George Takei takes a controversial trip to the Twilight Zone
No discussion of Star Trek actors in The Twilight Zone would be complete without mention of “The Encounter” (May 1, 1964), a fifth season episode that proved so controversial it only aired once in the U.S., never to be broadcast again until SyFy did so during its annual New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon in 2016.
The two-person episode starred Neville Brand—a prolific actor and highly decorated World War II veteran—and George Takei, Star Trek’s own Mr. Sulu.
Watch Takei tell the tale of this episode that, as he says, “gained some notoriety” in the clip at the top of this page.
Takei says his character’s “realization” that his father signaled the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor—an incident which, again, has no factual basis—was a fantasy sequence.
The episode itself may present the incident this way. But it may also present it as the actual truth—a truth parallel to the truth about Brand’s character, that he killed the Japanese soldier from whom he took a samurai sword in cold blood and not in self-defense, as he originally claims.
If this latter interpretation holds, it’s no wonder Japanese Americans objected to the episode. Takei himself has devoted much effort to dispel myths about Japanese Americans in World War II with his legacy project, the Broadway musical Allegiance. The idea that a Japanese American collaborated in the Pearl Harbor attack is offensive and dangerous.
Decades later, you can watch “The Encounter” and decide for yourself whether the episode actually advances it. Whatever you conclude, it’s arguably the most notorious time a Star Trek star took a trip into the Twilight Zone.
As you’ve seen, there’s simply no shortage of great episodes Star Trek fans looking for familiar faces can watch on Twilight Zone Day. The whole series is available on Paramount+, so the next time you finish streaming a Star Trek episode on the platform, take your own journey into this wondrous land of imagination!