It has been said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And while that may hold true for some things, there are die-hard aficionados out there that prefer all original forms of media stay locked away untouched. One such pop culture phenom that has been adapted in more ways than one is the Twilight Zone sci-fi series. From reboots and movies to games and theme park attractions, the popularity of such a show still holds true even 50 years after its release.
Theme park ride
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror also known as Tower of Terror, is a theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney MGM Studio) is based on the original Twilight Zone series. Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, the hotel themed attraction is a fixture at Disney’s Orlando park and at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.
Rod Serling’s voice greets passengers when the ride’s elevator doors close saying, “You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone.” The ride continues as Serling details the story of five people, some of them guests at the hotel who stepped through the door of the elevator into a nightmare, as the cab takes guests through dark corridors. Serling then warns guests that they are about to “discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in the Tower of Terror.”
On the last word of Serling’s narration, the elevator starts its drop sequence. Rather than a simple gravity-powered drop, however, the elevator is pulled downwards, causing most riders to rise off their seats, held down by their seat belt. With randomized patterns of drops, it’s “never the same fear twice,” no matter how many times riders experience it.
The first revival of the sci-fi classic came in 1985, enabled by Serling after his decision to sell his share of the series back to the network. Under CBS, the show didn’t come close to matching the popularity of the original, but in tribute to the original series, the opening credits include a brief image of Serling. Four episodes are remakes of those from the original series: “Night of the Meek,” “Shadow Play,” “The After Hours” and “A Game of Pool,” while “Dead Woman’s Shoes” is an adaptation of “Dead Man’s Shoes.”
The second revival came in 2002 under the development of UPN. Hosted by Forest Whitaker, the show was broadcast in a one-hour format composed of two half-hour stories, and was canceled after one season.
A third attempt at bringing back the classic landed in the hands of Jordan Peele (of Get Out fame) when it was reported in November 2017 that he was developing a reboot of the series for streaming service CBS All Access with Marco Ramirez serving as potential showrunner. The series is set for a 2019 premiere with Peele serving as host and narrator.
The Twilight Zone “Radio Dramas” came about in 2002 as a nationally syndicated radio series featuring adaptations of the classic television series. The final show was released in 2012, featuring 176 episodes total. Many of the stories are indeed based on Rod Serling’s scripts from the original Twilight Zone series, but have been expanded and updated to reflect contemporary technology and trends like cell phones and CD-ROMs. Episodes starred the likes of celebrities Jason Alexander, Blair Underwood, Jane Seymour, John Heard, Fred Willard and more.
In 1964, Ideal released a board game, The Twilight Zone Game, at the height of the show’s popularity. The game consisted of a cardboard playing surface, four colored playing pieces, a colored spinning wheel and 12 “door” playing cards. In 1988, Gigabit Systems, Inc. published a text adventure video game for Amiga and the PC and four years later, Midway Games released a wide-body pinball game. In 2014, Legacy Interactive and Spark Plug Games released a casual adventure game based on series for a much more modern gaming audience.
In 1983, Steven Spielberg produced Twilight Zone: The Movie, which starred Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, the late Vic Morrow and Scatman Crothers. The film remade three classic episodes of the original series and included one original story. John Landis directed the prologue and the first segment, which became notorious for a helicopter accident that occurred during filming, which caused the deaths of Morrow and two child actors.