The Twilight Zone

Season 3 Episode 24

To Serve Man

Aired Unknown Mar 02, 1962 on CBS
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Episode Summary

The Kanamits, 9 foot tall aliens, arrive on Earth with one lofty goal: To Serve Man.

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  • One of "Twilight Zone's" Most Infamous Episodes; I Once Parodied it Myself! :!:

    Back in 2006, maybe early 2007 when I became the editor of a cartoon show called "Yin Yang Yo," I wanted to create stories for that show that might be adapted into episodes that were creative and clever. One story I thought up of, I took DIRECTLY from the pages of THIS "Twilight Zone" episode! I hadn't even SEEN the episode at the time, I just knew of its existence. And the big SHOCK (at the time of its original airing, it was certainly a shock) twist ending that it was a COOKBOOK on how to SERVE humans! (Cue dramatic effect music!) DUM, DUM, DUM!!!! And I also knew that since the "Twilight Zone" series was big on NON-continuity, I decided to make the episode I wrote, called "To SERVE Animals!" (DUM, DUM, DUM!!!!) Be a non-continuity episode as well. However, MY big twist ending was taken from ANOTHER series, namely "Dallas," in the case that it was revealed to have ALL been a creepy dream that actress/comedienne/goddess Nicole Sullivan had! :O And ends with a CREEPY laugh by Christopher Lee! :shock: This episode proves that reading is ALWAYS a good thing, and to always search for HIDDEN/DOUBLE meanings whenever anybody says something! :idea: Enough said, true believers! ;)moreless

    I remember the night of the last Presidential election...I sat my sons down to watch this.One is in med school. one is in law school and the youngest has started his political career."To serve man" this was each of their ideals in selecting a career path. Now approaching 2 years later they understand the reason I sat them down to see this tale. Each wonder why so many people do not see thay are the lunch. People who would not stand for themselves, have never spoken up and follow like sheep. Jim Jones is a great example of the "followers"

    I hope you can see the message here and avoid becoming the "free lunch"

    Or are you still waiting for the free trip to the promised land?moreless
  • "It's-a cookbook!"

    When tree-tall aliens, called Kanamits, from another planet visit the earth claiming to be able to wipe out everything that ails our planet and its inhabitants, they are greeted with guarded optimism. When they succeed in doing just that, any suspicion that may have existed is erased. When they first land, they leave behind a book in their own language, and when the title is deciphered, it reads "To Serve Man". These guys are heaven sent, end of story!

    The story's main earth characters are scientists Susan Cummings and Michael Chambers, the latter who guides us through the story in flashback while on the Kanamit ship. When these space angels start allowing excursions to their own planet, Chambers, feeling there's nothing much more to do since history is at an end and the earth is now a paradise, decides to take one. Cummings, however, is not content with leaving the rest of the book alone, and painstakingly deciphers it. What she finds is that the word "Man" in the title is gramatically the direct object, and it implies a third party, an indirect object. That is, man is to be served AS A DISH. Her warnings to Chambers are too late, so, breaking the fourth wall, he looks into the camera to ask what we will do, resigning himself to his own fate, and that of the planet.

    Some sci-fi stories, including a few on TZ, see space aliens as messiahs. Episodes "The Gift" and "Valley of the Shadow" are two examples, as well as movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Cocoon". Then there are others, like the story "War of the Worlds" and the 80s TV series "V", which has been remade and is currently airing, which, like "To Serve Man", remind us that while we should not be unduly suspicious of "visitors", we should not be unduly trusting of them either.moreless
  • A linguistic lesson in thinking objectively

    Let's say aliens came to Earth offering us everything. What could their motives be? In this classic episode of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone we are (as always) put into the shoes of the people in the alternate dimension who actually experience this, and along with them, we feel conflicted, on the one hand fearing we're "looking a gift horse in the mouth", while on the other, knowing full well that NOBODY'S motives are 100% pure.

    When the alien representative leaves behind a book whose translated title is: "To Serve Man", the people in the episode -- as well as we ourselves -- interpret the word "serve" the way they want to? But of course there's another perfectly grammatical, unavoidably logical meaning of "serve"...What makes this such a classic is that this is the PRIMARY meaning of the word, the most basic one. Therefore, (as in all the other best episodes of The Twilight Zone) the message ends up crystal clear: think objectively, or pay the ultimate price. FANTASTIC Watch it again and see if you don't think it gets even better! Utterly believable, relentlessly possible -- this one's a series classic indeed.moreless
  • Alien and Human Miscommunication

    This episode is the greatest episode in the Twilight Zone because it pulls the rug from under you when you least expect it to. It's both blackly funny and scary and fills and builds up a sense of dread. But most of all the episode solves a potential problem with most Alien Invasion stories, it's always cleche that aliens would always come down to Earth and take the reckless agressive approach by blowing everything away with their flying saucers. In this one they take a more tactical and silent approch, they go into their back door.

    We pritty much see a little of the ending a doomed man is imprisoned in one of the space crafts. We don't know why he's their but it's obvious it's for a reason. The protagonist then narates the story. And it goes back to the begins where we see the melon headed aliens negotiate coexistance with humans and as a peace offering they leave the book "To Serve Man". At first we sort of have a confortable feeling about the aliens they actually provide a lot of things we only can dream of solving. From stopping all wars, stoping fammine, providing technologies that are now modern convenences, and the opportunity to travel to other planets. It's seems like a paradise but of course there is that book that is still undecoded which knaws on both the protagonist and our minds, it's sort of that feeling like someone knows something you don't but you can't put your finger on it. May'be what we should of picked up on was the use of the scale before people traveled in the flying saucers, which seems rather odd but their was obviously a more significant reason for them and we discover it at the very last moment, when we discover the main protagionst desides to take a space trip unfortunately finds out too late it's actually a trip to the slaghterhouse.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • When Chambers asked what time it is on Earth, he is told it is twelve noon--a statement he accepts. Evidently the Kanamits have abolished time zones.

    • Without some kind of comparative work, it is unlikely that anyone could translate an alien language. Even on Earth, ancient languages were impossible to translate without a similar guide (such as the Rosetta Stone). This problem was addressed in the short story upon which this episode was based, but is ignored here, presumably for the sake of brevity.

    • It's not clear why the Kanamit leaves the "cookbook" in the U.N. chamber in the first place, other then to make sure Chambers has it so he can try and translate it.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • (Opening Narration)
      Narrator: 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.

    • Penny: Mr. Chambers! Don't get on that ship! The rest of the book, "To Serve Man", it's... it's a cookbook!

    • Michael Chambers: How about you? You still on Earth, or on a ship with me? Well, it doesn't make very much difference because sooner or later, we'll all of us be on the menu. All of us.

    • (Closing Narration)
      Narrator: 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 on the Twilight Zone.

  • NOTES (7)

    • In the 2008 Emmy awards, the discovery of the real nature of the book, was in the list of the Most Memorable Drama TV Moments. However, it didn't make it to the second round.

    • This episode was parodied in the first Treehouse of Horror on the show The Simpsons.

    • This episode is referenced in the movie Madagascar.

    • Joseph Ruskin, who also played the Genie in the episode "The Man In The Bottle," is the uncredited voice of the Kanamit.

    • The spaceship prop was the same one used in the classic 1956 film Forbidden Planet.

    • This episode is based on the short story "To Serve Man" by Damon Knight. The story was first published in Galaxy (November, 1950).

    • In the movie The Naked Gun 2-1/2 Lloyd Bochner has a small role as a villain, and can be seen yelling the punchline of this episode during a panic/crowd scene: an in-joke reference to his appearance here. It should be noted that Bochner himself doesn't utter the famous line in this episode, however.