Sunday, August 31, 2014

Outré Intro: The Twilight Zone (Seasons Four and Five)

Rod Serling's classic anthology, The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1961) featured several introductory montages during its life-span on CBS.  But my favorite, by far, is the one utilized during the program's fourth and fifth season.  

This introduction, in particular, adds a number of specific visuals that fans -- over the decades -- have come to associate with the anthology, and thus with the realm Serling describes as "the fifth dimension," the Zone itself.  This is the intro that features the weird, long-haired doll, the clock, and the eyeball, for instance.

The montage opens with the trademark (and bizarrely insistent) theme of The Twilight Zone, and then reveals a straight line forming in outer space. The two-dimensional line seems to become three-dimensional before our very eyes, and we see a doorway spinning in the void.  

Serling's staccato voice-over narration notes here that "you unlock this door with the key of imagination," and that turn-of-phrase may just be my favorite description of science fiction and horror in general. We unlock the doorways to those genres with imagination, indeed. Once we walk through, into worlds unknown, there's simply no turning back.  We are changed by the destination we seek.

But in the following images, I especially like how the door stops spinning after Serling makes his pronouncement, and then we push through the open doorway, our imaginations "activated" by his words.

In the following images, we explore the dimension beyond the door.  Serling explains that it is a dimension of sound, and as if in explanation, we see a glass window shattering, and hear the breaking glass as the window crumbles.

In the following images, we see an eyeball floating in the void to accompany Serling's description of The Twilight Zone, similarly, as a dimension of "sight."  I love how the disembodied orb's eyelid opens, and the eyeball moves across the screen, left to right, staring back at us. The visual not only explains "sight," it is a bit creepy to boot.

Next, Serling's narration explains that The Twilight Zone is a dimension of "mind," and so we get the equation you see below, Einstein's theory of special relativity, scrawled in outer space.  This formulation has been termed the most famous equation in the history of the world, so it is appropriate that The Twilight Zone would use it to represent the human mind and the brain's capacity for thought.

Next, we see a strange doll-like figure moving across the frame, as Serling explains that we have crossed the threshold into a land of shadows and substance.  The doll is apparently an example of the latter, but in some sense it may also represent us, the human form traveling into the void.

As the doll passes off-screen, a clock appears, and accompanies Serling's description of the zone as being a place of "things" and "ideas."  The clock represents man's idea of time, in particular.  The ticking of the clock seems to make the moment even more suspenseful or tense.

Finally, particles form into our title, The Twilight Zone as Serling informs us we have arrived at our destination. 

Then, before this classic introduction ends, the title surges towards us, as we become one with this fifth-dimension.  It's like we are watching the Big Bang, the formation of a universe.

Below, you can watch this pitch-perfect, classic TV introduction in live-action.


  1. Agreed. The Twilight Zone opening of Seasons 4 and 5 is amazing, and surpasses Seasons 1 through 3. Although, I like those very much. I also think the full length intro of "The Outer Limits" is amazing and would argue that it's opening lines " There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture" may be even more iconic than Serling's TZ .

  2. Anonymous11:11 AM

    The 'doll-like figure' is a poseable human figure of the sort artists use. I've always seen its inclusion as representing that our imagination may move the figures, or alternatively, we are moved by others.

    In any case, it's not a strange thing at all.