The Twilight Zone

A Twilight Zone extravaganza! On both New Year’s Eve and New Years Day a science fiction channel had a Twilight Zone marathon. It was great. I’ve watched quite a few episodes of the 1960’s television series but I’ve seen many in the last two nights that were new to me. 

I used to study Twilight Zone episodes with my high school English students. They were great examples of short stories with interesting plots and characters and an underlying message or theme to make my students think. They were well written and employed plenty of literary devices. The following four proved most popular with my students. 

Time Enough At Last  is a 1959 Twilight Zone episode about a man named Henry Bemis whose obsession with literature causes him to neglect relationships. A nuclear disaster occurs while he is reading a book in the vault of the bank where he works as a teller.  He finds he is the last man on earth. Just when he is ready to kill himself, having realized that relationships are more vital to his life then he had thought, he stumbles upon a library and regains his will to live. Without job or family commitments he will have time enough at last to read to his heart’s content. But just then he breaks his glasses and can’t see the words in the books. It is a sad irony. The episode forces us to examine whether we would really be happier if we got exactly what we wanted. Time Enough At Last stars Burgess Meredith who would go on to play many other memorable characters like the Penguin in the Batman television series.

A Penny For Your Thoughts stars Dick York as Hector B. Poole a man who is suddenly able to read the minds of everyone around him. Although his new found powers prove disconcerting at first, eventually he is able to use them to his advantage both in his career and personal life. The episode makes us consider carefully whether it would really be a good thing to know what other people are thinking but also emphasizes that often we have misconceptions about people. They may be very different from the way they appear to others.

 

The Eye of the Beholder also picks up on the theme of appearance. A young woman named Janet Tyler has had plastic surgery to make her look less abhorrent. If it fails she will be sent away to live with other misfits like herself. When her face is finally revealed she is a gorgeous blonde but the surgeons exclaim at the failure of their procedure.  Then we see the faces of the medical personnel and they are grotesque. The episode raises good questions. What is beauty? Is there true beauty or is it all a cultural construct?

 

In A World of His Own a writer named Gregory West finds a way to bring to life the characters from his books. He also has the ability to make them disappear at will. He uses this power to create the perfect woman to be his companion. However he finds that his idea of the perfect woman doesn’t stay the same. So he makes another companion. But what to do with the first one? We may fantasize about being married to the person who is just right for us, but does that ideal really exist? Would we really be happier if we could change our mates at will, always searching for the perfect one?

The Twilight Zone was on television for five years and many thought-provoking episodes were produced. They are well worth watching. What next? I am wondering if I haven’t had some Twilight Zone worthy experiences in my own life I could write about. 

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