The Twilight Zone Episode 30: A Stop at Willoughby

General Information

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, the-twilight-zone-a-stop-at-willoughbyfictional 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 ofthe-twilight-zone-a-stop-at-willoughby 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.






the-twilight-zone-a-stop-at-willoughby“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.


Concluding Comments

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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4 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 30: A Stop at Willoughby

  1. I liked this episode. Gart was miserable and feeling hopeless, plus stressed and run down beyond endurance. His job (“push!!push!!push!!!”) left him no room to come up for air, never-ending intense pressures. And as some people at a job/career like that may at least have a quiet and relaxing home to go to after the intense work day is up, not Gart. He has a gold digging, driving, heartless wife who wants him to spend every inch of his life, in and out of work, living by her means. The poor guy is left with no time to unwind, no time to be his own, enjoy his own personal endeavors. Well except for the short time on his train commute from work, with the friendly conductor who seems to be the only person in his life who respects him, and his only, only time where he can unwind and be alone with his own thoughts, his own dreams. His new truly hopeful and pleasant dream being a beautiful, serene place called Willoughby.
    Now, after his first “visit” to Willoughby, where Gart himself was saying it was a dream, I started picking up the possible notion that maybe it was not quite a dream like he though, since he did say he never before experienced anything quite like this. The “dream” of his two visits to Willoughby I believe may’ve been two near death experiences where Garts soul got a peek at heaven, which Willoughby was. Since Gart had gotten so incredibly run down from living a life he could no longer handle, his heart may’ve been giving out and he was basically dying, throughout the episode.
    When Gart passed out on the train the first two times, when he found himself on the Willoughby train stopped in Willoughby, and he was looking out at the serene beauty and tranquility, but he then revived and was back on the commuter train, he never got off the Willoughby train and had not been irreversibly dead yet. In the end when he got off the Willoughby train, he was then passed away completely. The moment Gart’s body jumped off the commuter train was simultaneous to the moment his soul got off the Willoughby train. They said he died instantly the minute he jumped off the commuter train, and that same minute was when his soul stepped off the Willoughby train. Every moment after that when Gart’s soul began walking away from the train into Willoughby, his body was dead and his soul was now in Willoughby, Heaven.

    Good episode. Other episodes which show the afterlife are “The hunt” with the old man Simpson and his faithful dog, and “Nothing in the dark”, although they don’t really show the afterlife there, but they show at the very end of the episode the old lady’s spirit having just left her dying body and Robert Redford, her guardian angel (who she thought before she died was Mr. Death) taking her.

    • That’s a nice interpretation of the ending – I like the idea of Willoughby representing “Heaven” as opposed to a literal dream.

      • And the sequence in how they showed it, the swinging pendulum on the Willoughby clock seemed in exact moment to the railway worker swinging his light, which also why I believe Gart’s official dying was in exact timing to the instant he stepped off the Willoughby train. And the reason he revived the first 2 times he saw Willoughby because he never got off the train. Also, the interesting point about his briefcase on the Willoughby train, he wasn’t quite able to get off the train the first 2 times and he was holding his briefcase, and I think he was finally starting to figure that point out at the end of his second visit just after reviving. The 3rd time, he clearly put his briefcase down and purposely left it on board, and he then suceeded in getting off the train. And think that may have been a metaphoric visual of how one’s soul needs to leave certain things behind him in his departing life before being able to enter heaven. At least that may be true if it’s something bad, and the briefcase was a part of his miserable job, which was just hurting him.

  2. When asked what my favorite TZ episode is, this one comes to mind. It is certainly one of the most memorable for me. I’m surprised it doesn’t make more top 10 lists.

    It definitely wants us to consider the possibility that Willoughby is the “last stop in the vast design of things”, which to me, signifies the afterlife, though probably not the Christian heaven. This hope is held in tension with the actual text of the episode which seems to suggest that it is a dream based upon “wishful thinking nestled in the back of a man’s mind”. The reveal that Willoughby’s counterpart in the real world is a funeral home hits like a ton of bricks despite already knowing of Gart’s death. That’s because it establishes that one must pay the ultimate price to enter Willoughby’s; his death can’t be viewed as mere coincidence or accident. With such high stakes, the unresolved tension between the paired interpretations haunts the audience with a lasting resonance.

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