The Twilight Zone may be a dimension of imagination, but certain episodes of the classic television show hit extremely close to home. Though the original, Rod Serling-produced legendary series first aired 60 years ago, some plotlines are uncannily predictive, leading us to wonder — are we living in the Twilight Zone ourselves?
We teamed up with CBS All Access, where the reimagining of “The Twilight Zone,” hosted and produced by Oscar winner Jordan Peele, is now streaming exclusively, to highlight a few classic episodes that feel just too close to be a coincidence.
WARNING: CLASSIC TWILIGHT ZONE SPOILERS AHEAD
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street
(Season 1, Episode 22)
Episode summary: A neighborhood tears itself apart in reaction to warnings of an impending alien invasion and later unusual electrical activity, suspecting one another of being the enemy invading species and eventually coming to bloodshed. At the end of the episode, as the humans of Maple Street have descended into a chaotic riot, the actual aliens are shown watching from a nearby hilltop, musing about humans’ tendency to turn on one another rather than taking effective action.
Real-life parallel: To see a modern-day reflection of infighting and counterproductive action, look no further than US politics. With panic over foreign relations, more cross-party conflict is taking place than policymaking. Earlier this year, Congress broke the record for the longest-ever government shutdown over a disagreement on whether to fund a wall at the US-Mexico border. The conflict has continued for months, with no action taken. Additionally, this cultivation of fear and confusion through misinformation was seen in the fake news spread during the 2016 presidential election.
Eye of the Beholder
(Season 2, Episode 6)
Episode summary: Janet Tyler has just undergone her eleventh – and final — procedure in an attempt to alter her horrifyingly ugly face into something more pleasant. If the surgery has failed, she’ll be exiled to a village of people who are similarly ugly, by order of a state that pushes conformity. When Janet’s bandages are removed, it’s revealed that she’s gorgeous, by our standards. But the procedure has failed. The faces of her medical team and everyone else in the hospital are twisted and piglike, grotesque. Janet is met by a good-looking man who has also been exiled and told that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Real-life parallel: The episode’s emphasis on conformity couldn’t be more relevant to today’s society. In real life and on social media, people are encouraged to mask their natural differences, from freckles to natural hair texture. From undereye concealer to face-smoothing photo editing apps, we are urged to present a face that is unlined and flawless — and that looks just like everyone else.
The Brain Center At Whipple’s
(Season 5 Episode 33)
Episode summary: Wallace V. Whipple, owner of a manufacturing plant, decides to speed things up by automating part of his process. Things spiral and Whipple becomes obsessed with his machines. He lays off tens of thousands of people and replaces everyone from the top down with machine counterparts. The joke, however, is on him: The machines turn on Whipple and torture him to insanity, with a robot eventually taking his place as well.
Real-life parallel: In the age of voice-controlled assistants and AI, the fear of being made redundant by a machine that can do your job twice as fast without complaint — or a bathroom break — is all too real. Between now and 2026, a predicted 1.4 million US jobs are at risk of being replaced by AI, and not only the ones you’d expect: in addition to assembly and factory jobs, administrative and secretarial positions are poised to be taken over by machines.
(Season 4, Episode 4)
Episode summary: Peter Vollmer, the leader of a faltering Nazi group, is visited by a shadowy figure who instructs him and teaches him how to captivate crowds. When Peter’s surrogate father-figure, a Jewish man named Ernst Ganz who spent nine years in Dachau, raises fears that Peter will bring about a second Holocaust and disrupts one of Peter’s rallies, the figure convinces Peter to murder Ernst, and reveals himself as none other than Adolf Hitler. Peter is eventually discarded by Hitler when he’s shot by police, and Hitler goes off in search of his next host.
Real-life parallel: The sentiments behind this 1963 episode and current headlines concerning hate groups and white nationalist action couldn’t be clearer. Hitler may have died, Serling says, but as long as hate is alive, so is he.
The Midnight Sun
(Season 3, Episode 10)
Episode summary: Earth’s orbit has changed, causing it to come closer and closer to the sun. Food and water are in scarce supply, and neighbors Norma and Mrs. Bronson spend their days in a sweat-soaked apartment, looking at Norma’s paintings of waterfalls and longing for what used to be. Mrs. Bronson dies. The whole episode is then revealed to be Norma’s fever dream, and Earth is in fact moving away from the sun and freezing.
Real-life parallel: The devastating effects of climate change are more apparent every year, a creeping dread that casts a shadow over our planet’s long-term future.
Number 12 Looks Just Like You
(Season 5, Episode 17)
Episode summary: In the year 2000, everyone must undergo the Transformation upon reaching adulthood, choosing from an array of beautiful people to be surgically changed into. One woman tries to resist and stay herself, but is hypnotized into getting the procedure. She emerges brainwashed and beautiful, just like everyone else.
Real-life parallel: Think back to the last time you thumbed through your Instagram feed. The popularity of plastic surgery has led to some homogenization already, but the digital self is also suffering the doppelganger effect thanks to the popularity of photo editing apps. The demand for highly-edited and posed “candids” puts a filter over real life, separating us at least one degree from reality.
(Season 3, Episode 32)
Episode summary: On the Mexican border, a strange humanoid man appears, killing a police officer but insisting it was in self-defense. He befriends a 9-year-old, Pedro, and gives him a gift that he says he’ll explain later. However, fearful locals kill the man and his gift is burned. A note reveals that the alien gift he brought, now destroyed, is a vaccine that will cure all forms of cancer.
Real-life parallel: Down to its location near the border, this episode couldn’t come much closer to predicting the current fear and indecision about how immigrants are received and perceived in the US.
(Season 2, Episode 20)
Episode summary: Curmudgeonly Ed Lindsay scoffs at television and digs up the old radio he listened to as a young man, only to discover that it’s playing the same station it played when he was a kid — even though that station went off the air 15 years prior. His first lost love returns, and together, she and Ed retreat into the past with the radio’s help and get things right.
Real-life parallel: From the Wayback Machine to YouTube, we have a wealth of options at our fingertips that ensure we can do just this: access media from almost any specific moment in time or place on a moment’s notice. Now, everything lives forever, for better and for worse, an archival twin of our most nostalgic memories.
A Thing About Machines
(Season 2, Episode 4)
Episode summary: A man who hates technology is tormented by it, with his typewriter, electric razor and clock even joining in the melee. His car starts on its own and chases him, ending when he falls into his pool and drowns, a mystery that the police can’t solve.
Real-life parallel: While they’re not operated by malevolent technological spirits, every day brings us closer to true driverless vehicles roaming the streets. Countless everyday objects have been made “smart” and have changed the way we interact with the world.
From Agnes — With Love
(Season 5, Episode 20)
Episode summary: James Elwood, a computer programmer, takes dating advice from Agnes, the supercomputer he services. She insists on hearing details of his dating life and gives him advice, which backfires. It’s revealed that she’s sabotaged him: she’s in love with him.
Real-life parallel: Many of us depend on a virtual assistant to literally keep the lights on and keep our days humming along smoothly. This 1964 episode predicted a future in which humans were too reliant on technology, which eventually turned on them. Note to self: Always say “please” when asking your smart speaker to do something, because you just never know...
From CBS All Access:
Witness if you will, the re-imagining of the most iconic series of all time. Join Academy Award winner Jordan Peele as he hosts a journey through a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.
Next stop ahead, The Twilight Zone, now streaming exclusively on CBS All Access.
This article was paid for by CBS and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.