Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: Telly Savalas, Mary La Roche, and Tracy Stratford
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Air Date: 11/1/1963
Production Code: 2621
When his stepdaughter Christie (Tracy Stratford) brings home a doll named Talky Tina, Erich Streator (Telly Savalas) confronts his wife Annabelle (Mary La Roche) over the purchase. Before long, Tina begins expressing her hatred for Erich—unable to convince his wife of the doll’s true intentions.
Likely the most iconic episode of The Twilight Zone, “Living Doll” benefits from topnotch acting, chilling dialogue, and realistic drama. Especially disturbing are the interactions between Erich and Tina, which explore the psychological state of a troubled father.
Though overused in horror fiction, the demonic doll trope maintains a terrifying impact throughout this episode. Notably, the subtle creepiness of Tina’s voice, movements, and conversations with Erich add a menacing quality to the doll, which, in contrast to Chucky from Child’s Play, has the appearance of an innocent and unassuming children’s toy.
Also worth praising is the characterization of Erich, who, despite saying many cruel and unforgivable things to Christie, succeeds in evoking pity from the audience. On more than one occasion, for example, Erich prepares to make amends with his wife and stepdaughter only for Tina—driven by sadism and malice—to goad the main character into behaving abusively, allowing the viewer to sympathize with his predicament.
Closing with an abrupt and mean-spirited twist ending, “Living Doll” may offend those of a sensitive nature.
Representing the fears, doubts, and insecurities of a new father, the Tina character indicates that those who lack the skill, patience, and dedication to excel at child-rearing should avoid parenthood at all costs. Note, for instance, that Erich is never presented as a terrible human being in spite of his harsh and awkward treatment of Christie, suggesting that even good people can fail miserably when raising children without proper guidance.
“Living Doll” is a classic, insightful entry of The Twilight Zone. In addition to its effective use of horror clichés, this offering examines the dark side of parenting through a creepy, supernatural story device.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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