Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Twilight Zone -- Season 2 Episode 8 (The Lateness of the Hour)

One of the sad truths of Hollywood is that if you don’t get the ratings, you don’t get the cash.  In some cases, this means cancellation.  In other cases, it means episodes are made on a shoestring budget.  In the case of Star Trek, it meant both.  (The series was cut short, despite having to do many episodes entirely on the Enterprise during the third season.)

I would imagine that The Twilight Zone was never too good with the ratings.  The show has become a cult classic, but it was still a fantasy series when westerns were big.  Consider that it aired years before Star Trek, a show that was similarly considered different and groundbreaking.  Both shows also had a great many episodes that had one or two sets and a very limited cast.  In an effort to cut costs, Rod Serling was forced to shoot six episodes on videocassette, this one being the first.

The story is about an older couple and their daughter living entirely in their mansion.  All their needs are met by androids.  The Loren family wants for nothing.  Well, except the daughter, Jana.  Jana wants a little imperfection.  She wants to go outside and live life as normal people do.

What good is it to live in a sterile environment if it’s not fun or challenging?  She also seems to resent having artificial helpers.  She pleads with her father to get rid of them, finally threatening departure if he doesn’t.  It isn’t until after he’s destroyed them that she makes a startling realization.

Several things stand out.  First, I have to wonder how the parents could live like that without going stir crazy.  The daughter already seems to be at her wits’ end.  The parents see quite content.  It would seem that they’ve had enough of humanity.  They much prefer a controlled environment, including controlled people.

This brings me to my second point.  At some points, the parents would die.  I would imagine that Jana would no longer be obligated to stay in the house after they’re buried.  If this is the case, she would not be prepared to live on her own.  Even with a certain amount of counseling, she’d lack job experience.  I would imagine that if the estate could support three people, it would be enough for one, but I don’t think Jana’s the kind of person to sit around all day.  It’s also still possible that the money would run out, given inflation.

I would say it’s a testament to Serling and Co. that the episode came out as well as it did.  It’s a fairly contained episode that gives the obligatory twist at the end.  In that sense, it’s still satisfying.  It’s just that this is one of the episodes where a bigger budget might have helped.  Due to the video quality and a little overacting, it almost comes across as a soap opera.  It would be interesting to see what would have become of the episode with some more money.


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