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

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Twilight Zone ‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?’ – Image by CBS

8. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

Originally aired: May 26, 1961 – Season 2, Episode 28

Written by: Rod Serling

Opening narration: “Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, then the checkout you’ve just witnessed, with two state troopers verifying the event – but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack?

Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle, no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you’ll search with them because you’ve just landed – in The Twilight Zone.”

Plot: Again, Serling’s setup gives you all you need to know.

Why it’s a classic: This is probably as close to “murder mystery” territory that Serling gets. A room full of people. One alien. Can you tell who the outsider is?

It’s honestly a borderline perfectly written episode. Serling again toys with the idea that people are prone to anger and distrust when there’s a possibility of an unknown in their midst. In this case, there are even two couples who begin to question just how well they know their spouses.

Maybe it’s possible that their love had been replaced by an alien and they hadn’t noticed until right now.

This episode also comes just over a year after “Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” Serling takes this opportunity to toy with an audience that has, presumably, come away from that preceding episode with the thought that they’d be better than the residents of Maple Street.

There’s no way they’d succumb to panic and paranoia. Then he drops this episode and actively invites viewers to guess who the outsider is. It’s a game. But it’s also harmful to single out people as others. And he knows that.