THE TWILIGHT ZONE: “WALKING DISTANCE” ( 1959 )

 

I am joining A Shroud of Thoughts blogathon and will talk about one of my favorite tv episodes from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

FAVOURITE TV SHOW EPISODE BLOGATHON

TWILIGHT ZONE ( I )My favorite Twilight Zone episode has to be  “WALKING DISTANCE.” It aired October 1959 in Season 1 as Episode 5 of the famed series, and is one of the most poignant episodes I’ve ever seen. GIG YOUNG plays Martin Sloan, a Madison Avenue advertising exec, who winds up near his old hometown when his car needs servicing. 

TWILIGHT ZONE ( XII )

“Martin Sloan. Age 36. Occupation, Vice-President of an ad agency in charge of Media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn’t know it at the time, but he’s looking for something. And somewhere up the road, he’ll find something else.”

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While waiting for his car to be ready,  he walks into town. He strolls through the old neighborhood, fully expecting it to be changed after twenty-five years. But it hasn’t changed. It’s surprisingly the same; wonderfully the same…eerily the same.

TWILIGHT ZONE ( VI ) TWILIGHT ZONE ( III )

He talks to a neighborhood kid who is playing with marbles. ( Check out the kid above. ) The reveal in this Twilight Zone” episode is like Easter eggs hidden in plain sight for the first couple of minutes. A fountain soda still costs a dime…passersby seen from the drugstore window have clothes from another era. A 1934 roadster with a rumble seat is brand new…right off the Detroit assembly-line. Martin has gone back in time.

TWILIGHT ZONE - XXVITWILIGHT ZONE - XXVIIThis episode is more than the metaphor of coming face-to-face with your past. [ And its really not like going to ‘Willoughby’ either. ] Happens that Martin runs smack dab into his past…literally. He accidentally finds his younger self carving his name into a fence. See, the plot gets trippy now. He has memories of carving his name when he was a kid, but now SEES himself doing just that.

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A scene that puts a lump in my throat happens when Martin goes back to his old home and sees his parents. Alive.

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This older couple doesn’t recognize this man who calls them ‘Mom’ and ‘Pop.’ They’re confused as to how this stranger knows so much about their family. Martin’s desperation frightens his mother. He has i.d. to prove who he is, but she wants no part of this and slaps him. The door is slammed in his face. I liken this scene to the moment in “It’s A Wonderful Life” when George Bailey visits wife Mary at the library and she has no idea who he is. 

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Martin doesn’t get a real chance to talk to his younger self. Would a little boy even be developmentally ready to understand what his adult self has to say to him? Is the price of being human such that we must make our own mistakes no matter how much we’re warned? Or is it something more Einstein-y and scientific? Can the past and future NOT operate in the same space, but only exist as ships that pass in the night?
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Martin finds himself again, this time on a carousel. He frightens his younger self. When young Martin runs away, he falls off the carousel hurting his leg. I freaked because this accident causes the Adult Martin to buckle in pain as his leg gives way as well. You see, when the future tries to impact the past…it only changes itself.

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“No more merry go rounds. No more cotton candy. No more band concerts. I only wanted to tell you that this is a wonderful time. Now. Here. That’s all, Martin. That’s all I wanted to tell you. God help me. That’s all.”

TWILIGHT ZONE ( XIII )Hmmm. Thats all Martin? To be honest, I don’t know if I really believe what he says there. Who would not want a second chance.

The great Bernard Herrmann scores this episode with music that shreds me. I’ve never heard a better use of his music ( not counting Vertigo and his other great film scores ) than with this episode. You can listen to the score HERE though I don’t see the episode on-line. The poignancy grips me when Martin’s father comes to talk to him. The voice and quiet empathetic understanding of Frank Overton as his father moves me. 

 TWILIGHT ZONE ( X )

Martins Father: “It says your driver’s license expires in 1960. That’s twenty-five years from now…I know who you are. I know you’ve come a long way from here. A long way and a long time. But I don’t understand how or why. Do you? But you do know other things, don’t you Martin? Things that’ll happen.”

Martin:  “Yes I do.”

Martins Father: “Martin?”

Martin:  “Yes, Pop.”

Martins Father: “You have to leave here. There’s no room. No place. Do you understand that?”

Martin: “I see that now, but I don’t understand. Why not?”

Martins Father: “I guess because we only get one chance. Maybe there’s only one summer to every customer. That little boy, the one who belongs here. This is his summer, just as it was yours, once. Don’t make him share it.”

Its poignant when he has to send his grown son away to save the son he has right now. He doesn’t really understand…but he wants to comfort, his son.

TWILIGHT ZONE ( FRANK OVERTON ) TWILIGHT ZONE ( GIG YOUNG )

“You’ve been looking behind you Martin. Try looking ahead.”

 

I urge you to check out this Robert Stevens directed episode. You may not be able to change your past, but it may help you appreciate what you have now…and how you may change your future.

I’m not the only one who has a favorite tv episode. Click this banner for more favorites:

TWILIGHT ZONE ( XX ) BLOGATHON

 

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18 thoughts on “THE TWILIGHT ZONE: “WALKING DISTANCE” ( 1959 )

  1. This episode is the first track on a DVD set I have of “TZ Favorites”., which also contains the aforementioned “Willoughby” episode and many of the ones you would come to expect on such a collection. The heartwarming ones like this one are great. But I always had an affinity for ones that evoked irony. “The Old Man in the Cave” episode has stuck with me for over 30 years, even though I only saw it once on a marathon showing of old TZ shows back in the early 80’s.

    I did enjoy reading your entry. Reminded me its been a while since I looked at that DVD set I have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Quiggy. I appreciate your reading and commenting. I love “The Twilight Zone” and many of the show’s episodes have also stuck with me over the years. What great writing and acting that show had, didn’t it. Thank you again. Now go pull out that DVD set of yours.

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    • Dear Wendy,

      This is the exact reaction this episode elicits from me. It’s so poignant, it hurts my heart…especially when his Dad tells him to go back; that we all only get one summer. I also think Bernard Herrmann’s music clinches the deal, don’t you? Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Theresa

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  2. And I thought I had seen all of the Twilight Zone episodes. This one sounds sweet in The Twilight Zone way and by your great post. Can’t wait to track it down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please Cc, do try and find it. It’s wonderful. I hope I haven’t given anything away (( SPOILERS! )) but it’s worth seeing how it’s acted and plays out. It’s such a dear episode…and I’m not a big Gig Young fan. If you find it, write back your thoughts. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. I lived an hour from Rod Serling’s home town of Binghamton. This is a great film and you did a great service by putting some of the dialogue in your critique. There are a lot of episodes that elicit an empathetic response, too many to list, and this is certainly one of them. I think we need to understand that many of the stories were written by WW2 veterans, Serling and Rbt. Matheson to name two, who saw their share of suffering, who saw young soldiers die before having a chance to live a life and civilians who also had to suffer. One thing that is missing from TZone is bitterness, or cynicism. As you brought out in the dialogue the Dad asks his ‘elder’ son, not to take more than what is his, and to be thankful that he had the opportunity to have memories that he can take with him. I’m getting long-winded.
    As for my favorite episode: WOW! From the first season: THE LONELY Jack Warden is a convict sentenced to solitary on a planet, who is given a robot for company. He is pardoned but must leave his companion behind. A great episode, and check out the actors: Jack Warden, Jean Marsh, John Dehner, James Turley, and Ted Baxter..

    This is what a great show does, it perseveres and elicits discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello there Robert. Whoa! Your comment gives me pause in its eloquence. I didn’t know that Matheson or Serling were vets. That would inform their world-view…the things they’ve seen. I recall “The Lonely.” What IS love? WHO do we LOVE? “The Twilight Zone” didn’t ask the easy questions or have easy answers. What a thought-provoking show.

      Your “long-windedness” (definitely with quotes! ) is quite welcome because you’re giving a full-throated response to my whimsy of “pick a favorite tv episode.” I thank you so much for taking the time for your very lovely comment. Not just that you liked what I wrote…but that YOU wrote…write so well. Thank you!

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  4. I’ve been sharing “The Twilight Zone” with my daughter recently. We have yet to reach “Walking Distance”. It will be a special day.

    The kid is studying animation in college and in a class devoted to writing the teacher shared episodes of “The Twilight Zone”. She reports fellow students were suitably impressed. I’m impressed with the teacher. There is hope.

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  5. Love the Rod Serling and his Twilight Zone! I try to show at least one episode in support of a lesson per year (usually “Monsters are Due on Maple Street” in 7th and “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” in 8th). The kiddos enjoy it so much, they ask to watch more TZ episodes during the last week of school.

    I’ve never seen this episode. It sounds similar to “Spur of the Moment” (Season 5) which has lingered in my mind since I first viewed it as a kid. Very powerful material.

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    • Oh man you just named two great episodes ( ahhh the one with Donna Douglas. ) I’m often bringing up “…Maple Street” as an example of how easy it is to scare Americans…earthlings. I hope you get a chance to see “Walking Distance.” As I’ve said already, it’s a touching episode, and Bernard Herrmann’s music makes it so good. Thank you for weighing in here Bonnie.

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  6. Marvin.Go see Mary Poppins; you won't be sorry, and Victor, Victoria as well! See you at Gee Whiz. on said:

    I too love this episode. I think that the line telling Martin that he’s been looking behind and should try looking ahead says it all. Don’t get stuck in your past rather remember it, appreciate it, learn from it, live in the present and create your own future. Just as a note, my personal favorite Twilight Zone episode remains “Steel” starring Lee Marvin; check it out!

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    • Hi Marvin…sage advice from you and “The Twilight Zone.” Create your own future. Tell me a little of this Lee Marvin episode. I don’t think I know “Steel.” Thanx for commenting.

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  7. This is one of my all time favourite TZ episodes. A lot of people seem to remember the scary ones, but The Twilight Zone could be touching as well. Walking Distance certainly succeeds at that! You did a great job of covering it! Thanks for participating in the blogathon.

    Liked by 1 person

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