This article discusses how the concept of time and history is treated in The Twilight Zone.


Parallels with reality

The long history of the series has presented time having events roughly analagous to events that happened in real life. Evidence may be best expressed in episodes with historical figures. "The Bard" features a number of notable historical figures, including William Shakespeare, George Washington and Napoleon. In the second series, John F. Kennedy plays a key role in one episode and Elvis Presley is present in another.(TZ2: "Profile in Silver", "The Once and Future King")

Familiar cultures of the real world appear, as well, with African, Asian, and Aztec cultures, among others, being apparent in various episodes of the series. (TZ1: "The Jungle", "A Quality of Mercy"); (The Twilight Zone (2002): "Sunrise")

In addition, the geography of Earth—and related astrometry—appears to generally parallel our own. (TZ1: "The Passerby", "The Purple Testament") (see Space)

For the most part, it can be assumed that the people of Earth in the Fifth dimension tend to experience things as we experience them in the real world. In nearly every sense, their universe is exactly as the real universe is except for when it comes into contact with the Twilight Zone.


The "real" timeline

The Twilight Zone episodes usually occupy their own "space" without relation to other episodes. Because of this, one story does not totally eliminate the possibility of most other stories from occurring before or after itself. For instance, the events of "Showdown with Rance McGrew", though occurring in the past, do not necessarily mean that the events of "A Game of Pool" or "The New Exhibit" could not happen, nor do they, in turn, necessarily prevent the events of "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" from happening.

Additionally, some stories deal with appearances of individuals that have appeared in other stories. For example, Abraham Lincoln appeared in at least three episodes of the original series, and even when one story featured a man trying to save Lincoln from assassination, he failed and so the timeline's events carried on much as they had before any interference. Thus, the president's appearance as the "last casualty of the Civil War," in "The Passerby" maintained a sense of continuity. It could be asserted that the Abraham Lincoln in all three episodes may in fact be the same Abraham Lincoln. (TZ1: "Back There", "The Bard", "The Passerby")

It can be deduced, then, that all of these events occur within the same timeline, in what could be considered the Twilight Zone's "real" timeline.

Alternate timelines

Certain stories, like "The Midnight Sun" or "Time Enough at Last", present clear deviations from such a timeline. The timelines in these episodes clearly contradict that of "The Long Morrow" or "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" as the former depict worlds that appear to end during the 1960s, while the latter episodes clearly occur beyond that time.

Of course, some of the episodes from the original series that were set in the future then have had their time come and pass in the second and third series of the show, without them occurring. For example, the original series episodes "Elegy" and "The Old Man in the Cave" tell of a nuclear apocalypse taking place in the early 1970s. At the same time, the third series regularly features inventions that came into common use after the seventies, such as GPS, the internet, CD's, DVD's, and hip hop. Thus, the contradictory stories can be said to be of alternate timelines. (The Twilight Zone (2002): "Sunrise", "Chosen", "Another Life")

Notes and references


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