The Imaginative World of Charles Beaumont: Vote for His Best Twilight Zone Story

The most famous writer of The Twilight Zone? Rod Serling, obviously. Besides creating, producing, and hosting the series, he penned no fewer than 92 scripts for it. But after him?

Charles Beaumont

Most fans, I think, would pick Richard Matheson. And who could blame them? The legendary author’s contributions to the Zone include some truly iconic episodes, such as “Little Girl Lost,” “The Invaders,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

Few fans would name Charles Beaumont. And that’s a shame. Not only was he the most prolific Zone writer after Serling — logging 22 scripts to Matheson’s 14 — but his fertile imagination created some of the most mind-bending tales in the fifth dimension.

So I thought it might be fun to give fans a chance to select their favorite Beaumont episode, the same way I did with Matheson back in 2013. In fact, I was thinking about doing a new Matheson poll post when it occurred to me to finally do one for Beaumont. I’ll circle back to Matheson soon enough, but let’s give Beaumont some much-deserved attention.

Two things first, though:

  1. I left “The Howling Man” off the list. “But, Paul,” you may be thinking, “That’s his most famous episode! I love it! It’s a classic!” I get it, believe me. I love it too. And that’s the point, really. Including it would make this poll pointless. It would be like asking people to pick their favorite Serling project. No matter how much fans may love, say, “Requiem for a Heavyweight” or Night Gallery, you know the Zone will top 99% of the lists out there. So to make this a real contest, I’m omitting the one entry we know would win before the first vote is cast.
  2. I’m not going to get into the technicalities of authorship when it comes to Beaumont’s later scripts. As some fans know, the poor man was stricken with a rare form of dementia that killed him when he was only 38. Some of his later scripts, despite being attributed solely to him, were actually ghost-written by other writers who collaborated with him in devising the story. But because Beaumont was struggling with a horrible disease, and because he did help create these stories, I think it would be wrong to exclude them. They’re still products of his unique imagination.

So without any further ado, here are the candidates, with a pic and thumb-nail synopsis for each. The poll itself is at the end. And if you want to mention your other favorites in the comment section below, please do. Happy voting!

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Perchance to Dream (Season 1, Episode 9)
It’s hard to blame Edward Hall for desperately trying to stay awake — he’s sure Maya the Cat Girl will kill him in his dreams.

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Elegy (Season 1, Episode 20)
Three astronauts find an Earth-like planet with one “caretaker” and people everywhere frozen like statues.

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Long Live Walter Jameson (Season 1, Episode 24)
A history professor knows his subject so well that one of his colleagues begins to suspect he actually lived it.

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A Nice Place to Visit (Season 1, Episode 28)
A small-time crook dies and discovers that eternity is one big party. After a while, though, even “heaven” can get on your nerves.

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Static (Season 2, Episode 20)
A grumpy old man discovers an antique radio that plays programs from his youth — but only for him.

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The Prime Mover (Season 2, Episode 21)
When a gambler finds that his friend has telekinetic powers, he tries to use them to win big at the gambling table.

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Long Distance Call (Season 2, Episode 22)
Grandma dotes on little Billy so much, she keeps talking with him on his toy phone—even after she’s dead.

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Shadow Play (Season 2, Episode 26)
A man convicted of murder sits on death row, but insists that it’s all just a recurring nightmare.

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The Jungle (Season 3, Episode 12)
A businessman who plans to build on an African tribe’s ancestral land finds himself cursed.

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Dead Man’s Shoes (Season 3, Episode 18)
A drifter steals a dead gangster’s shoes — and finds himself taken over by his identity every time he puts them on.

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The Fugitive (Season 3, Episode 25)
All the neighborhood kids love kindly old Ben—especially Jenny, who lives with a grouchy aunt. So why is he on the run from two men who turn out to be aliens?

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Person or Persons Unknown (Season 3, Episode 27)
Dave Gurney knows who he is. Too bad no one else does — his wife and co-workers included.

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In His Image (Season 4, Episode 1)
A man is shocked to discover his “twin” — a human inventor who created him as a robot doppelgänger.

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Valley of the Shadow (Season 4, Episode 3)
A man stumbles across a small town with a mysterious technology — and people who won’t let him leave.

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Miniature (Season 4, Episode 8)
A man obsessed with a doll-house display in a museum ends up falling in love with the beautiful woman inside.

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Printer’s Devil (Season 4, Episode 9)
A struggling newspaper editor enjoys great success, thanks to a new hire with diabolical talents.

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The New Exhibit (Season 4, Episode 13)
The curator of a wax museum’s Murders’ Row will do anything for the famous killers on display. Even hide their victims.

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Passage on the Lady Anne (Season 4, Episode 17)
A troubled couple books passage on an ocean liner, only to find everyone insisting they leave the ship.

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Living Doll (Season 5, Episode 6)
A man’s life is turned upside down when his stepdaughter’s new doll takes a fierce dislike of him.

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Number 12 Looks Just Like You (Season 5, Episode 17)
A young woman in a future society rebels against a law mandating that everyone be “beautiful.”

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Queen of the Nile (Season 5, Episode 23)
A reporter interviews a movie star who seems ageless — and discovers her horrifying secret for staying young.

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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 06/29/2022, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I voted for “Perchance to Dream,” but honestly:
    1. There is not a single “bad” episode on the list.
    2. I was very tempted to vote for “The Jungle,” “In His Image,” and “Living Doll.”

    • Me too! And yes, it was despite there being so many other worthy eps. I was VERY close to voting for “Number 12,” which I think is quite deep and a worthy companion to Serling’s excellent “Eye of the Beholder.”

      Big fan of “In His Image.” And “Living Doll” — what a classic! I’m also glad to see some praise for “The Jungle.” I can’t pretend it’s in my top 20, but I still think it’s a good story and very well done. Not sure why it gets dunked on by other fans, but each to his own!

  2. Howard Manheimer

    My favorite Charles Beaumont episodes are (In no particular order) A Nice Place To Visit, Dead Man’s Shoes, Elegy, In His Image, Miniature, Number 12 Looks Just Like You, Perchance To Dream, Person Or Persons Unknown, Printer’s Devil, Queen Of The Nile, Shadow Play, The Fugitive, The Jungle, The New Exhibit, The Prime Mover, Valley Of The Shadow

    • I love the fact that you included almost every episode he did! But I get it. It’s a hard choice, which is a good “problem” to have. :)

  3. Howard Manheimer

    Even with trying to select favorites, I have sixteen, which is still more than the 14 fine episodes penned by Richard Matheson

  4. Paul, I like the idea of taking “Howling Man” off the list, since it’s obviously Beaumont’s most popular one (I would have voted for it myself). I’m less partial to the idea of putting episodes in the poll that we know Beaumont did not write himself, but I understand that this sort of editing might open a can of worms and, after all, it’s your poll—so I voted for “Living Doll,” credited to Beaumont but written by Jerry Sohl. (If I’d stuck to actual Beaumont scripts I would have chosen “Long Live Walter Jameson.”) Perhaps the final results should be announced under a heading like “Best TZ Episodes Credited to Charles Beaumont”?

    • I know — it really does get a bit sticky. On one hand, it’s wrong to make it sound like he wrote them, and yet it’s not as if he wasn’t involved. Even when he didn’t script them, he came up with the idea and discussed it with the one who actually scripted it. Now, that author naturally deserves a lot of credit for developing the idea and creating some great dialogue, etc. We wouldn’t have “Living Doll” if it wasn’t for Jerry Sohl. And yet Beaumont’s DNA is part of it too, since it was his idea and he had a story conference with Sohl, so I don’t want to give HIM short shrift either. Quite a mess. Anyway, “Long Live Walter Jameson” is a great choice.

  5. bibliomike2020

    Very tough choice! I ultimately went with “Long Distance Call” because it has the creepy factor of “Living Doll” but has a more positive ending – that Gramma has learned love sometimes means letting go.

  6. I voted for Living Doll. Telly Savalas was so good in that, and the story was good. I also wrote down The Jungle. That one was creepy, and Number 12 Looks Just Like You. That one was really good too.

  7. Great idea, this poll. I wavered between judging on the creepiness factor (a la “Perchance to Dream” or “Living Doll”) and the significance factor. I opted for the latter and went with “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”. It’s why I will tell people that my favorite Zone (after “Walking Distance”) is probably “The Obsolete Man” closely followed by “Death’s Head Revisited”.

    • Glad you enjoyed this one, Roger. My mental calculus was very similar. I almost went with Number 12, which is a BIG favorite of mine, and yes, it was for the “significance” factor. But I went with “Perchance to Dream” in the end — it’s such a wild-fun episode. I love the whole vibe of it.

  8. My top pick is “Living Doll”, followed by “Queen of the Nile” and “Perchance to Dream”, but as many others have commented, all his episodes are good.

  9. E.Tristan.Booth

    1) I went with “Elegy” because I love Cecil Kellaway and I enjoy the depictions of earth life.
    2) “Valley of the Shadow”
    3) “Number Twelve…”
    4) “…Walter Jameson”
    5) “Queen of the Nile”
    6) “Static”
    It’s difficult even to put this many in order.

    • Isn’t it? Here I am, suggesting people do that, and I’m not sure I could. :P There isn’t a bad one on the list, IMHO, but you listed some particularly good ones here.

  10. Michael Jones

    As of this writing, I am in the 12% crowd who thinks that “Shadow Play” deserves the top spot on this list. Of course, these other episodes are fantastic, and just a few years ago, I likely would have chosen “Living Doll” or “Long Live Walter Jameson” as my favorite. However, each year at marathon time, I become more enthralled with “Shadow Play.”

    This episode combines fascinating ideas around lucid dreaming, time loops, and our own existence in space and time. Adam Grant is looping through a recurring nightmare, yet he is lucid throughout. It’s interesting because the research that exists around lucid dreaming suggests that the dreamer can take control of the dream and manipulate it at will; although, Mr. Grant does not seem to possess this ability. Of course, it was 1961, so maybe there were not many studies documented around this phenomenon; or maybe Mr. Beaumont felt that in the realm of the Twilight Zone, the dreamer is at the behest of his mind.

    The other interesting element is the existential crisis of Mr. Grant’s figments. “You only sleep and dream because I dream you that way,” Grant tells District Attorney Henry Ritchie. This is a striking parallel to our own existence in the “real” world. But what is real? Who’s to say that we are not figments of someone else’s psyche, and if they wake, we will cease to exist? As Mr. Serling’s closing narration states:

    “We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how? In what way? As we believe? As flesh and blood human beings? Or are we simply parts of someone’s feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it.”

    This episode certainly deserves a high spot on this list. And for those reading this who may not care too much for this episode, I highly recommend giving it another watch.

    • Really appreciate your giving “Shadow Play” an extended shout-out, Michael. When I put a top 25 list together a few years back, it was on there. I find it a fascinating tale — a real mind-twist — and you do a nice job explaining why it’s so appealing. I join you in recommending it to other fans.

  11. This was a tough call. Rank-choiced voting (which I’m sure is impossible to do on a simple WordPress poll) would have helped me shout out Long Live Walter Jameson, Nice Place to Visit, and The Jungle.

    • I know! I thought about that — how a bracket-type of vote would probably be better, but I wasn’t sure if/how I could do that. Perhaps I could do a couple of follow-up posts to ask people to narrow things down a bit and see how certain episodes fare when the more popular ones are weeded out.

  12. Victor De Leon

    I’m going with Walter Jameson, Paul. With Perchance to Dream very close behind! Living Doll third.

    • All are excellent choices, Vic! I’m particularly glad to hear you mention PTD. I know it has its fans, but I’m surprised it’s not more popular. I think it’s fantastic, personally!

      • Victor De Leon

        It is fantastic! I am a huge fan of that episode. So evocative and nightmarish. It’s immersive and effective. 👌🏽

      • Exactly! Ha, there are still quite a few episodes of TZ that I haven’t blogged about, and yet I’ve done about three on PTD. Some are pretty short, but still. Clearly I’m a fan!

      • Victor De Leon

        The ep works on so many levels. The mood, the atmosphere, the frenetic pace and the camera work all contribute to the mastery of the story.

  13. I voted for Miniature. I thought it was such a charming episode and Robert Duvall was wonderful.

    • I’m a fan of it, too. Duvall was perfectly cast. I realize this isn’t a “typical TZ,” complete with a twist ending, etc., but I don’t think it deserves to be dismissed the way it is by some fans. It’s still a very TZ-like idea — and I enjoy seeing him get a happy ending.

  14. This is such a great idea for a poll! And seeing all these episode names together really shows the scope of Beaumont’s work.

    Not sure if this is okay to do (feel free to delete this comment) but if anyone is further interested in Beaumont’s writing, I reviewed a bunch of his stories over on my blog a few years ago.

    https://michellepodsiedlik.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/beaumonth-introduction/

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle! I assume you voted? If so, can I ask which episode you picked? I’m particularly interested, considering your obvious expertise.

      Speaking of which, I’m happy to have you share the link to your blog. I read the introductory post here, and I’m looking forward to perusing the others. :) Also wondering: How did you find my post here?

      • I’ve been following your blog for some time now – I think I must have first found it through Twitter. Maybe during a marathon? I love the post topics here, how they can span from an actor’s performance to general TZ/Night Gallery news to polls, etc. Great stuff!

        And yes, I voted, though it was a very hard decision. My vote was for Miniature. Elegy and Shadow Play were also strong contenders. I’m so curious to see what the final vote tallies will be!

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