The Sun’s Twilight Zone Hilarious Third Tribute Rock Explained

Cult 1990s sci-fi sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun paid homage to legendary genre show The Twilight Zone in a truly hilarious way.

here’s how 3rd rock from the sun pays homage to Rod Serling’s iconic series The twilight zone. Aired on NBC for six seasons, 3rd rock from the sun is one of those weird cases of a long-running sitcom that never really became a massive ratings hit. The series only broke the top 25 TV shows once, in season 1, and ranked in the 80s by season 6. 3rd rock had, however, a loyal fanbase that might well have kept its ratings levels constant, had not NBC constantly moved the show around the airing schedule.

While 3rd rock from the sunThe ensemble cast quickly gelled, and generally all had the opportunity to shine in each episode, Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) was the lead, and watching him work, it was no wonder why . Although he’s also a terrific dramatic actor – as seen when he played Arthur Mitchell (aka The Trinity Killer) in Dexter—Lithgow may never have been better as a comedian than when he played Dick. As the leader of a group of aliens posing as an Earth family, Dick was the ultimate fish out of water, and Lithgow played his lack of understanding when it came to human social customs perfectly.


Related: The Simpsons: Every Twilight Zone Parody Explained

As a mix of sci-fi and comedy, it makes sense that 3rd rock from the sun finally paid tribute to The twilight zone, the ancestor of televised science fiction. The presence of Lithgow, who was one of the stars of 1983, made it even easier. Twilight Zone: The Movie. Although that would have been enough for a sly reference, when sci-fi icon William Shatner came on board to play the human form of the Solomons’ alien boss, The Big Giant Head, 3rd rock from the sunThe writers saw the perfect opportunity to make two generations of blurred area the observers laugh.

In 3rd rock from the sunThe two-part Season 4 finale, titled “Dick’s Big Giant Headache”, Shatner’s Big Giant Head hits the screen after his first plane ride. Sally Solomon asks him how the trip was, and Shatner replies that it was horrible, because he saw something on the wing of the plane. Dick Solomon of Lithgow exclaims as the same thing happened to him. It’s a quick exchange, and then the story continues, but for blurred area fans, he’s sure to earn at least an amused smile. For reference, one of Shatner’s first major roles came in The twilight zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, in which he played a man whose routine flight turned into a nightmare due to a monster on the plane’s wing that apparently no one else could see.

Shatner even delivers his 3rd rock from the sun line in a manner similar to how he spoke of the creature on The twilight zone. That might be a fun reference on its own, but the joke is made even better by Dick’s reaction, as Lithgow played the equivalent of Shatner’s character in Twilight Zone: The MovieThe remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Best of all is that this is actually a triple reference, as Dick mentioned seeing something on the wing after his first flight back in Season 1. Maybe it’s 3rd rock from the sunis the best joke ever, and that’s saying something, considering how hilarious the show could be.

More: Why Was The Twilight Zone Original Series Canceled?

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