Best Twilight Zone episode: The Eye of the Beholder

“Eye of the Beholder” is the 6th episode of the 2nd season of the The Twilight Zone’s original TV series, first aired on 11th November 1960, written by Rod Serling and directed by Douglas Heyes.

The popular series ran for 5 seasons, from 1959 to 1964, and had 156 episodes.

Sure, everybody has their own favourite episodes. In 1997, TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time listed “To Serve Man” at number 11 and “It’s a Good Life” at number 31.

But to me, “The Eye of the Beholder” is very best, with a sublime twist that would’ve made Alfred Hitchcock proud.

In this episode, Janet Tyler is a physically disfigured woman in the process of being “fixed” in a hospital. Yet, we’re then jolted into realising that the concept of a “normal appearance” in world she’s living in is totally different from our own. The jaw dropping ending gives us an insight into human nature.

The plot, as described by wikipedia:

Janet Tyler has undergone her eleventh treatment (the maximum number legally allowed) in an attempt to look like everybody else. The details of the treatment are not given, but Tyler is first shown with her head completely bandaged, so her face cannot be seen. She is described as being “not normal” by the nurses and doctor, whose own faces are always in shadows or off-camera.

The outcome of the procedure cannot be known until the bandages are removed. Tyler pleads with the doctor and eventually convinces him to remove the bandages early. After a climactic buildup, the bandages are removed, revealing to the audience that she is beautiful. However, the reaction of the doctor and nurses is disappointment; the operation has failed, her face has undergone “no change — no change at all”.

At this point, the doctor, nurses and other people in the hospital, whose faces have never been seen clearly before, are now revealed to be horribly deformed by our perspective, with large and thick brows, sunken eyes, swollen and twisted lips, and misshapen, pig-like snouts. Distraught by the failure of the procedure, Tyler runs through the hospital as the disfigured faces of everyone she runs into, the norm in this society, are revealed. Large screens throughout the hospital project an image of the State’s despotic leader giving a speech calling for greater conformity.

Eventually, a handsome man (by our standards) afflicted with the same “condition” arrives to take the crying, despondent Tyler into exile to a village of her “own kind”, where her “ugliness” will not trouble the State. Before the two leave, the man comforts Tyler with the very, very old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

The following is the ending:

YouTube Preview Image

Now would be a good time to download vlc in anticipation of watching the whole episode and other fantastic episodes from the legendary TV series.

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