The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series. -JP
#25 - New Additions to the Collection, from “Elegy,” season one, episode 20
Written by Charles Beaumont, directed by Douglas Heyes, starring Cecil Kellaway, Kevin Hagen, Don Dubbins, Jeff Morrow
Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy” is the perfect combination of the whimsical and the macabre, leading the viewer onward through a place of familiarity only to pull the rug out from beneath them at the end. Though Beaumont borrowed from Ray Bradbury’s classic short story “Mars is Heaven!” (1948; included in The Martian Chronicles as “The Third Expedition”), he adds the perfect amount of dark humor and foreboding atmosphere to the story to make it his own. The uneasiness of walking through a group of motionless, life-like figures is a motif which the series would revisit time and again, in “The After Hours,” “Still Valley,” “The New Exhibit,” and “A Kind of Stopwatch.” Though several of the figures can be seen to move in “Elegy,” this somehow adds to the creepiness of the episode. Cecil Kellaway gives a memorable performance as the kind yet sinister automaton Jeremy Wickwire. One scene which is memorably unnerving is the beauty pageant scene, which was a last minute addition to the teleplay. The final scene in which the tableau of dead astronauts are maintained by Wickwire remains a macabre high point in the first season. “Elegy” marks the second appearance of director Douglas Heyes on the show (after the episode “And When the Sky Was Opened”). Heyes was arguably the director most suited to The Twilight Zone and his work on the series is the finest among any director to helm an episode, including as it does the classic episodes “The After Hours,” “The Howling Man,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and “The Invaders.”
-Beaumont’s short story originally appeared in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Beaumont’s friend and fellow writer William F. Nolan included “Elegy” in his 1970 science fiction anthology A Sea of Space (Bantam). In his introduction to the story, Nolan indicates that Beaumont wrote the story several years before its original publication and that the story was written under the guidance of Beaumont’s literary mentor Ray Bradbury, likely accounting for its similarity to Bradbury’s own short story “Mars is Heaven!,” which also concerns a group of astronauts that land in an unfamiliar place (in this case the planet Mars) and are eventually killed by the planet’s inhabitants and memorialized in a mock funeral.
Read our full coverage of “Elegy” here.