The Twilight Zone (1959) -The Lonely, Time Enough at Last, and Perchance to Dream

Paramount Pictures takes me deeper into the Twilight Zone this week as I continue my exploration of the dark reaches of the mind and psyche with The Complete Series blu-ray set.

The first episode this week was The Lonely. Penned by Rod Serling, and having an original airdate of 13 November, 1959, this story definitely ventured further into science fiction territory.

The tale follows a lonely convict, James Corry (Jack Warden), who is doing his time in solitary confinement on a distant asteroid. When his supplies arrive via Captain Allenby (John Dehner), Corry is given a companion in the form of the robotic, yet human looking Alicia (Jean Marsh – who was just in this past Saturday’s Doctor Who).

I really like Warden’s performance in this episode. He plays the loneliness so well, and the eagerness he shows to interact, to make small talk, to play even a simple game when Allenby shows up is almost heart-breaking. Until we’re reminded he is a convicted murderer serving 50 years.

The use of Death Valley as a location definitely helps to convey the loneliness Corry is experiencing and serves as a stark backdrop as he becomes more accepting of his robotic companion.

Things take a twist when Allenby returns and gives Corry a terrible choice…

Yet another strong story, with Warden turning in a fine performance. Also, watch for an uncredited appearance by Ted Knight

There are a slew of extras for this episode, including three different commentaries, an isolated music score featuring Bernard Herrmann, a radio adaptation with Mike Starr.

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Time Enough at Last is an iconic episode, and stars the wonderful Burgess Meredith. Serling’s teleplay is based on a short story by Lynn Venable, and originally aired on 20 November, 1959.

Meredith is the bespectacled Henry Bemis. He’s a book lover, in fact a lover of the written word whether it’s in a book or not. He just never gets a chance to settle down and explore all the classic tales he wants to read; his job, his life, everything seems to get in his way. His rather vindictive wife, Helen Bemis (Jacqueline deWit) just won’t leave the poor man alone.

When a nuclear war wipes out most of mankind, Bemis realises that now, there is nothing to prevent him from reading his fill. There will be no one to bother him. Nothing could possibly go wrong now… right?

It’s a wonderfully charming and fanciful tale, one of Serling’s personal favourites, mine as well. Meredith is, as he always was, a joy to behold as he works.

This is one of the first episodes to present the ironic twist at the climax of the story. It has been copied and lampooned for years, but that doesn’t affect its poignancy. Though, let’s be honest, there is no way Bemis would survive for too long after a nuclear explosion. Fanciful and oh so classic.

This is a great episode.

The extras this time around feature a commentary, a 1978 interview with Meredith, and a radio adaptation starring Tim Kazurinsky.

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The last excursion into the Zone this week is Perchance to Dream. This is the first episode not penned by Serling. It was written by Charles Beaumont and aired on 27 November, 1959.

The story follows Edward Hall (Richard Conte), who despite being fatigued to the extreme, is resisting sleep. He explains to Doctor  Rathmann (John Larch) that he has not slept in days, as he fears that a dream he has been having is progressing to an undeniable end, his death.

It seems he believes an evil woman, Maya (Suzanne Lloyd) the Cat Woman, has been stalking him, and will finally kill him in his next dream.

There are some troubling images as we relive Hall’s dreams, and his encounters with Maya in his nocturnal ramblings shift from the erotic to the dangerous.

Coming on the heels of one of the series most beloved and greatest episodes, this one has a lot to live up to. And it doesn’t quite pull it off. It doesn’t have the Serling touch, and the story ends up being a touch too surreal to actually be scary or unnerving.

If the episode had been shot in colour, one could imagine it being lewd and garish, like the cover of a pulp novel pushing the sexuality and surreal imagery of the carnival Hall’s dreams take place in, but for me, this one falls a little short.

The extras that round out this week’s final episode are an interview with Suzanne Lloyd, an isolated score by Van Cleave and a radio adaptation (and these are pretty great) starring Fred Willard.

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series is available from Paramount now!

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