Director: Anton Leader
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Lois Nettleton, Betty Garde, Tom Reese, Jason Wingreen, June Ellis, and William Keene
Composer: Van Cleave
Air Date: 11/17/1961
Production Code: 4818
As the Earth approaches the sun at an accelerated rate, Norma (Lois Nettleton) and Mrs. Bronson (Betty Garde)—the last remaining residents of an old apartment complex—must endure extremely high temperatures on both a daily and nightly basis. Additional problems arise when a physically imposing, mentally unstable man (Tom Reese) breaks into the apartment and helps himself to a bottle of fresh water—the most valuable commodity on the entire planet.
Employing a doomsday scenario to expose the true (i.e. selfish and depraved) nature of the average human, “The Midnight Sun” deserves its reputation as a classic, insightful episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially phenomenal are the performances of Tom Reese, Betty Garde, and Lois Nettleton, which add an air of realism to the (exceedingly improbable) notion of the sun gradually engulfing the Earth over a span of several weeks.
Due to budgetary constraints and a running time of only twenty-five minutes, “The Midnight Sun” fails to convey the full and devastating extent of a worldwide apocalypse. Nevertheless, the premise of a modern society on the brink of collapse is made credible, engaging, and deeply unnerving by the reactions of Mrs. Bronson, a landlady who struggles to behave in a calm and rational manner when affected by heatstroke; Norma, an artist whose paintings of the sun seem to reflect a sense of impending doom—much in contrast to her ostensible optimism; and a housebreaker who, despite having been a “decent man” in the past, holds two women at gunpoint while stealing water from a refrigerator: convincing depictions of the panic, insanity, and hopelessness that would plague the human race during an extinction event.
Similar to “The Shelter” from earlier in season three, “The Midnight Sun” indicates that the majority of people remain civilized only when afforded the comforts and luxuries of an advanced civilization, instead abandoning concepts such as morality, altruism, and basic human decency upon reverting to survival mode.
A harrowing glimpse into the primitive side of man, “The Midnight Sun” should be commended for its compelling drama coupled with an apocalyptic setting. Also remarkable is the twist ending featured in this episode, which serves as a testament to the ability of Rod Serling—creator of and frequent contributor to The Twilight Zone—to skew the perception of his audience.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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