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
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 (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.
Though 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.”
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 Beaumont’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.
By 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.
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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