Are you who you think you are?
What if you aren’t?
Alan Talbot wasn’t and big changes were in store for him, just as it was for the entire Twilight Zone television series.
In season 4, The Twilight Zone was lengthened to hour-long episodes. The title was also one-third shorter, now just Twilight Zone. The stories that were tightly conveyed now seemed to be padded with filler. They seemed to wander and it was easy to forget what was happening during the commercial breaks.
Of course, just like everything in Twilight Zone, there are opposing opinions. I read an article by someone who felt that The Outer Limits stories were more developed than Twilight Zone because of their length, at least the half-hour episodes in seasons 1, 2, 3 and 5. Here’s where I disagree. When I’ve watched The Outer Limits, I’ve found the stories to frequently lose focus and get off course.
Consider the stories that they are telling. In both of these TV series, it’s all about the story more than anything else. It’s not the set decoration or the actors or anything else. Most of the plots can be summarized in a few sentences, so why do you need an hour to relate them on a TV show? All too often, it turns out to be padding; extra scenes that really aren’t necessary.
The hour-long episodes made it more difficult for them to be included in the package once the series went into syndication. Have you wondered why season 4 is not offered by Netflix and other services? That partially explains it.
Another change was that Rod Serling had accepted a teaching position at his alma mater, Antioch College, so he wasn’t available to write as many episodes. He flew out to California and taped several introduction scenes at one time.
In His Image
The first episode of season 4 is “In His Image” and it is regarded as one of the better episodes from season 4. In this story, Alan Talbot first has trouble hearing strange noises. In a rage, he pushes an old woman into a speeding subway train. Dismissing it, he goes to his fiancee’s apartment in New York City, and he and Jessica drive to his hometown, a small community. However, everything that he knew has changed; buildings are gone, stores don’t exist and someone else is living in his house. Jessica urges him to leave and go back to New York, but on their drive out of town, he forces her to stop and he runs from the car. Gripping a rock in his hand, he screams at her to leave immediately. Alan is afraid that he will kill Jessica as he had killed the old woman the day before.
Jessica leaves and Alan goes back into town. After he checks into a hotel room, the phone rings and a man named Walter Ryder asks him to come to his home. Alan does so and is shocked when he meets Walter–he looks exactly like him. Walter explains that he is a genius and created Alan, who is actually a robot, because he wants to make a perfect version of himself. Alan is actually his third attempt at the perfect robotic being. Alan and Walter struggle, and Alan is left broken and lying on the floor in Walter’s basement laboratory. Next, we see Walter at Jessica’s front door, asking her to marry him.
“In His Image” was written by Charles Beaumont and reminds me very much of “The Lateness of the Hour” from season 2 with Inger Stevens and written by Rod Serling. At the end of the story, she discovers that she is not the old couple’s daughter, but a manufactured android or being of sorts, created in the old man’s laboratory as a replacement for the daughter they could never have.
I do feel that “In His Image” has quite a bit of filler and it could definitely have been shortened to fit the half-hour format. Just one shot of Alan hearing buzzing noises at the beginning would have been sufficient. The crazy lady trying to convince Alan that he needed salvation at the subway station went on way too long. Just one or two shots of Alan being perplexed at the changes in his hometown would have done the job. Even the drive that Alan and Jessica took from New York City up to Coeurville could have been filmed in a few seconds, not a minute or more. There are several scenes that could be left out and the story would advance just as well.
It’s interesting that Alan’s hometown is Coeurville, as coeur is the French word for heart, something that Alan lacked.
George Grizzard, portraying both Alan and Walter, had appeared in a previous Twilight Zone episode, “The Chaser,” from season 1 where he bought a love potion to win his true love. Grizzard had been in many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents before he found his way into the Twilight Zone, and went on to a long career in TV and movies.
Gail Kobe, who portrays the somewhat bewildered fiancee, Jessica, had also appeared in a season 1 episode, “A World of Difference,” and would go on to appear in season 5’s “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.” I really enjoyed both of those episodes and the acting of Gail Kobe is first rate. She is a beautiful, understated actress, charming and graceful. Following her appearance on Twilight Zone, she had a short TV career, then spent a lot of time behind the camera as a supervising producer and associate producer in the soap opera world.
The fanatical religious woman on the subway platform is clumsy and awkward. No wonder Alan pushed her into the train! However, if she hadn’t given him the religious pamphlet, he wouldn’t have written Jessica’s address on it and Walter wouldn’t have know where to find her.
I have to wonder about Jessica and why she stuck with Alan. After all, she had only known him for four days when she agreed to marry him. His very odd behavior should have been a huge red flag that this is someone she should run away from as fast as she could. Jessica was smarter than that, even if she had fallen in love with Alan.
I also wonder what will happen when Walter’s abandoned laboratory is discovered. It has to be eventually, even if it takes years. He has just left the house empty and at some point the city will come in to investigate. What would they do with the manufactured men that were lying there amongst the ruins?
Interesting questions from the Twilight Zone.