Director: Robert Parrish
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, James Daly, Howard Smith, Patricia Donahue, Jason Wingreen, Mavis Neal, and James Maloney
Composer: Nathan Scott
Air Date: 5/6/1960
Production Code: 173-3629
Fed up with the demands of his boss, Oliver Misrell (Howard Smith), and the cold-hearted manner of his wife Janie (Patricia Donohue), ad agency executive Gart Williams (James Daly) dreams of a place called Willoughby—a serene, fictional town from the year 1888. Before long, Gart decides to make a permanent home for himself in Willoughby, where simple pleasures and friendly people await him.
“A Stop at Willoughby” is a poignant tale about one man’s desire to escape the nightmare of an average white collar existence. Perhaps most exceptional of all, the performance of James Daly (known to science fiction fans for appearing in Planet of the Apes and Star Trek’s “Requiem for Methuselah”) adds a realistic element to the dream life experienced by his character.
For encouraging viewers to assume the perspective of its main character, this classic episode of The Twilight Zone should be praised. Notably, “A Stop at Willoughby” often emphasizes, even to the point of hyperbole, every irritating aspect of Gart Williams’ work and home life, thereby forcing the audience to feel tremendous compassion for the protagonist. Especially irksome are the motivational clichés recited by Misrell, which, when repeated on a loop, will certainly drive the average person out of his or her skin—likely a deliberate means of prompting sympathy for Gart, who has no choice but to deal with such nonsense on a daily basis.
“A Stop at Willoughby” contains a harrowing critique of modern society, highlighting the contempt, misery, and isolation that it breeds. Specifically, Rod Serling’s narrative draws attention to the fact that, unlike in centuries past, humans are now required to live in perpetual competition with one another, producing an environment that any sane man (e.g. Gart Williams) would undoubtedly wish to escape. Despite offering no solutions other than suicide, Serling’s commentary on the present state of human affairs should be commended for its insightful, if depressing, implications.
Arguably the most emotionally stirring episode of The Twilight Zone, “A Stop at Willoughby” will surely tug the heartstrings of those with a sensitive nature. For this reason among others, Serling enthusiasts would be wise to view this offering.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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