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Old 03-19-2021, 05:39 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Title: “Time Enough At Last”
Original transmission date: November 20 1959
Written by: Rod Serling (from the short story by Lynn Venable)
Directed by: John Brahm
Starring: Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis
Jacqueline de Wit as Helen Bemis
Vaughn Taylor as Mr. Carsville
Lela Bliss as Mrs. Chester

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Loneliness, suicide, nuclear war, societal intolerance
Parodied? Multiple times, by among others Futurama, Simpsons, Family Guy
Rating: A++

Serling’s opening monologue

Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself... without anyone.

Henry Bemis is more interested in reading books than paying attention to his job as a bank teller, constantly short-changing people and messing up, and his boss is having no more of it. He issues an ultimatum: either Bemis stops reading at work and devotes himself to his job, or he’s fired. Fairly understandable really: you can skive off to the toilets and read if you’re not busy at work, but it’s a bit brazen to be reading at your desk. Bemis counters by explaining that his wife is totally against reading, and refuses to allow him do so at home. Mr. Carsville is not impressed and has no sympathy for the teller.

We see his wife’s shrewishness in sour action when she vindictively defaces one of his poetry books, telling him he is a child and should devote more time to her and less to books. We also see he is quite the hen-pecked husband, she a stern, unforgiving, vinegary old tart who probably thinks she married beneath her, he the quiet, submissive man just looking for a bit of peace and harmony, and willing to put up with her nasty ways.

The next day at work he takes his break as usual in the vault, snatching the opportunity to do some reading, and while down there he experiences a tremendous explosion. His fob watch face cracks and when he exits the vault he sees that some terrible disaster has struck and the world has been destroyed. Wandering out of the ruins of the bank and through the ruins of the city he sees he is alone. There is food enough to last him forever, but no human company. In the rubble he finds a gun, but just as he contemplates ending his torment he sees the ruins of the library, and suddenly is seized by a wild delight. All the books he could ever want to read, and all the time in the world, now, to read them!

The one thing that was weighing on his mind was the loneliness, having nothing to fill the empty hours, and now he has books. Books, books, books! Enough reading to occupy his mind until he dies.

And then, as he bends down to retrieve one book, his glasses slip off his face and crack. Unable to see without them, he is now surrounded by all the books he ever needed, and unable to read even a single one. As he says himself, it’s not fair.

Serling’s closing monologue

The best-laid plans of mice and men...and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis, in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

It’s a bit tough on the guy. The ending would have worked well enough had he been left there, sitting in the rubble of mankind’s empire, reading to his heart’s content. I feel it’s an unnecessarily cruel ending, especially when he was such a mild-mannered man, though to be fair he did get a little on my tits. Still, it’s kind of unexpected the first time you see it, and has provided fuel for so many parodies of this clever story.

The Moral

Not really sure. Initially it would seem to be a kind of version of the meek shall inherit the earth, but then it turns that on its head, so what lesson are we meant to learn from the ending?

And isn’t that…?

Burgess Meredith (1907 - 1997)
A famous Hollywood actor, popular for his roles in, among others, the Rocky franchise and as The Penguin in the classic sixties Batman series.

Personal notes

Classic though this episode is, and deservedly regarded as one of the best in the series, I find the speech patterns used by Mr. Carsville odd: he says things like “I will tell you something and this is the route by which I will approach it” and “I give my reaction thus”. It’s stilted and surely intentional, but I’m not sure what it’s meant to convey, other than to make the boss seem like the straight man in an Abbott and Costello movie or something.

Nasty and vindictive though it is for his wife to cross out all the poetry in his book, if you look at it from her side she could have been crueller. Considering Henry was hiding the book in his pocket, obviously intending to sneak off and read it later, would it not have made more of an impact upon him, and served her purposes better, had she not revealed her horrible deed beforehand? As it is, she goes out of character (which even he must suspect) and asks him to read to her. Yes, it raises his hopes but he can’t be fooled, can he? And how much more crushing would it have been for him to have thought he had beaten her, only to find she was two steps ahead of him in petty malice?

I also think the author got it wrong with Bemis. While reading is a solitary occupation usually, it’s not an antisocial one. We don’t closet ourselves away and read and then do nothing about it. We want to tell everyone about what we have read, how good it was (or not) and while Bemis does try to force his character summaries on the bank customer who is not in the least interested, this isn’t how it goes. You’ll tell someone you read a great book and IF they show interest THEN you MAY go on to describe roughly what it’s about. You will not give away character names, or plots, or twists, in case you convince that person to read the book themselves. And that is the biggest triumph any reader can hope for, that his or her love of a book will inspire others to try it.

Bemis though forces his appreciation of the books he reads on others, knowing (surely he must know) quite clearly they are not interested, and when someone tries desperately to get you into something or tell you about something for which you have not the slightest enthusiasm, you will actually resist their advances and think them rude to keep forcing them upon you. Obviously Bemis is never going to get his bitch wife to see the value in reading, nor his boss, who seems to consider such activities beneath him, so if he just shut up and read his book instead of drawing attention to what he’s doing, he would get on a lot better.

In a way, you can’t help but smirk at his fate, in the end, as he has become something of an annoying, opinionated, superior bastard and you’re kind of glad that he is surrounded by books he can never now read. Sort of poetic justice for foisting his obsession on others.

Oops!

Classic this episode might be, but it is rife with errors and inconsistencies. For one thing, Bemis escapes the (supposedly) nuclear holocaust by virtue of being in a bank vault. While some vaults are indeed underground, and would afford some protection from a standard bomb, they’re not by any means built to withstand a nuclear assault, so the bank vault should have been no safer than the rest of the bank.

Emerging into the shattered landscape, Bemis would have been walking into a highly toxic, radioactive atmosphere, yet he walks around, totally unaffected.

Similarly, the food he mentions that will last him forever would all also be contaminated, and unfit for human consumption.

The public library is knocked down but the books survive. Why? Surely fires raged through the place, which would have consumed the books and turned them to ash?

With his glasses broken, would it not have been possible for Bemis to find either replacements (from some unlucky corpse, of which there must have been many around) or even from an optician which might still be standing, as some of the buildings appear to be? At worst, he could surely rig up some sort of crude magnifying glass to enable him to read. He’s not blind, just very shortsighted. In time, with enough effort, this could be overcome.

When the explosion rocks the building, the face of Bemis’s watch cracks. Why, then, do not the lenses on his glasses?

Iconic?

Totally. This whole idea has become very popular in science fiction, mostly, as noted, through parodies, but also in other areas.

Themes

Again we’re looking into loneliness. When the Earth is destroyed, and Bemis wanders disconsolately through the ruins of his city, the isolation weighs heavily upon him, and he considers ending it all rather than face being alone for the rest of his life. America’s strange intolerance for “readers”, even this far back, comes up here, with Bemis considered odd and strange, a bookworm and, used pejoratively, a reader. Almost as if to read is an undesirable trait. But Bemis can also be accused of societal intolerance; all he wants to do is read his books, and badger others about how great they are, so in a way he’s withdrawing from society in the same manner as Barbara in “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”, sinking into his own world and refusing to engage in the real one. A balance could be struck, but neither Bemis nor his harridan wife wish to consider a compromise.

The ever-present fear of nuclear war and MAD (Mutally Assured Destruction) that hung over America - and indeed, the world - during the worst years of the Cold War is clearly evident here. We’re not told what happened to destroy the world, but Bemis is reading an article about how deadly the H-Bomb is just before the incident, so we can probably assume a nuclear strike.
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Old 07-26-2021, 03:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Shame you abandoned this one, Trolls. I happen to be a big Twiliight Zone fan and could have easily have done an episode guide of my own (though not as detailed as you- I have other things to do you know ).

Anyway, I can tell you some of my favorite episodes though starting with The Howling Man, It's a Good Life, The Obsolete Man, To Serve Man, and Living Doll among others. Wasn't as big a fan of Nightmare at 20,000 feet though though it had nothing to do with Shatner (he's great in Nick of Time). Just didn't impress me as much as it did others.

Anyway, hope you come back with this. Would be interested in reading even if I'm just peeking in.
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Old 07-26-2021, 08:03 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Hey, Stan! Long time!

I certainly haven't abandoned it, just nobody seems too interested (and I thought it would be a topic that might fire some memories, but I guess not - hardly a single comment) so I'm concentrating on other stuff. Have you seen my History of Country Music journal? Anyway I have up to halfway through season two written. If you want to see it now, go to www.sffworld.com and check my thread there, but I will be updating this in due course.

Nice to see you again. How've ya been?
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Old 07-27-2021, 05:05 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Hanging in there. Left the writing forum on my own terms and won't be back. Our music posts are still there but they're pretty much buried in the "tavern" which is they're version of the lounge these days (I don't even think they count as posts). Anyway, just seeing how everyone is doing.
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Old 07-27-2021, 02:11 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Yeah I went back to check something and it was like "Woah! Is this the right URL? Everything looks completely different!" Just took my stuff and checked out of there. Looks really corporate now, doesn't it?
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Old 07-27-2021, 02:33 PM   #16 (permalink)
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It's sad. Definitely not what the previous owner had in mind when he turned it over to PiP.
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Old 07-29-2021, 07:05 PM   #17 (permalink)
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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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Old 07-29-2021, 07:14 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Title: “Judgement Night”
Original transmission date: December 4 1959
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: John Brahm
Starring: Nehemiah Persoff as Carl Lanser
Ben Wright as Captain Wilbur
Patrick Macnee as First Officer
James Franciscus as Lt. Mueller
Hugh Sanders as Potter
Leslie Bradley as Major Devereaux
Deirdre Owens as Miss Stanley
Kendrick Huxham as Bartender
Barry Bernard as Engineer
Richard Peel as 1st Steward
Donald Journeaux as 2nd Steward

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Second World War, 1942
Theme(s): Punishment and retribution
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A-

Serling’s opening monologue

Her name is the S.S. Queen of Glasgow. Her registry: British. Gross tonnage: five thousand. Age: Indeterminate. At this moment she's one day out of Liverpool, her destination New York. Duly recorded on the ship's log is the sailing time, course to destination, weather conditions, temperature, longitude and latitude. But what is never recorded in a log is the fear that washes over a deck like fog and ocean spray. Fear like the throbbing strokes of engine pistons, each like a heartbeat, parceling out of every hour into breathless minutes of watching, waiting and dreading... For the year is 1942, and this particular ship has lost its convoy. It travels alone like an aged blind thing groping through the unfriendly dark, stalked by unseen periscopes of steel killers. Yes, the Queen of Glasgow is a frightened ship, and she carries with her a premonition of death.

A supply ship which has become separated from the convoy steams through the fog of the North Atlantic during World War II, fearing attack from German U-Boats. Carl Lanser, standing out on deck, seems very disoriented and even surprised to find himself here. He seems to know a lot about U-Boats, as he discourses at the captain’s table - not with the sense of someone imparting information he is glad or even arrogant to supply, but as someone who dreads every word that falls from his own mouth. When the captain jokingly remarks that Lanser knows so much about U-Boats he might be a captain of one, Lanser drops his coffee cup and gets very agitated. He hurriedly excuses himself and goes back out on deck.

While there, he talks to Miss Stanley, an officer who is on board, and confides to her that she looks familiar - indeed, they all do: Lanser has the uncomfortable feeling he has lived through all of this before. And it’s not just deja vu - he can’t remember how he got on board and there are other things he can’t recall, or says he can’t. He does confirm he is German, born in Frankfurt, but can’t or won’t say why he was in England, nor what he does for a living. He almost lets it slip, it seems, to Miss Stanley, but either forgets or stops himself revealing his secret.*

He’s called up to the bridge where the captain questions him and asks him to provide his passport, but he says he must have left it in his cabin. While unpacking, the valet finds a German U-Boat captain’s hat, which Lanser snatches off him, only to see his own name stitched into the lining. Up on the bridge, the captain of the ship asks his engineer to increase speed, but is told the engines need to rest. In the bar, Lanser says he can hear that the engines are not in the best, and that something terrible is going to happen at 1:15 AM. He doesn’t know what, but there’s only an hour to go.

When he sees a light out at sea he panics and runs around telling everyone it’s the U-Boat and they must abandon ship, but the people appear and then disappear without a word. Taking the binoculars and looking at the U-Boat he sees… himself, looking back at him as the crew prepare the guns to attack. As the ship goes down he dives into the water and next thing we see is him on the U-Boat, exulting about sinking the British vessel, while his second agonises over killing unarmed men and women, and theorising that perhaps they are now damned, damned to sink the same ship every night, to experience the terror and death of the crew for all eternity. Perhaps, he says, there is a special Hell for people like us.

*(It’s not much of a secret is it? He’s obviously the captain of a U-Boat, one from which he has been mysteriously transported onto this ship, which is now going to be hunted down and sunk by his own crew)

Serling’s closing monologue

The S.S. Queen of Glasgow, heading for New York, and the time is 1942. For one man it is always 1942—and this man will ride the ghost ship every night for eternity. This is what is meant by paying the fiddler. This is the comeuppance awaiting every man when the ledger of his life is opened and examined, the tally made, and then the reward or the penalty paid. And in the case of Carl Lanser, former Kapitan Lieutenant, Navy of the Third Reich, this is the penalty. This is the justice meted out. This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

A little predictable, though back then probably quite fresh. Given the man’s name and his admission to be German, or at least having been born there, it’s relatively obvious that he’s the U-Boat captain. If we needed any more confirmation, his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the attack strategies of the wolf pack seals the deal. Sort of interesting that he’s in both places at once; makes the ending a little more cerebral.

The Moral

Defenceless ships should not be legitimate targets, though you can bet that had the positions been reversed the Allies would have had no compunction about sinking German or Japanese supply ships. One of the conceits of war: it’s always the enemy who’s evil, never you. It was a cowardly tactic in the North Atlantic, even with the understanding that Hitler was attempting to starve Britain into submission - the idea of attacking unarmed ships is repugnant, and there doesn’t seem to be much on record from the Kriegsmarine in the way of protests from their crews or captains at these tactics.

Oops!

The lady on board is referred to as Miss Stanley, yet she clearly displays a sergeant’s stripes on her arm, so should she not be addressed as Sergeant Stanley? Is this not a male conceit, to kind of indicate that a woman officer is nothing more than a girl pretending at playing at being in the military? It’s not only Lanser who refers to her as such, but her commanding officer too.

The U-Boat surfaces to shell the freighter, and Lanser has already said the target is usually a convoy. This is true, however I’ve seen in Das Boot that the subs would readily pursue a straggler, and would always take it down with a torpedo, only surfacing when the ship was done for. After all, you never know what might be in the area. So I think Serling’s understanding of U-Boat tactics is flawed here.

Iconic?

Not really; it’s just retreading in its own way the old ghost story of the Flying Dutchman, isn’t it?

And isn’t that…?

Patrick Macnee (1922 - 2015)

Famous British actor, best known for his role as the suave John Steed in the adventure/spy series The Avengers and its later spinoff The New Avengers.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

Why is it that Lanser does not fall immediately under suspicion? Yes, the captain has his doubts, but fails to act quickly upon them. This is 1942, the height of the Second World War and the Battle of the Atlantic. There’s a German on his ship who can neither account for his reason for being there or what his role is. He seems confused and disoriented but knows a fuckload about U-Boats. Why are they not clapping him in irons right away?

Themes

The main one here is punishment; for having attacked a defenceless freighter the captain is condemned to relive the sinking of that ship - with him on board - throughout eternity. There is also a basic theme that while war itself may not necessarily be wrong, it should be conducted along certain inviolable principles, one of the most important of which should be that civilians should not be considered targets. There is of course a supernatural element to this too, and other than the church bells in “Where is Everybody?” and the vague half-reference at the end of “One For the Angels”, I believe this is the first time God is specifically mentioned.
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Old 07-29-2021, 07:24 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Title: “And When the Sky Was Opened”
Original transmission date: December 11 1959
Written by: Rod Serling (from the short story by Richard Matheson)
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Starring: Rod Taylor as Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes

Charles Aidman as Colonel Ed Harrington
Jim Hutton as Major William Gart
Maxine Cooper as Amy
Sue Randall as Nurse
Paul Bryar as Bartender
Joe Bassett as Medical officer
Gloria Pall as Girl in bar
Elizabeth Fielding as Blond Nurse


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: The near future (I tried to get a date from the newspaper but it’s too blurred)
Theme(s): Alienation, fear, panic, paranoia, a sense of not belonging, cover-up/conspiracy
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A


Serling’s opening monologue

Her name: X-20. Her type: an experimental interceptor. Recent history: a crash landing in the Mojave Desert after a thirty-one hour flight nine hundred miles into space. Incidental data: the ship, with the men who flew her, disappeared from the radar screen for twenty-four hours...But the shrouds that cover mysteries are not always made out of a tarpaulin, as this man will soon find out on the other side of a hospital door.


Having returned from an experimental flight into space, their aircraft crashed in the desert, one of the pilots visits the other in hospital, and he’s agitated. He tries to explain to his friend that there were originally three of them, but nobody - including the man in the bed - remembers the third officer. Forbes, the guy trying to convince the other guy, Gart, remembers the third officer, Harrington, after they had hit a bar started feeling really strange and weak, and said he felt as if he didn’t belong here anymore. When he goes to phone his parents, Harrington is shocked and scared to find that they don’t seem to know him; they say they have no son. He advances the theory that maybe he wasn’t supposed to come back. Maybe none of them were. Maybe it was… an error? Something that shouldn’t have let them through slipped up and did?

Forbes goes to get him a drink but then picks up a newspaper from one of the tables. Instead of the headline he read earlier, proclaiming THREE SPACEMEN RETURN, now there are only two spoken of, like the paper he saw in the hospital room, the one Gart showed him. Turning around, he sees the phone booth Harrington was in now empty, and the barman can’t remember him coming in with anyone, says he was alone. The drink Harrington dropped a moment ago, the smashed glass, is gone, the floor completely clean as if it has never happened. Angry and confused, Forbes runs out of the bar.

He goes back to his motel room and puts in a call to Anderson Air Force Base, and while he waits for the return call his wife arrives, but he can’t convince her either; she seems never to have heard of Ed Harrington, as if the man never existed. As his desperation increases, the base rings back, but they never heard of any officer named Harrington. Running off again, Forbes goes back to the bar, thinking his pal is in there hiding, that it’s all some elaborate joke, but of course he’s nowhere to be seen.

That was yesterday, now he’s back in the room with Gart, who still can’t understand who he means when he talks of Harrington. Something Ed said comes to Forbes though, something about him not having been meant to be here. Suddenly terrified when he can no longer see his reflection in the mirror, he rushes out, and suddenly nobody knows who he is. He’s vanished too, leaving only Gart, alone now in a one-bed room that had been three, then two. He picks up the paper, half-knowing and fully dreading what he’ll see, and he sees it. The headline: LONE SPACEMAN RETURNS.

And then, he’s gone too. The room is empty, and nobody remembers any of the three space pilots, their historic flight, or the craft they flew in. They’ve been erased from time.

Serling’s closing monologue

Once upon a time, there was a man named Harrington, a man named Forbes, a man named Gart. They used to exist, but don't any longer. Someone – or something – took them somewhere. At least they are no longer a part of the memory of man. And as to the X-20 supposed to be housed here in this hangar, this, too, does not exist. And if any of you have any questions concerning an aircraft and three men who flew her, speak softly of them – and only in – The Twilight Zone

The Resolution

Like a large percentage of episodes, there is no explanation for why the three space pilots vanish from existence. A vague, half-hearted theory is expounded by Harrington, essentially that God (though God is not mentioned) made a mistake letting them come back home, that they were never supposed to. But the lack of a logical reason for what happens does not lessen the impact; in ways, it only strengthens it. You can see the progression, as the newspaper headline changes from three spacemen to two to one, but it’s still something of a shock when, at the end, the nurse opens the bedroom in which up to then three men had been recovering and tells the general that it is empty.

The Moral

None, other than sometimes things are not meant to be, or maybe even God slips up occasionally, but that time always rights itself one way or the other.

Personal notes

You have to give it to Forbes. When asked by a ravishing beauty at the bar what it was like up in space, he can only come up with “it was really… out there.” Like something a hippy might say, even though they haven’t been invented yet. Smooth!

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Weird to see two guys happily smoking in a hospital ward. Wouldn’t even be able to smoke in the building these days!

Oops!

Forbes crashes right through the door of the bar, but doesn’t seem to sustain any appreciable injuries. This seems unlikely. Not only that, no alarm goes off. Is there no security in a bar of all places, where there’s expensive equipment, booze and maybe money?

Questions, and sometimes, Answers


How is it that of the three of them only Forbes remembers events before Harrington vanishes? He remembers Ed being there, remembers drinking with him, remembers the original headline and his own note for a telegram to his wife, telling her they were both at the motel, though when he gets the note and uses it to try to convince her he’s not gone crazy, it has only his name on it. Gart does not remember Harrington at all, so why does Forbes? Is it because he spent so much of what would turn out to be the last moments of Harrington’s existence with him, while Gart stayed behind in the hospital?

And if Gart does not remember Harrington, how is it that, moments before he too vanishes, he remembers Forbes existing when nobody else does? What happens to the newspaper headline? Does it no longer exist? Have the timelines realigned so that the mission never took place, or was the craft mysteriously (sorry) lost in space?

And isn’t that…?


Rod Taylor (1930 - 2015)

Who needs to be told who this man is? Famous for, among other movies, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, worked with movie giants Rock Hudson and James Dean, as well as his female namesake Elizabeth Taylor on Giant.


Jim Hutton (1934 - 1979)

Famed for, among other things, but mostly, his role as sleuth Ellery Queen in the TV series of the same name which was very popular in the 1970s.


Sue Randall (1935 - 1984)

Found fame as the teacher Miss Landers in the American sitcom Leave it to Beaver

Themes

Loss of self, mostly; usually a condition of the mind, where one finds oneself not belonging, alien, an outsider. In this episode the feeling is literal, as the contention is that none of these men should have come back, and now time is reasserting itself and “cleaning up the mistake” by erasing them from existence. In an odd way, there are echoes of George Orwell’s seminal novel Nineteen Eighty-Four here, where the Ministry of Information constantly changes newspaper articles, editing out or changing the faces, names and deeds of people no longer considered loyal to the Party. Here though, the editor is unseen (said to be God) and the intent is not malicious revenge nor a desire to punish or obfuscate, but the natural realignment of the time line.

Paranoia and panic are evident here too, and why wouldn’t they be, when everything you have taken to be true is suddenly turned upside-down, and you’re the only one who seems to remember how things were? How do you maintain your sanity in the face of every other person telling you you’re wrong, that it didn’t happen that way, that your friend never existed? And how much more does that panic increase when you begin to literally fade away?

There could also be an oblique reference to military cover-ups here. When something doesn’t go to plan, and there are those left who can expose the error, quite often (at least in fiction) they are tracked and hunted down and killed, so that any embarrassing evidence is erased. Forbes even suspects, wildly, everyone of being involved in some massive conspiracy to drive him mad, though he refers to it as a “gag”.
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Old 07-30-2021, 08:09 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I think I'm going to rank my Twilight Zones (you know me and my having to rank everything)

Interesting notes: Patrick Macnee apparently liked to play ship captains. He also played one on the Columbo episode, Troubled Waters.

And, in case you didn't know, Jim Hutton (who died fairly young, in the eighties I think) has a son you might know as Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Taps, The Falcon and the Snowman).
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