'There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man ... It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge ... It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone."

TV viewers will once again hear the portentous opening narration of The Twilight Zone, the celebrated dramatic anthology produced and largely written by Rod Serling, when the latest reboot of the 60-year-old series premieres in the US this week.

This time, however, those ominous words will be said by Jordan Peele, the acclaimed director of Get Out and recent hit Us, who also is executive producer of the new Zone. Whether the latest incarnation of Serling's show, which aired from 1959 to 1964.

One of the reasons the original Zone still strikes such a chord with today's viewers is that those episodes have proved to be uncannily prescient.


Fear of the other, nuclear paranoia, body shaming, the perils of artificial intelligence — each of these phenomena is still with us.

"In his Twilight Zone scripts, Serling grappled with the contradictions and anxieties of post-World War II America," says Ron Simon, curator for television and radio at the Paley Centre for Media. "These deeply rooted fears persist today as the same prosperous country confronts its unresolved uncertainties."

Monsters are Due on Maple Street, Serling's haunting disquisition on fear and raw prejudice, was broadcast on March 4, 1960.

On a quiet summer day on Maple St, a meteor speeds overhead causing a failure of all power equipment. Residents gather and try to explain the outage, and a young boy who reads comic books says that humanlike monsters from outer space have already invaded.

At first the adults laugh this off, but then they begin to point fingers at each other. Who is the monster? The accusations become more vehement.

Finally, violence erupts, with one resident getting shot. Then the camera pulls back to reveal two aliens discussing how their experiment in fear has proved successful; one little power failure, and Maple St — and every other street like it — will destroy itself.

"Prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy," Serling says in his closing narration, "while the town below continues to self-destruct, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn."

And the pity of it is that these things remain deeply entrenched in 21st-century America.


Climate was not something that Americans thought much about in 1961. But Serling did. In The Midnight Sun, the instalment that aired on November 17, 1961, an artist, Norma, and her landlady, Mrs Bronson, are the last occupants of their New York City apartment building.

After a mysterious change in the Earth's orbit, the planet is slowly falling into the sun. All of Norma's and Mrs Bronson's neighbours, it seems, have either died or moved north to escape the super-high temperatures.

As the climatological end draws near, Mrs Bronson beseeches Norma to paint a waterfall before dropping dead of heat stroke. Soon Norma also collapses and presumably dies.

However, in the ending twist that was a signature of the classic, mind-bending series, we see that Norma has been dreaming — only to awaken to a different nightmare. It turns out that in reality Earth is moving away from the sun and the world is actually freezing to death.

Serling, who died in 1975, didn't live to see the dystopia he foretold in The Twilight Zone, but he called it.