Rod Serling brought mind-bending storytelling to primetime television in America in the 1960’s via his thought-provoking series and it changed the country for the better. The wide-ranging themes and genres, the twist endings, the morals and social commentary all kept audiences on their toes while entertaining them differently each week.
Lasting five seasons from 1959 to 1964 and compromising 156 episodes, The Twilight Zone was begun with a single script purchased by CBS in 1958 called “The Time Element” (a story in which a psychoanalyst’s patient tells him of a recurring dream where he tries to warn people of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor before it happens, until in one dream he is shot and killed—the psychoanalyst finds his picture on the wall of a bar and is told the guy used to tend there, but was killed in Pearl Harbor) and shelved.
It wasn’t until a producer for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse found the script and shot it that aired to great praise. This overwhelming positive feedback convinced execs that a series of such stories could be a success and they entered talks with Serling shortly thereafter and the rest became history.
Although Serling bore the vast writing duties of writing or adapting nearly two-thirds of the series episodes, many great writers worked for the show, such as Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner Jr., George Clayton Johnson, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, etc.
As for the darkest episodes of this superb series, I recommend:
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
"Little Girl Lost"
A few more select lists of the scariest episodes of the Twilight Zone can be found via the links below…