The last episode I looked at was one of the newest in my collection of episodes shown in the television room of the Geeky Eejit. Now I am going all the way back to one of the earliest episodes on the schedule. Let me introduce Time Enough at Last from the first season of The Twilight Zone.
Henry Bemis is a reader, an obsessive one at that, and all he wants to do is read and share his experiences with the ones around him. The problem is that everyone in his life wants him to stop, to the point where his wife wilfully destroys a poetry book. One lunchtime while reading in the vault at work there is an explosion, and he finds himself as the last man alive in a desolate world.
The first half of the episode is Henry told that he is wasting his time, and that he should be like everyone else. That’s something that I can relate to. In the bad old days, it was easy to be ostracised for simply being a geek. You feel sorry for Henry as all he wants to do is be left alone and just read.
Burgess Meredith is best known as either the Penguin from the Adam West era Batman, or as Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill. Here he plays Henry Bemis to perfection. During the second half of the episode, he is the only actor on screen and his despair on what has happened around him is palpable. It pulls your heart strings when he calls out for his wife, even though you know that she isn’t good for him.
When he finds the library at the end, you feel glad for him not just because he can continue his obsession, but that he has found something that takes away his sadness that everything has happened.
The twist at the end, takes an episode that is really good and makes it iconic. It is the irony that everything has now been taken away from him. He saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a train heading towards him.
One last question. If they remade this episode today, how would they mess this up? You know that they would try and over complicate the story. You could definitely improve the sets, but otherwise I would leave it as it is. Not bad for an episode that is nearly sixty years old. How many episodes of TV have aged that well?
Something to watch out for: Look at the route Henry and his boss takes the bosses office. Cracks me up every time.