Director: Jack Smight
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, Jack Warden, John Dehner, and Jean Marsh
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Air Date: 11/13/1959
Production Code: 173-3602
Confined to an asteroid located millions of miles from Earth, convict James Corry (Jack Warden) eagerly awaits the return of a supply ship manned by Captain Allenby (John Dehner). To help numb the effects of perpetual isolation, Corry is given a female android named Alicia (Jean Marsh), but rejects her out of spite. Though Corry eventually comes to view Alicia as a human companion, a cruel twist of fate gets in the way of their relationship.
A sad but insightful episode, “The Lonely” expands on the premise first explored in “Where Is Everybody?” and offers a remarkable commentary on the human condition as a result. While the concept of a hospitable atmosphere existing on a lone asteroid is somewhat dubious, any scientific flaws can be excused in light of Rod Serling’s phenomenal character study.
A remote, arid location similar to an Earth desert allows the audience to form a fast emotional bond with the protagonist, even though Corry may in fact be guilty of the crime for which he was sentenced (certain narrative elements do, however, imply his innocence). Jack Warden’s exceptional performance likewise accentuates the desperate need for companionship felt by his character, while Jean Marsh portrayed Alicia with an almost child-like curiosity, thus giving viewers sufficient reason to feel satisfied once Corry finally accepts her as a friend and lover.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Whereas the aforementioned “Where Is Everybody?” operates on the notion that prolonged isolation can inflict serious harm upon the human psyche, “The Lonely” takes a bolder approach by forcing audiences to question the nature of companionship itself. On one hand, Serling never indicates whether Alicia is truly capable of experiencing life or sentience to the same degree as a human being, or if her apparent needs and emotional responses are merely a form of advanced mimicry. In spite of the uncertainty surrounding Alicia’s human qualities, Corry has no problem regarding the android as an equal after overcoming any initial prejudices stemming from his bitter outlook on life. As poignant as Corry’s relationship with Alicia may seem at first, the fact that a man in Corry’s position could so readily embrace a mechanical imitation of a living person only to react nonchalantly upon witnessing her destruction indicates that, in contrast to more romantic views on love and happiness, human bonds are often formed for selfish and temporary reasons, with only the strongest of ties transcending any physical barriers separating two distinct individuals.
By combining a bizarre but touching romance angle with science fiction themes, “The Lonely” will appeal to fans of The Twilight Zone. While Serling’s misanthropic perspective results in a decidedly downbeat ending, this episode nonetheless presents a thought-provoking commentary on the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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