Where Is Everybody?
“There is a Fifth Dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between Light and Shadow, between Science and Superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of Imagination. It is an area which we call…the Twilight Zone”
So begins our journey through the Twilight Zone, starting with episode 1: Where is Everybody? Starring Earl Holliman, who impressively carries the episode by himself, and narrated by Rod Serling, the series’ creator.
But let’s carry on shall we? After all, the Twilight Zone is ephemeral and fleeting and it might just pass us by if we’re not careful.
Rod Serling: The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey.
The episode opens with a man in overalls strolling down a pleasant road and finding a small diner. Going in he soon realizes that the place is empty, despite a jukebox playing loudly. Reaching in his pocket he discovers some American money, a couple of bucks worth. He’s a bit relieved to discover at least his own nationality, as, it’s soon revealed, he has amnesia. He cannot remember who he is, where he’s from or even how he got there. But he knows he’s hungry and wants some breakfast, unfortunately for him there’s no one to oblige so he grabs a cup of coffee and heads down the road a bit more, eventually finding a small town.
Small Town, America also appears to be empty, though there is a bell tolling in the square. Apparently about 45 minutes have gone by since the diner as the clock he accidentally broke there said 6:15 and the bell is tolling 7. But perhaps not as in a few minutes it starts tolling 4. He strolls around town for a bit, looking for people until he finds what appears to be a woman sitting in a car across the street. He approaches the car, telling her (and us) that he has amnesia, and that he’s looking for anyone at all in the town. He approaches her door and opens it. She tumbles out and oops! It’s a mannequin. He very politely sticks her back in the truck and goes off searching some more.
Most of the episode is him wandering aimlessly through an empty town, looking for signs of life. He begins to suspect someone may be watching and listening. The payphone rings; momentarily trapping him inside, he finds a cigar still burning in the police station, a movie playing by itself in a theater. He becomes convinced that he’s dreaming and wants desperately to wake up.In a drugstore he stops in to help himself to some ice cream, quote a little Charles Dickens and spin a few book racks. Ironically, the fourth rack he spins is filled with one book: The Last Man on Earth.
The local school tells us that Small Town, America’s name is Oakwood. Night is falling in Oakwood and he’s doing what any rational person would do when trapped in a town by himself, he’s sitting on a park bench, playing Tic Tac Toe. Strangely enough the street lamps come on and the theater is lit up. Approaching, he looks at the movie poster (Battle Hymn with Rock Hudson and Martha Hyer). He recognizes his jumpsuit on the picture and deduces that he’s in the Air Force. Now if he could only understand what it means. He theorizes that perhaps there was a bomb but quickly dismisses it as none of the buildings are destroyed, just the people seem to be missing.
He goes slightly crazy and runs around a it, smack into a bike. He’s seriously freaking out now, repeating “Help Me” over and over while pressing a crossing light button. As the picture pulls back we see that there are people watching, military, Air Force-type people. The Guy in Charge gives orders to “Get him out of there!”
They rush over to a small cubicle with a man strapped to electrodes and such inside. He’s banging on a clock (6:15) and repeating “Help me”. Apparently it was all an experiment designed to see how long, and if, a man would ‘crack’ under the strain of being alone.in a space shuttle for a few orbits around the moon. The episode ends with Bud telling the moon to wait right there, they’ll be along shortly.
Serling: Up there, up there, in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky. Up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars, waiting, waiting with the patience of eons forever waiting, in the Twilight Zone.
Not a very auspicious beginning for the Twilight Zone, perhaps, but a decently written and acted episode. Earl Holliman does a great job of carrying the episode by himself without getting over-the-top hammy and it keeps up the suspense well throughout. The ‘twist’ reveal isn’t quite so strong as in others. It’s basically a solid episode but ultimately just that. Nothing stands out much and it’s end moral seems to be ‘People need people’.
I had a few questions about it, really just one nitpick that stood out for me. Bud has been in that isolation cube for almost two weeks, being monitored with electrodes. But there were no IV’s or tubes or anything so how did he get fed and hydrated enough to stay alive with no human interaction?
Next week’s episode is one of my favorites: One for the Angels. So, join me back here while we delve into it.
As always, any comments or suggestions are appreciated along with any constructive criticism on how to make it better.