Director: James Sheldon
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Cast: Dick York, June Dayton, Dan Tobin, Cyril Delevanti, Hayden Rorke, James Nolan, Frank London, Anthony Ray, and Patrick Waltz
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/3/1961
Production Code: 173-3650
Having gained telepathic powers at the toss of a coin, bank clerk Hector B. Poole (Dick York) discovers that Mr. Smithers (Cyril Delevanti)—an old, trustworthy, and unassuming employee—is thinking about stealing cash from the vault and escaping to Bermuda. At the behest of shy coworker Helen Turner (June Dayton), Hector informs the bank manager of Smithers’ ostensible plan, with an unexpected outcome.
“A Penny for Your Thoughts” makes refreshing use of an oft-employed trope (i.e. the mind is a terrible thing to read). Series enthusiasts are therefore advised to view this episode, which, for perhaps the first time in television history, details a potential drawback of telepathy.
Despite the simplicity of George Clayton Johnson’s narrative, “A Penny for Your Thoughts” will appeal to fans of science fiction with an ironic twist. Especially worth praising is the performance of Dick York, whose eccentric (albeit restrained) performance works to highlight the comedic material in Johnson’s aforementioned narrative; notably, the aloof manner of York’s character comes across as unrealistic in light of his extraordinary talent, thereby resulting in a humorous contrast.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
By blackmailing his employer in order to receive a promotion, Hector fails to maintain his image of moral superiority.
Operating on the premise that people rarely say what they mean and vice versa, “A Penny for Your Thoughts” should be commended for drawing attention to the absence of honesty, sincerity, and candidness in modern society. Specifically, Hector is met with superficial praise from acquaintances and coworkers on a daily basis; upon developing telepathic abilities, however, the young bank teller finds out that such niceties serve only to cloak the unpleasant, if not thoroughly two-faced, intentions of those around him. Though played strictly for laughs, Hector’s life circumstances remind the audience that actions, not words alone, should be evaluated when assessing the character of a human being.
A cute and amusing episode, “A Penny for Your Thoughts” demonstrates why apparent motives should not always be taken at face value, regardless of how good or bad said motives may seem. Viewers of The Twilight Zone may thus enjoy this offering, the primary lesson of which compensates for a lack of substantive content.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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