On Twilight Zone Day, look for these familiar Star Trek faces.
Twilight Zone Day is May 11. Nobody knows why, not even the outstanding blog Shadow & Substance: “It’s not the date the show premiered (October 2). Or ended (June 19). Or anything else of particular note.”
Why should Twilight Zone Day matter to Star Trek fans anyway? For at least a couple reasons.
Creator Rod Serling’s landmark anthology used science fiction and fantasy elements to tell serious stories—stories about contemporary issues that mattered but that would probably have run afoul of network censors had they been told in a straightforward, realistic fashion. The Twilight Zone blazed a trail Star Trek would follow.
And because it aired only a few years prior to Star Trek (from 1959 to 1964), The Twilight Zone often featured actors who’d go on to appear in Star Trek episodes.
Some 75 actors appeared on both The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, according to IMDB. So this Twilight Zone Day, let’s spend some time celebrating a few of these performers’ contributions to two of TVs all-time greatest science fiction series.
William Shatner beams twice into The Twilight Zone
When it comes to Star Trek actors who made their mark on The Twilight Zone, no one takes top billing away from Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
Shatner was an up-and-coming, in-demand leading man during the Zone’s run, and he starred in two episodes widely acclaimed as being among the series’ finest.
In the fifth season, he played anxiety-plagued airline passenger Bob Wilson in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (originally aired October 11, 1963).
Desperate to warn his pilot about the strange creature on the wing of the plane and ultimately determined to take matters into his own hands, Wilson’s flight in the traumatic skies has become iconic.
Still, as I said when we recently celebrated William Shatner’s 90th birthday, I think the first and more understated of his two Twilight Zone turns is the better one.
In the first season’s “Nick of Time” (November 18, 1960), he plays a man so weighed down by his superstitious nature he almost loses his new wife and his new job to the printed prophecies of a penny-operated “fortune telling” machine.
Whichever of the two episodes is your favorite, there’s no denying William Shatner will always be remembered not just for his adventures on the final frontier, but also as a high-profile resident of The Twilight Zone.