10 classic Twilight Zone episodes to watch before CBS All-Access launch

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Twilight Zone ‘Eye of the Beholder’ – Image by CBS

4. Eye of the Beholder

Originally aired: November 11, 1960 – Season 2, Episode 6

Written by: Rod Serling

Opening narration: “Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to Miss Janet Tyler, who lives in a very private world of darkness.

A universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swath of bandages that cover her face. In a moment we will go back into this room, and also in a moment, we will look under those bandages.

Keeping in mind of course that we are not to be surprised by what we see, for this isn’t just a hospital, and this patient 307 is not just a woman. This happens to be the Twilight Zone, and Miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it.”

Plot: A woman has undergone the legal maximum of 11 surgeries to attempt to make her look normal. This is a society where even questioning beauty standards can be considered treasonous. Conformity is the way of the world and this is Janet Tyler’s last chance to conform. Unfortunately for her, the attempt doesn’t go as planned.

Why it’s a classic: What makes this episode so great is the insane difficulty in producing it. The entire episode is built around not being able to see the faces of anyone. Marc Scott Zicree, in his book The Twilight Zone Companion, even says the director Douglas Heyes cast this episode with his back to the actors because he needed actors with sympathetic voices.

In fact, Tyler was actually played by two different actors. One was the voice while Tyler had bandages on (Maxine Stuart) and one was the actual actress who was revealed when the bandages were removed (Donna Douglas).

Just imagine having to direct an entire episode where you’re not allowed to show any of your characters faces because, if you do, you’d give away the twist of the episode. It’s a great use of shadow and clever camera angles.

This is also one of the episodes that steps away from the idea that the classic Twilight Zone twist has to happen to the character in the episode. This twist is purely for the audience. This story could be told in a straightforward manner and without the Twilight Zone aura.

In reality, Serling gives the audience a simple story of a woman’s life. Then he just lets the audience’s preconceived notions and assumptions do a lot of the heavy lifting for him before revealing the truth and forcing viewers to confront why they made the assumptions they made.

(This is also something Peele did well in Get Out and something he will hopefully continue to do in his Twilight Zone episodes.)