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SYFY WIRE The Twilight Zone

The One Word That Only Rod Serling Could Write in Twilight Zone Scripts

Rod Serling was a standout writer on The Twilight Zone in more ways than one.

By Matthew Jackson
Rod Serling works at a typewriter.

Every Twilight Zone fan knows that Rod Serling is a singular figure in the history of the show, not just its creator, but its narrator, principal writer, and driving force for much of the show's run. His influence was overwhelming, to the point that, according to one Twilight Zone writer, he could even use words that other writers could not.

The legendary genre writer Richard Matheson was also a major presence in Twilight Zone history. Over the course of the show's five-season run, he scripted more than a dozen episodes, and even more were based on his short stories. His run on the show includes classics like "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Little Girl Lost," "Steel," and more, and while his influence was obviously never as great as Serling's, he remains a titan in the show's history. But according to Matheson, even he couldn't get a certain word past the show's production team, though Serling always could.

For More on The Twilight Zone:
Rod Serling's Daughters Reveal Their Favorite Episodes of The Twilight Zone

How One Writer's Real-Life Fears Inspired an Early Twilight Zone Episode
Lost Short Story from Rod Serling Published

Only Rod Serling Could Use This Word When Writing The Twilight Zone Scripts

"I could never use the word 'God'" Matheson said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. "I used to get ticked off at Rod, because he could put God in all his scripts. People could say 'Oh, God!' or 'Dear God!', and if I did it, they'd cross it out. I don't know whether they had it changed to 'Dear Lord' or what."

When asked by the interviewer if he had any idea why the word was deleted, Matheson could only speculate.

"I suppose some sort of religious profanation or something," he said. "You don't make the word God common or something, but Rod could do it."

Matheson went on to agree with the interviewer's theory that Serling could get away with the word "because of who he was," and while that might just mean he had power as the creator of the show, there's also a somewhat deeper possibility. Because he was not just the creator, but the very public face of The Twilight Zone, Serling knew that if anyone ever got upset with the show's content, it would be on his shoulders, particularly if his name was also on the script that week. But if another writer got caught blaspheming by an angry audience, it was possible the network or producers would let that writer go. Serling wasn't expendable, so Serling could write "God." Other writers might not have been so lucky. 

But of course, that's just a theory. All we know for sure is that Matheson and other writers weren't allowed to use the word, and the rest will have to stay hidden... in The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone airs regularly on SYFY. Check the schedule for more details.