Why William Shatner Feared His Famed Twilight Zone Episode Would Be The Worst Thing He Ever Did

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, William Shatner's mind! If (most of) that little mantra sounds familiar, you've probably seen enough episodes of "The Twilight Zone" to know exactly where you've heard it. Fans have their favorite installments from the iconic sci-fi and fantasy anthology series that aired from 1959-1964.

Maybe it's "To Serve Man" or "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street;"  or it could be any of the other creepy little cautionary tales that rocked the world of television all those years ago. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" was definitely one for the books as well. Even today, in the world of gutless and gruesome horror films and TV series that would probably give past generations a heart attack on the spot, the "Nightmare" episode, which stars Shatner, is especially unnerving and creepy.

Nightmare at 20,000 feet

In the episode titled "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963), Shatner portrays Bob Wilson, an uneasy airline passenger who reluctantly hops on a red eye flight alongside his wife Julia (Christine White) in the middle of a torrential downpour (per IMDb). During his passage through the clouds, Bob peers out the window of the plane to see a strange figure moving along the wing. Wilson soon realizes that it is some sort of unidentifiable creature dead set on destroying the aircraft and everyone inside it. He scrambles for a solution, but the looming threat of a nervous breakdown and other people's reluctance to believe him threatens his desperate efforts.

At the time, "The Twilight Zone" was a wildly popular series that many actors would have been delighted to land a role in. He'd already appeared in a 1960 episode ("Nick of Time," also via IMDb). But the future "Star Trek" actor feared that "Nightmare" could turn out to be the biggest mistake of his career, as Yahoo! Entertainment reports.

Why Shatner was nervous about his Twilight Zone role

In a recent interview with Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment, Shatner discussed his experience working on the monumental "Twilight Zone" episode and the host of anxieties he endured before and after the fact. "There were times I looked at it [the creature] and I thought, 'This may be the worst thing I've ever done.'" Shatner admittedly found the costume design and makeup of the creature a bit ridiculous and was worried that the episode would invoke more laughter in viewers than fear.

However, Shatner explained that the opportunity for work and the promise of being able to pay his bills to support his family overcame any apprehensions he had about the episode. "I was so grateful to be getting paid," he went on in his interview. Lucky for him, "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" became one of the most beloved "Twilight Zone" episodes of all time, as Vulture reports. It was a segment recreated in the 1983 "Twilight Zone" movie as well, with John Lithgow in the Shatner role (per IMDb).