With a new iteration of The Twilight Zone coming to CBS All Access, fans of Rod Serling's groundbreaking sci-fi anthology series have a lot to look forward to: a star-studded ensemble, thought-provoking episodes and stunning callbacks to the original. And with Jordan Peele at the helm of the anticipated reboot (and narrating!), you'll be hard-pressed not to compare and contrast the new episodes with the classics.
Before Twilight Zone officially launches Monday, April 1 with the first two episodes exclusively on CBS All Access, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Adam Scott, ET has created the ultimate guide to the essential episodes from the original series you have to watch before the premiere of Peele's reinterpretation.
"Time Enough at Last" (Season 1, Episode 8)
All but the last few minutes of this episode are spent telling us how much the protagonist (Burgess Meredith) enjoys reading books and the various people in his life who don’t make it easy for him. When he’s given enough time to read however many books have survived a nuclear bomb, it doesn’t work out that way.
In this video featuring cast members of the reboot discussing memorable episodes from the original series, Adam Scott may have put it best when summing up the story’s tragic ending: “And so, he’s f**ked.”
A recurring theme on The Twilight Zone are characters who find a way to escape the Grim Reaper’s grasp -- until they can’t. The main character in this installment is driving non-stop around the country in an attempt to escape the sight of a hitchhiker who continues to follow her. Despite the woman’s best efforts, the hitchhiker finally gets a ride and the episode features one of the most terrifying moments in the show’s history. “To this day, I cannot get in my car, especially at night, without looking in the backseat to make sure nobody is there, and the image of that man in the rear-view mirror still haunts me,” Taissa Farmiga said.
For a thematic double feature, you can also check out “Nothing in the Dark,” which stars a young Robert Redford.
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (Season 1, Episode 22)
This episode is about the most average street in America circa the mid-20th century and how a power outage becomes the catalyst for several neighbors to quickly descend into suspicion and mania.
To their credit, it’s revealed that they may have a good reason to be afraid, even if it results in murder and a prime demonstration for clandestine aliens who are glad that Earth won’t be that hard to take over with inhabitants like this.
"Eye of the Beholder" (Season 2, Episode 6)
Modern audiences would smell a rat with this episode’s concept, but it’s remained an important example of how the series disrupted our senses and used aesthetic magic tricks in the pursuit of thought-provoking endings.
We learn that a woman has undergone an intensive surgical procedure to correct her facial disfigurement, but all the while we never get a clear view of the hospital staff’s faces until the episode’s final moments.
"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (Season 2, Episode 28)
This tale resembles an Agatha Christie story, but instead of murder, the “whodunit” concerns a group of bus passengers stranded in a restaurant and the discovery that someone is an alien in disguise. Unlike “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” the paranoia is real and it turns out there is an extraterrestrial among them. To make matters even more terrifying, the revelations don’t stop there.
"A Game of Pool" (Season 3, Episode 5)
A man (Jack Klugman) who considers himself the best pool player in the world doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves because he lives in the shadow of a deceased billiards champion. As with many Twilight Zone episodes, the main character gets what he wants -- for better or for worse. The ghost of the former billiards legend (Jonathan Winters) appears before him and they have a pool hall showdown to see who really is the best.
“He brought dignity and substance to a medium at that time that was looking for form,” said Klugman, while giving a speech at Serling’s Walk of Fame ceremony in 1988. (Serling died in 1975.) “Everybody was putting television down at that time, but Rod knew that if you had something to say and you said it well, you couldn't find a better carrier for your message than television."
"It's a Good Life" (Season 3, Episode 8)
This chapter of The Twilight Zone concerns a small child with god-like powers, but -- unfortunately for everyone around him -- retains the temper and maturity for a kid his age. We’re led to believe he’s gotten rid of the global population, save for a handful of family members and citizens who live in fear of ending up like the rest of the world.
In the 2002 reboot, cast members reprised their original roles for a sequel episode titled “It’s Still a Good Life.” Judging from footage of the reboot, Jacob Tremblay’s character -- who appears to be elected president of the United States -- may be playing a modern-day version of this classic episode.
"Kick the Can" (Season 3, Episode 21)
This episode focuses on a group of elderly people who discover the ability to become children again simply from playing a simple game they remember from their youth.
“The Twilight Zone is fairy tales. Fairy tales tell universal truths,” George Clayton Johnson told ET in 1983. Johnson penned “Kick the Can,” along with six other episodes from the original series. “They're archetypal accounts of how the personality meets and overcomes its own dangers. They're basically stories of the mind, the soul. That's why so many of them deal with ‘Who am I?’”
"The Dummy" (Season 3, Episode 33)
A ventriloquist (Cliff Robertson) has become convinced his dummy is alive and wants him dead. In the episode’s final moments, viewers are left with an eerie image that’s hard to forget.
At the recent Twilight Zone premiere, Kumail Nanjiani told ET that the dummy is now owned by David Copperfield and makes an appearance in his episode, “The Comedian.”
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (Season 5, Episode 3)
This episode revolves around a man (William Shatner) who peers out his airplane window and sees a gremlin tearing off pieces of the wing. Understandably, no one believes him. It’s inferred that he’s recovering from mental health struggles, which makes his own wife not believe him either.
The story has received two reimaginings: one in Twilight Zone: The Movie (starring John Lithgow) and the other in the new reboot with Adam Scott. Since producers have stated they haven’t directly remade specific classics, we should expect Scott's episode to be more of a thematic reinterpretation of this story, which has the modified title “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.”
The Twilight Zone launches Monday, April 1 with the first two episodes, exclusively on CBS All Access. Subsequent episodes will debut every Thursday beginning April 11. The original Twilight Zone series can also be streamed in its entirety on CBS All Access.