To Serve Man (The Twilight Zone)

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"To Serve Man"
The Twilight Zone episode
Toserveman.jpg
Susan Cummings and Richard Kiel
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 24
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Teleplay by Rod Serling
Based on"To Serve Man"
by Damon Knight
Featured musicStock (from Jerry Goldsmith's scores for "Back There" and "The Invaders")
Production code4807
Original air dateMarch 2, 1962 (1962-03-02)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) (season 3)
List of episodes

"To Serve Man" is the 24th episode of the third season of the anthology series The Twilight Zone, and the 89th overall. It originally aired on March 2, 1962, on CBS. [1] Based on Damon Knight's 1950 short story of the same title, the episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Richard L. Bare. [2] [3] It is considered one of the best episodes from the series, particularly for its final twist.

Contents

Opening narration

Respectfully submitted for your perusal — a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we're going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.

Plot

A man named Michael Chambers lies on a cot in an otherwise empty, locked room. A voice offers him a meal, delivered through a small aperture in the wall, which he grimly refuses.

The setting changes to several months earlier, on Earth. The Kanamits, a race of 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) aliens, land on Earth as the planet is beset by international crises. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations announces the landing at a news conference, one of the aliens arrives and addresses the assembled delegates and journalists via telepathy. He states that his race's motive in coming to Earth is to provide humanitarian aid by sharing their advanced technology that can easily and inexpensively solve all energy/food shortages and prevent international warfare. After answering questions, the Kanamit departs without comment and leaves behind a book in his language; Chambers, a cryptographer working for the United States government, is pressed into service to decipher it.

International leaders express wariness of the Kanamits' uninvited arrival on Earth, but start to believe their claims of benevolence upon seeing their advanced technology at work. Patty, a member of Chambers' staff, translates the title of the book as To Serve Man, further bolstering public trust in the Kanamits. One member of the race submits to polygraph-monitored interrogation and is determined to be telling the truth.

The Kanamits deliver on their promise to turn the world into a Utopia, transforming barren deserts into blooming fields, and each nation is given an impenetrable force field that leads to the virtual disbandment of all militaries. Humans soon begin volunteering to travel to the Kanamits' home planet, which is described as a paradise, and the Kanamits set up embassies in every country on Earth and weigh all passengers boarding their ships. Even though Chambers' staff no longer have any real work to do, due to worldwide declarations of peace and the dissolution of the United States Armed Forces, Patty continues her efforts to decode the Kanamits' book.

Some time later, as Chambers is boarding a ship for his own voyage to the Kanamits' world, Patty pushes through the waiting line and shouts for him not to go. She has successfully translated To Serve Man and discovered that it is actually a cookbook for preparing dishes from the human body. Chambers tries to flee, but a guard forces him onto the ship and closes the hatch so it can lift off.

In the present, Chambers angrily throws another meal across the room when it is offered to him. A Kanamit picks up the food and encourages him to eat so that he will not lose weight. Chambers reluctantly does so, addressing the viewers directly to ask whether they have left Earth yet and remarking that the Kanamits will eventually cook and eat all of humanity.

Closing narration

The recollections of one Michael Chambers, with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or, more simply stated, the evolution of man. The cycle of going from dust to dessert. The metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone's soup. It's tonight's bill of fare from the Twilight Zone.

Cast

Production

The arriving Kanamit ship is shown as scenes extracted from The Day the Earth Stood Still , but with different sound; the departing Kanamit ship is shown as a scene extracted from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers , also with different sound.

Critical response

TV Guide ranked the episode at number 11 on its list of the "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" [4] and ranked the ending as the "Greatest Twist of All Time". [5] Time listed the episode among the "Top 10 Twilight Zone Episodes". [6] Rolling Stone named the episode first on its list of the "25 Best Twilight Zone Episodes". [7]

Cultural influence

The episode is occasionally referenced in popular culture, usually with the line "It's a cookbook!" or some variation thereof. [8] [9] References or parodies can be found in such television series as Futurama , The Simpsons , [10] [11] and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ; movies such as The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear , and Madagascar (The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear featured a tongue-in-cheek cameo by Lloyd Bochner, who played Michael Chambers in the TZ episode); [12] [8] the comic strip Mark Trail ; [13] and musical works by artists Nuclear Assault, Cattle Decapitation, Mono Puff, and El-P. A reference to the episode has even found its way into an unofficial emblem for a United States Air Force unit. [14]

Sequel

The 2019 Twilight Zone episode "You Might Also Like" serves as a sequel to the episode "To Serve Man", which features the Kanamits, who are still learning about Earth's culture. [15]

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References

  1. Hunter, Rob (October 22, 2011). "Exploring The Twilight Zone #89: To Serve Man". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on October 24, 2018. The Twilight Zone (Episode #89): "To Serve Man" (airdate March 2, 1962)
  2. Belasco, Warren James (2006). Meals to come: a history of the future of food. University of California Press. pp. 130, 358. ISBN   0-520-24151-7.
  3. To Serve Man at Rotten Tomatoes OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
  4. TV Guide Guide to TV . Barnes & Noble. 2004. p.  667. ISBN   0-7607-5634-1.
  5. Roush, Matt (November 4–10, 2013). "Eyes on Surprise! The 60 Most Startling Twists of All Time". TV Guide Magazine. 61 (3187). TV Guide: 22–23.
  6. Cruz, Gilbert (October 2, 2009). "Top 10 Twilight Zone Episodes". Time Inc. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
  7. Fear, David; Collins, Sean T.; Martoccio, Angie (April 1, 2019). "25 Best 'Twilight Zone' Episodes". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  8. 1 2 Guerrasio, Jason (December 30, 2014). "The 10 Most Shocking Episodes of The Twilight Zone". Esquire . Archived from the original on July 4, 2017.
  9. Muir, John Kenneth (March 14, 2014). "Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV". Reflections on Film and Television. Archived from the original on April 28, 2017.
  10. Booker, M. Keith (2006). Drawn to television. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 117. ISBN   978-0-275-99019-0.
  11. Booker, M. Keith (2006). Drawn to television. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 67–68. ISBN   978-0-275-99019-0.
  12. Duffin, Allan T.; Matheis, Paul (2005). The 12 O'Clock High Logbook: The Unofficial History of the Novel, Motion Picture, and TV Series. BearManor Media. p. 236. ISBN   9781593930332.
  13. Allen, James (April 19, 2018). "Mark Trail". Comics Kingdom. Archived from the original on October 24, 2018.
  14. Broad, William J. (April 1, 2008). "Inside the black budget". The New York Times .
  15. Murray, Noel (June 27, 2020). "The Twilight Zone's "To Serve Man" sequel cautions about consumerism". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 24, 2021.

Further reading