‘The Twilight Zone’: Rod Serling Named the Show After a Phrase He Used in WWII as a U.S. Army Paratrooper

The Twilight Zone is one of the most influential television shows of all time, a show that not only reinvented the science fiction drama, but redefined the very idea of episodic television. With each and every episode of The Twilight Zone, viewers were transported to different dimensions, through captivating, strange stories and exotic visuals. Every episode served more as a mini-movie than as a mere TV show, and over the years, the show became an important part of American pop culture history. Much of the show’s success is due to creator Rod Serling — who was inspired by a very real historical event when he outlined his plan for the series. 

‘The Twilight Zone’ was conceived as a way to express social issues

Rod Serling
Rod Serling | CBS via Getty Images

The Twilight Zone premiered on television in 1959. The show was conceived by creator Rod Serling as a way to address topics such as racism, war, government, society, and the fallacies of human nature. These topics were not welcomed in most episodic television at the time, but in Serling’s view, by disguising the show as a science fiction-based series that dabbled in horror, absurdism, suspense and psychological horror, he would be more easily able to weave those themes throughout each episode.

Serling was already a big name in TV when he started outlining The Twilight Zone. Serling was heavily inspired by the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a young African-American boy who was abducted, beaten, and shot by two white men. Till’s killers were both acquitted, and the miscarriage of justice in the high-profile case motivated Serling to write screenplays that spoke directly to the nation’s conscience. As Serling later said, “The writer’s role is to be a menacer of the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus the issues of his time.”

Where did the name ‘The Twilight Zone’ come from?

Rod Serling allowed much of his own life to influence The Twilight Zone. Notably, he drew the title of the anthology series from his time as a U.S. Army Paratrooper in World War II. The term “twilight zone” actually referred to the moment a plane comes down and cannot view the horizon — and in Serling’s view, according to The Smithsonian Magazine, it perfectly represented the idea behind the groundbreaking series. Serling desperately wanted to be able to tell bold stories about the human condition that were cleverly disguised behind outrageous tales of science fiction and horror. 

Jordan Peele is involved in a reboot of ‘The Twilight Zone’

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone remains popular with fans of all ages, with generations of new viewers discovering the iconic series every day. These days, comedian and writer Jordan Peele has taken the reins, carrying on Serling’s legacy by launching a reboot of The Twilight Zone, that ran for two seasons, from 2019 through 2020. While it seems though the reboot will not be returning for additional episodes, the rebooted Twilight Zone earned acclaim from critics and fans, with many praising Peele’s Serling-like ability to tell fascinating stories with the trappings of sci-fi and dark humor. 

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Twilight Zone enjoyed renewed popularity, with many fans finding parallels between situations in the show and the current climate. It seems as though Serling’s brilliant work will live on forever, inspiring countless generations. Stay tuned to Showbiz Cheat Sheet for all the latest entertainment news!

RELATED: ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’: The Tragic True Story Behind Its Legendary Curse