Fan of Black Mirror? Try These Twilight Zone Episodes

Have you watched Black Mirror? Heard it described as a modern-day Twilight Zone?

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For reasons I explained in a previous blog post, I can’t quite agree. Yes, they’re both trippy anthology series that take a hard look at the human condition. But there are some basic differences that — for me, at least — make the comparison ring hollow.

But I’ve said my piece. I’m bringing up Black Mirror today for a different reason. I’m writing this not so much for my fellow Serling fans as I am for anyone who’s watched Black Mirror, but not The Twilight Zone (or perhaps watched it a long time ago) and who’s wondering if some black-and-white series from the 1960s is worth checking out.

So my purpose here is simple: to recommend a few episodes that I think you, as a fan of Black Mirror, will enjoy — or at least find interesting. So without further ado …

WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
October 2, 1959

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A man walks into a small town, finds signs of life everywhere … but there isn’t a soul in sight. The pilot episode of the series focuses on his increasingly desperate search for who he is, where he is, and why the all-too-quiet streets and buildings are completely deserted.

THE LONELY
November 13, 1959

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Prison is typically depicted as a dark, confined space. Well, what if you had a bright asteroid all to yourself while you serve that life sentence for murder? Even with lots of elbow room, though, you might want a little companionship — even if it comes in the form of a robot.

PEOPLE ARE ALIKE ALL OVER
March 25, 1960

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Does the thought of traveling to a different planet and meeting another race of people excite or frighten you? Sam Conrad definitely belongs in the scared camp. Nothing his optimist companion says can persuade him … until he actually meets that other race, and gets quite a surprise.

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
November 11, 1960

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An operation to make you beautiful? Meet Janet Tyler, who’s determined to stop being a social outcast. This episode is so legendary that you may think you can skip it, but hold on. Even if the famous twist doesn’t surprise you, the quiet power of Rod Serling’s writing, expertly staged in shadow-drenched black and white, will leave its mark.

SHADOW PLAY
May 5, 1961

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A man sits in a courtroom, convicted of murder. He’s sentenced to die in the electric chair. There’s just one problem. No, not that he’s innocent — rather, his insistence that this is all nothing but a dream. Worse, he says, it’s one that he has every night. Is he crazy, or is he right?

THE OBSOLETE MAN
June 2, 1961

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Dystopian futures don’t come much grimmer than the one Serling conjured in this landmark episode. A lone man, a librarian, stands convicted by a totalitarian state where books are outlawed and dissent is forbidden. The Chancellor, his accuser and judge, is glad to be rid of this troublemaker. But this humble librarian has a trick up his sleeve.

There you go, Black Mirror fans — six episodes to start you on your journey into the fifth dimension. With any luck, you’ll find them as addicting and entertaining as I and millions of other fans do.

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This half dozen, by the way, is only a small sampler. Another 150 episodes await you, on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, DVD and Blu-ray, as well as in reruns on SyFy, Me-TV and other channels.

“Fake fodder’s the only thing that works anymore,” yells one of the characters in Black Mirror‘s “Fifteen Million Demerits”. Well, The Twilight Zone is the real thing. And I think you’ll find that it works as beautifully now as it did over 50 years ago. Hope you enjoy it.

Don’t miss: “Is Black Mirror Truly a Modern Twilight Zone?

***

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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 10/21/2016, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. That’s a pretty good 6-pack, Paul. I happen to have the DVD disk in right now that includes two of them. I might just watch them tonight.

    • Thanks, Dan. There are many other good choices, but I wanted to keep it short and have to function as a good entree to TZ. A TZ double-feature sounds like a perfect way to start the weekend.

  2. I completely agree with your assessment of Black Mirror, and I had nearly the same feelings when I watched it last year: the stores may be interesting, but this was no Twilight Zone. I even understand the reason for the confusion, and a few of the episodes even seemingly had a TZ counterpart, some of which you mentioned above. “Be Right Back” might remind a viewer of “The Lonely,” and “White Bear” could bring to mind “Judgment Night.” But, one thing that the TZ never ended up being was degrading, and that’s essentially what BM is. Yes, there were unpleasant or unsettling endings (“Time Enough At Last,” “Elegy,” “Shadow Play,” etc.), but like you said previously, there was hope with the TZ, and there is no hope with BM. It is humiliation for the sake of humiliation, caution of what will come, not what might come if we don’t show more respect for one another. In every way, The Twilight Zone is superior to Black Mirror, much of which can be summed up in one word: hope.

    • Well summed up, Adam. I like your BM-TZ parallels. As for tone, the great Richard Matheson once said that anyone could write a downbeat ending, but it takes skill to write a more hopeful one without being corny. Clearly Serling had that ability in spades. Would that it were more common!

  3. I have seen a couple of these but definitely could use a review of the classic series, Paul.
    The writing was creative, ironic and modern which we would say, “ahead of its time!”

    • It certainly was. I’m amazed sometimes how much I pick up that’s “new” on a rewatch. There’s just so much to take in …

  4. Jonathan Collins

    Black Mirror, is that the series that had a politician being blackmailed into having sex with a pig to save a member of the royal family being held hostage? If so, I watched one episode and was so disgusted, I vowed to never watch another episode. Absolute garbage. Serling is spinning in his grave thinking that anyone would compare the two series!

    • That’s the one. Even fans of “Black Mirror” usually disavow that episode, at least in part, but even if it’s BM at its worst, I can assure you that you’re not really missing all that much.

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