Every weekday, we’re going to review an episode of Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi/horror TV series “The Twilight Zone“. We’re starting from the beginning and we will be working our way through every episode the series has offered, including the episodes from the 80’s. You can see all the reviews right here.
“Elegy” – Directed by Douglas Heyes
Broadcast date: February 19th, 1960
Three astronauts land on an asteroid after nearly running out of gas. Opening the hatch, they see that they’re next to a farm that looks like it belongs on Earth, only they are supposedly 655 million miles from their home planet. The only thing that lets them know that they aren’t on Earth is the fact that there are two suns in the sky. Everything else appears just like their planet. However, all life forms seem to be frozen in place, which they notice with the farmer and his dog.
Venturing into a nearby town after hearing what sounds like a marching band, they realize the population of the town has frozen just like the farmer and his dog. They split up to see if they can find any information on what’s going on, to see if they can find even one person who can move. One of the astronauts loses it and yells at the audience of a beauty contest, demanding to know what’s wrong with everyone. As he runs away, one audience member turns his head and smiles.
As they resign themselves to the fate of living on this planet where no one seems to move, they begin to expect to take ownership of that which isn’t theirs. Their first take? A house where a man is sitting on the porch, seemingly reading a newspaper. They jokingly call out to him, only for him to drop the newspaper and converse with them. Shocked, they are in disbelief that this man is alive and can respond after so many people just stood there frozen. Calling himself Jeremy Wickwire, he offers them refreshments and begins explaining where they are: a cemetery. Supposedly, this asteroid allows people to live out their dreams after they’ve died, a service run by a company called Happy Glades. While some of the people in the town are dead, “living” out their fantasy, the rest are, as Wickwire calls them, “imitations”. His role is to be the caretaker, to ensure that no one is disturbed.
As they continue their discussion, suddenly it becomes clear that Wickwire has poisoned the drinks that he gave them earlier with something he calls the “eternifying liquid”. As they crumble to the ground and ask for an explanation for this betrayal, Wickwire explains that they are men, “…and while there are men there can be no peace.”
After they die, Wickwire poses them in their spaceship as though they are heading back home to Earth, which was the one wish, the one fantasy, they all shared.
I’m not sure what to make of this episode. Is it trying to comment on a person’s need to know what comes after death? Is it trying to address how we want control of our lives, even when we are no longer alive? Is it a “be careful what you wish for” morality tale? By trying to tackle each of these issues, the episode fails to delve into any of them effectively, which is a shame because these are great foundations for “The Twilight Zone”.
I will say that I appreciate that this is the first time that the show tried to accurately give an explanation as to why the astronauts could go on the surface of the asteroid without worrying about air or gravity. In the beginning, they run tests and calculate that they will be able to function just fine in the Earth-like circumstances.
Also, just because it’s the third time I’ve noticed it, the same house from “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” and “The Purple Testament” makes an appearance as the mayor’s home.
Sadly, this is not an episode that I found to be enjoyable. In fact, I’d rank it, so far, as one of the weakest of the season.