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Old 07-29-2021, 07:05 PM   #17 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Title: “Perchance to Dream”
Original transmission date: November 27 1959
Written by: Charles Beaumont
Directed by: Robert Florey
Starring: Richard Conte as Edward Hall
John Larch as Dr. Eliot Rathmann
Suzanne Lloyd as Maya/Miss Thomas

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Dreams, terror, supernatural
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A


Serling’s opening monologue


Twelve o'clock noon. An ordinary scene, an ordinary city. Lunchtime for thousands of ordinary people. To most of them, this hour will be a rest, a pleasant break in a day's routine. To most, but not all. To Edward Hall, time is an enemy, and the hour to come is a matter of life and death.


Edward Hall, looking much the worse for wear, staggers into his doctor’s office where he collapses on the couch. He tells the doctor he’s been awake for 87 hours, that he can’t afford to sleep, because if he does he will never wake up; he’ll die in his sleep. He tells the psychiatrist that his imagination works to overpower him, that once he crashed because he thought there was someone in the back seat of his car. He also says that he “dreams in sequence”, experiencing episodes each time, following on to each other.

He relates a dream he had where he ended up in a nightmarish carnival, where he had a bad feeling about a girl, an exotic dancer called Maya. He fears she’s trying to kill him, by causing his heart to speed up. From childhood, he had a weak heart and was advised by the doctors to avoid all shocks, and now he thinks this Maya is trying to give him a shock so as to kill him. She enticed him, he tells the doctor, onto the rollercoaster and then urged him to jump. He just managed to force himself to wake up before obeying her, and now he’s terrified that if he goes back to sleep, resumes the dream that he will jump, and the shock will stop his heart and kill him in reality.

But then, he notes, if he stays awake the strain will kill him anyway. As he dejectedly goes to leave the surgery, he sees the doctor’s receptionist, and recognises her as Maya, the woman who has been tormenting him. In despair, he hurls himself out the window to his death.

The doctor calls in his receptionist, asks her to confirm with him that Mr. Hall is dead. The receptionist is amazed, saying that Mr. Hall only just entered the surgery, and the doctor agrees, saying that within two seconds he was asleep, but he seems to have suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep.

Serling’s closing monologue


They say a dream takes only a second or so, and yet in that second a man can live a lifetime. He can suffer and die, and who's to say which is the greater reality: the one we know or the one in dreams, between heaven, the sky, the earth - in the Twilight Zone.


The Resolution

Decent; everything that has happened since he entered the surgery seems to have been in his mind, though this does lend itself to the question, if he was afraid of going back into the dream, where he would be on the rollercoaster with Maya, why did he then instead end up inside a different dream, where the reality was played out in a different way? Why did he imagine himself in the doctor’s surgery, seeing Maya and taking a flying header out of the window? Shouldn’t he just have ended up back on the rollercoaster, ready to jump?


The Moral

None that I can see. It’s a pretty weird story.

Iconic?

No, not really. There have been thousands of stories about people dying, or thinking they have died or will die in dreams, and this one, while it’s an interesting slant, really adds nothing all that new to that idea.

Those clever little touches

When Hall shoots at a target at the fairground, it’s a spiral, one that would be used in later seasons of the show in the opening credits.

And isn’t that…?

Richard Conte (1910 - 1975)

Hollywood actor, contemporary of Frank Sinatra, best known for his portrayal of Don Barzini in The Godfather.


Questions, and sometimes, Answers

The big one is, who is Maya and why was she trying to kill Hall? Was it really petty vindictiveness, as he walked off during her dance? And what link was there between her and the receptionist in the doctor’s surgery? Did Hall somehow transplant her image onto the dream one after having been at the doctor? But that’s impossible, as this was his first visit there and he already had his problem before going to the psychiatrist. Are we then to believe the face - eyes only seen - glimpsed in the back seat of his car are the ones belonging to Maya, that he has somehow invited a figment of his imagination - or some demon - into his dreams from the almost-waking world?

The doctor’s query to Hall when he enters - “Mr. Hall, what’s the matter? Are you ill?” - seems a bit superfluous. He’s a fucking doctor! Does he think people come to see him because they’re in the pink of health?? Yes okay he’s a psychiatrist but still. Also, he mentions that “sometimes running away is the best solution”. When? When is running away - presumably from your mental problems, given that he’s a shrink - the best solution?

Personal notes

The first episode written without Serling’s involvement, written entirely by Charles Beaumont, from his own short story of the same title. It shows a darker, edgier, more morose theme than previous episodes, providing a nightmarish ending.

Themes

It’s always been claimed that if you die in your sleep you can die for real, but that has never been proven, no more than the idea that waking a sleepwalker will kill them has been shown to have any merit. This is a confusing one for me; the weakness of Hall’s heart doesn’t explain his wild imagination, and while he relates the story of staring at a picture till he believed it moved, it’s all a little up in the air. It is, in my view, a badly written episode with a Huh? kind of ending, never properly explained (though this can be said of many episodes, which leave you to draw your own conclusions) but it does explore the nightmare world dreams can be, and the power over people they can have. It’s also the first, I believe, to truly bring in supernatural elements rather than those usually found and used in science fiction.
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