Monday, February 12, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 24 (Long Live Walter Jameson)

The concepts of long life and immortality are nothing new.  Dracula stayed young by drinking blood.  Dorian Gray had his portrait.  Doctor Who has no shortage of long-lived and immortal characters.  There’s even the Highlander franchise based around the idea of people living forever.  Most of these fictional characters have to deal with immortality on some level.  It usually comes at a price, whether stated up front or discovered over the years

Walter Jameson is a well-liked history professor.  It would seem that he has a rare insight into the subject that he teaches.  He reads from a journal of  Maj. Hugh Skelton as if he were there.  After the lecture ends, fellow professor and friend Sam Kittridge invites Walter over for dinner.  This time, it’s Sam asking and not his daughter, Susanna.  You see Susanna and Walter are engaged to be married.  This is with Sam’s blessing, but that’s about to change.

After dinner, Sam sends Susanna upstairs to study for her Ph.D.  He has to talk to Walter about a picture that he found in a book -- a picture of  Maj. Hugh Skelton.  Maj. Skelton looks exactly like Walter, down to the ring that Walter is wearing.  After Sam’s repeated query as to how old Walter is, Walter finally admits that he’s old enough to have known Plato.

Walter has lived all those lives under assumed names.  Susana won’t be his first wife.  He’s watched several others grow old, although he hasn’t stuck around long enough to bury any of them.  He usually skipped town before any of them noticed Walter’s lack of aging.  Sam’s not too keen on his daughter marrying someone who will probably leave her, too.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter; Walter’s past catches up with him.

The episode does deal a little with the issues of immortality.  Most of it is about Sam calling Walter on his secret, but they get into a discussion of the side effects of longevity.  Having to watch friends and loved ones wither and die isn’t fun.  And it’s bad enough for someone who became immortal around 30 or 40. Sam is about 70.  What would happen if aging stopped while you were already succumbing to old age?  Would it really be worth it to have to live out eternity with chronic pain?

Walter isn’t immune to injury.  His gift only stopped the aging process.  He’s apparently come close to death a few times.  It’s also not mentioned the possible downsides, like inadvertently marrying one of your descendants.  (It’s not mentioned if he even kept track of his families or to what extent.)  Then again, the story isn’t about that.  It’s about the curse of living forever.  As the saying goes, the gods will often punish us by granting the one thing we want most.

1 comment :

Raymond Louis Llompart said...

I have enjoyed your posts, which I find on the IDB (?), but interestingly, this post is not a critique but a description. I wonder why you bother! Aaah, well.....
Myself, I just joined Netflix and am seeing them in order and last night got to this one...A KNOCK OUT!!!
The best of ALL 24!!
I was astounded that the episode did not depend on anything but dialogue-----and certainly no "cheap twist" at the end. Sober! Haunting!!
It was almost perfection (within its context, of course---this is not Bergman!!)

Thank You

(Hope you are doing well with this "Twilight Zone" that we are REALLY living right now!!)