The Twilight Zone Episode 20: Elegy

Technical Specs

Director: Douglas Hayes

Writer: Charles Beaumont

Cast: Cecil Kellaway, Jeff Morrow, Don Dubbins, and Kevin Hagen

Composer: Van Cleave

Air Date: 2/19/1960

Production Code: 173-3625

 

Overview

Astronauts Kurt Meyers (Jeff Morrow), Peter Kirby (Don Dubbins), and James Webber (Kevin Hagen) arrive on a world reminiscent of 1950s America, the residents of which turn out to be human statues forever frozen in time. Shortly thereafter, an eccentric old man springs to life and introduces himself as Jeremy Wickwire the-twilight-zone-elegy(Cecil Kellaway)—the caretaker of a most peculiar cemetery.

“Elegy” operates on a potentially fascinating premise, but takes an inordinate amount of time to reveal the true nature of its picture-perfect reality. Those who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its misanthropic qualities are nonetheless advised to view this episode; a mean-spirited conclusion may, however, disturb audiences of a sensitive inclination.

 

Pros

the-twilight-zone-elegyThough lacking in character development, “Elegy” benefits from the outstanding performances of an exceptional cast. Don Dubbins’ hot-headed portrayal of Peter Kirby in particular works to complement the more reserved demeanor of Kevin Hagen’s astronaut captain, who maintains his composure even during the most stressful of circumstances. Also commendable is the sense of levity that Cecil Kellaway brought to an otherwise dire situation, which provides a fittingly bizarre counter to the somber characteristics embodied by his “guests.”

 

Cons

Quite unlike “Where Is Everybody?” from earlier in season one, “Elegy” fails to generate and maintain the ominous tension that one would expect while exploring a community which appears to be devoid of residents—a flaw that can be attributed, at least in part, to the insufferable pace at which Charles the-twilight-zone-elegyBeaumont’s narrative tends to unfold.

Also problematic is the inconsistent tone, which often varies between atmospheric horror and ironic but not-so-subtle comedy without ever bothering to provide a suitable balance between both genres. If the cruel attempts at humor had been excised altogether, perhaps Beaumont’s underlying commentary on the human capacity for destruction would have delivered a more profound impact.

 

Analysis

the-twilight-zone-elegyBy punishing a band of innocent explorers for the sins of all mankind, “Elegy” demonstrates a remarkable disdain for humanity stemming from the view that eternal peace can be attained only after every last person has been purged from existence (in contrast, science fiction visionary Gene Roddenberry promoted unity, not annihilation, as a means of averting potential conflicts). While optimistic fans may scoff at Beaumont’s bleak solution to the human problem, this episode will appeal to those who agree with the rather extreme notion that eradication of life would be preferable to the inevitable suffering that future generations will be forced to endure.

 

Concluding Comments

A mixed bag, “Elegy” employs a number of devices that will no doubt intrigue science fiction enthusiasts. Additionally relevant is the final message delivered by Wickwire, which takes the misanthropic perspectives held by Rod Serling and others to a haunting but logical conclusion.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

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2 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 20: Elegy

  1. I agree with your middling review. The only really notable aspect of this episode is the visuals of people frozen in time. It’s a great concept and has good enough acting and production values, so I don’t know why it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, it just felt flat.

    • I enjoyed this episode. It isn’t my very favorite, but most of it works in an interesting way. Like when the three men first get out of their spaceship, due to the trees, farmhouse, etc., we are successfully made for a minute to believe that they landed back on earth, until they point out that there are two suns. Because that moment was before the men saw the first frozen in place man and frozen in place dog on that farm they were on.
      I liked the bewilderment of the men as they roamed about town finding people and events frozen in place everywhere, and it’s almost believable for a moment when the idea of time moving slowly came up, like you can’t see the hands on a clock move, but they still move.
      I’m not sure why the men decided to split up, I think it would make more sense to stay together in such a strange place. But I think that was just an excuse to show us more rooms and places of everything/ everyone frozen still. I kinda liked the different examples; a mayoral election, a bandstand, a beauty competition, a romantic couple dancing, people fishing by a ricer, etc.
      The added character Mr. Wirewick was definitely suspicious looking in almost a criminal mastermind with class kinda way, like the rich mastermind criminal in Superman 3.
      I do believe that the men should’ve known better than to have drank the glasses of wine that Mr. Wirewick gave them, especially after all that they’ve seen and it was after Mr. Wirewick already explained about the whole place being a cemetery and the other people frozen were clearly all victims eternally frozen.
      Other than that, I enjoyed the episode.