The Twilight Zone was created by Rod Serling and ran on CBS from 1959 though 1964. Using the framework of science fiction and fantasy, Serling hosted every episode himself, telling speculative stories that explored the Human condition and topics too sensitive for open public discourse. It won three Emmy Awards as well as three Hugo Awards.
The series was important for Star Trek in several ways. Many Star Trek: The Original Series actors got their start with the series, demonstrating their ability to work in the science fiction genre. Also, four of the writers and directors were contributors to the series. The series also exposed the general public to science fiction as a prime-time genre, whereas previously it had been aimed at juveniles (the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, and the Steve Holland Flash Gordon TV series, and the later Lost In Space series, for instance).
It were not just the actors for whom the series was important, the main supplier of the visual effects for the series, the then recently founded The Westheimer Company, too profited from the work they had done on the series, as they were the second effects company that was brought in early to work on The Original Series, mainly based on the strength of the work they had done on The Twilight Zone. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st. ed. , p. 143)
Thematically, The Twilight Zone also set the tone for Star Trek by discussing sensitive issues in an "other-worldly" setting. Essentially, both Serling and Gene Roddenberry were sneaking the touchy issues past the studio censors under the pretext that the episodes were not about the issues, but were just science fiction stories of the far future.
Rod Serling gave a mixed review of Star Trek in 1970. He stated, "Star Trek was again a very inconsistent show which at times sparkled with true ingenuity and pure science fiction approaches. At other times it was more carnival-like, and very much more the creature of television than the creature of a legitimate literary form." (Pioneers of Television: Science Fiction) On another occasion, Serling gave a positive opinion on the show, stating "The day Star Trek was cancelled, I could have cut off heads at the network. It was a marvelous show." (Starlog 2. (August, 1976), p. 15)
Additionally, several TOS episodes bear a strong resemblance to earlier Twilight Zone episodes:
- "People Are Alike All Over" and "The Cage": Both involve Humans being put in an extraterrestrial zoo. Interestingly enough, Susan Oliver appears in both. The former episode also featured Byron Morrow and Vic Perrin.
- "The Parallel" and "Mirror, Mirror": Both have space travelers who spend some time in a parallel, but altered universe.
- "It's a Good Life" and "Charlie X": Both involve a young boy terrorizing people with his god-like powers. Bill Mumy starred in the Twilight Zone episode.
- "Mute" and "The Empath": Both episodes involve a mute female with ESP. The former co-starred Frank Overton.
- "The Lateness of the Hour" and "Requiem for Methuselah". Both involve a young woman who is really an android, created by an old scientist and kept within the closed world of his home. The scientist in the Twilight Zone episode was played by John Hoyt. This premise is also similar to the The Twilight Zone episode "In His Image" and the TOS episodes "I, Mudd" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", where androids pass themselves off as humans.
Crossover performers, writers, and directors
- Four main TOS actors appeared in The Twilight Zone: William Shatner starred in two episodes: "Nick of Time" in 1960 and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in 1963. Leonard Nimoy was part of the cast in "A Quality of Mercy" in 1961. James Doohan appeared in the episode "Valley of the Shadow" (1963) and George Takei in "The Encounter" (1964).
- William Windom (Commodore Matt Decker) was in two episodes: "Miniature" (1963) and "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (1961). John Hoyt (Dr. Philip Boyce) was in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (1961), and "The Lateness of the Hour" (1960). Robert Lansing (Gary Seven) was in "The Long Morrow. Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones) was in two episodes: "Mr. Garrity And The Graves" and "Once Upon A Time." John Fiedler (Mr. Hengist) was in "Cavender Is Coming" and "Night Of The Meek." Bill Mumy (Kellin (Crewman)) was in "In Praise of Pip," "It's a Good Life," "Long Distance Call," Twilight Zone: The Movie, and "It's Still a Good Life," from the 2003 revival series.
- "The Doomsday Machine" has five Twilight Zone alumni: Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Takei, and Windom.
- TOS writers Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson were regular contributors, so as directors Robert Butler and Robert Gist. Ralph Senensky also directed an episode.
- In the 1980s' series, Terry Farrell starred in a remake of "After Hours" (1986), an episode that was also in the 1960s' series (although, it had no Star Trek actors in it).
- Jonathan Frakes appeared as "Single Guy" in the episode "But Can She Type?" (1985) in the 1980s' series.