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SYFY WIRE The Twilight Zone

The Season 1 Fan Feedback That Changed Rod Serling’s Approach to The Twilight Zone

Looking back at how the original take on The Twilight Zone changed along the way.

By Trent Moore
American writer and actor Rod Serling In 'The Twilight Zone'

Looking back a few decades, there’s no denying the original run of The Twilight Zone is among the most influential and iconic science fiction series ever put to film. But back in the 1950s and 1960s when they were actually making it? They were still just figuring it out, as series creator, Rod Serling, explained.

The original Twilight Zone series ran from 1958 to 1964 (check out the schedule to catch The Twilight Zone on SYFY), telling bizarro morality tales and ambitious what-ifs on a shoestring budget. Serling did an interview with The Courier-Journal (via MeTV) after the show’s first season in 1960, and revealed the fan feedback he received that would shape the direction of the show for the seasons that would follow. And arguably, for every future adaption of the series in the decades to come.

How Fan Feedback Changed The Twilight Zone

Serling said fans would send letters, and he came to realize that some of the show’s early episodes were just “too different,” adding he was proud of around 18 of those initial 36 episodes that comprised the show’s first season: “There are others I liked, and there were some I wished we had never heard from in the first place."

That feedback led Serling to rethink exactly what makes a “Twilight Zone story” in the first place, as many fans sent letters asking for more of a balance between the darker episodes, lighter episodes, and the open-ended stories that would become a hallmark of the franchise in some of its most beloved installments. Fans even pitched alternate endings for Season 1 episodes, and ways they would’ve approached the stories differently.

For More on The Twilight Zone:
The Classic Twilight Zone Episode That Inspired Jordan Peele's Us
Why This Famous Sci-Fi Robot Showed Up on The Twilight Zone 3 Different Times

The Strange Occurrence of the Twilight Zone Episode That Won an Oscar - Yes, an Oscar

"We will do more of our shows with tongue-in-cheek. We will also have more women as leading characters,” Serling said. “We will avoid some of the 'real-far-out,' endings which leave no alternatives for the viewer. We have found our audience wants to think.”

Serling took the feedback from fans to heart, and brought those lessons into the writers room as they mapped the next four seasons of the original series, setting the show on a path that would end with the quintessential anthology series redefining sci-fi TV and how weird you could get on broadcast television as a medium.

Though the original run wrapped in 1964, The Twilight Zone would be revived in the mid-1980s for another run, then again in 2002, and then again in 2019 by Nope and Us filmmaker Jordan Peele. But it all started with Rod Serling’s black and white era.

Want to relive some of those classic Twilight Zone episodes? Check out the SYFY schedule to catch the OG series airing regularly!