Original Air Date: March 4, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Ronald Winston
“They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it’s themselves. All we need do is sit back – and watch.”
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is remembered as one of the more highly consequential episodes. It brings the idea of horror to the safest of American conventions (suburbia) while spawning a number of later horror films. The episode explores Serling’s oft censored wish to address socially relevant issues, topics like the self-destructive nature of mankind to the dangers of fanatical groupthink (i.e. McCarthyism or Puritanism). No one is ever completely safe from the madness oof crowds.
“Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street…This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment—before the monsters came.”Rod Serling
One summer day in the late afternoon a large burst of light appears across the sky above a safe, suburban community on Maple Street. Shortly thereafter the neighbors learn that all of their household machines are rendered defective. One boy explains a theory about aliens and gradually as night falls the neighborhood begins to turn on itself. Charges are leveled as neighbors accuse one another of being an alien until total chaos breaks loose. The denizens of Maple Street are played by Claude Akins, Barry Atwater, Jack Weston and others.
In the end, we pan out to discover a group of bureaucratic aliens watching Maple Street descend into madness from a hilltop. They ominous comment: “[Humans] pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it’s themselves. All we need do is sit back – and watch.” They return to their spacecraft with plans to bring this strategy of fear and intimidation to every neighborhood in America.
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined… to the Twilight Zone.”Rod Serling
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The uniforms worn by the aliens, their spaceship’s ramp, and the shot of the flying spaceship were originally used in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet.