previously unknown confidence in himself that continues after things return to normal.
Encounters with the After Life
Though we've learned a lot about the universe in the 50 years since the Twilight Zone originally aired we still aren't any closer to understanding death and the afterlife, nor have we gained new mechanisms for coping with loss. In these episodes we're shown that life is worth living even when things look bleak or near the end, but that it also does eventually come time to say goodbye.
Jack Klugman plays a down and out drunkard of a trumpet player who tries to give up on life. While stuck in limbo he has a chance to talk things through with a peculiar trumpeter named Gabe who convinces him to give living another chance.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
When things around you don't make sense, that doesn't always mean you're crazy. On the other hand, that may in fact be a clear sign that you've completely lost it.
Also notable as the first episode of the Twilight Zone, a mysterious stranger in an empty town turns out to be a potential astronaut slowly losing his mind during an experiment to test the limits of isolation in space travel.
Written by Ray Bradbury (and later the name of a short story of his by the same name), an android housemaid is brought into a home to help care of three children after the death of their mother. Despite not being human she is eventually loved as one of the family and everyone lives happily ever after.
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
While not everyone makes it out of the Twilight Zone, there are some noteworthy cases for what to do when escape is not an option.
Two Enter, One Leaves
Wanting to be known the greatest pool shark of all time, Jack Klugman has a chance encounter with a previous, now deceased, legend. Upon winning the game he gets the title but finds himself stuck with defending his name in the after life for all time.
Starting Over In the Unknown
With nuclear war on the horizon a scientist realizes the only chance of survival for his family is to travel to an unknown planet in a stolen experimental rocket ship. Now on their way to another world, like all refugees of war, it is unclear if they are coming or going from the Twilight Zone.
“When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal”
In some cases the best you can hope for is a last chance to go out in style.
A librarian in a totalitarian society is sentenced to death by the state for having an obsolete profession. Taking advantage of a loophole in the system allowing him to choose the method of his execution Burgess Meredith gets the last word by revealing the true nature of the Chancellor (and those like him) on television.
So there you have it friends – study these episodes carefully and you too may be one of the few to escape, or at least survive in, the Twilight Zone!
[Update: For further reading, check out this recently dug up Mike Wallace interview with Rod Serling from 1959]