Director: Douglas Heyes
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Maxine Stuart, William D. Gordon, Jennifer Howard, George Keymas, Joanna Heyes, Edson Stroll, and Donna Douglas
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Air Date: 11/11/1960
Production Code: 173-3640
Disfigured patient Janet Tyler (Maxine Stuart and Donna Douglas) eagerly awaits the outcome of her eleventh medical procedure, the mandatory number designated by the state. If unaffected by treatment, Janet will be forcibly moved to a colony consisting of those with deformities similar to her own.
“Eye of the Beholder” creates a nightmarish world from the limited surroundings in which it takes place. Especially worth praising, the voice and mannerisms of Maxine Stuart convey the emotional anguish that one would expect a lifetime of rejection to elicit—an aspect that makes credible a fantastic, if not immediately obvious, fictional reality.
A series of obscuring camera angles are initially employed in order to conceal the true nature of Rod Serling’s dystopian society and the “normal” citizens that compose it, thereby encompassing Janet Tyler and her caretakers with an intriguing layer of mystery—an outcome that, when coupled with Janet’s claustrophobic, suffocating reaction to the bandages that imprison her, generates a compelling air of suspense prior the unforgettable twist ending for which “Eye of the Beholder” is so iconic.
“Eye of the Beholder” contains a poignant commentary on the cruel, ineffective methods utilized by the state when dealing with “undesirables” who, having been arbitrarily classified as such, are often relocated to artificially erected communities (e.g. prisons, mental wards, segregated neighborhoods, etc.) so as to avoid interfering with the lives of so-called ordinary people. Note that in spite of her “grotesque” appearance, Janet fervently desires to be a productive member of society even at the expense of her own dignity—a sad testament to the fact that many governments would rather exile, incarcerate, or exterminate outcasts than allow such individuals to fulfill their God-given potential.
The quintessential episode of The Twilight Zone, “Eye of the Beholder” suggests that the value of a human being can never be assessed by superficial measures alone. Also commendable is Janet’s reveal in the final sequence, which, though somewhat predictable in retrospect, demonstrates a meticulous attention to detail that will appeal to both casual viewers and diehard Serling fans.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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