Alright, so Christmas proved to be a bust, let’s look onwards to New Year’s! New Year’s for me always means one thing: Twilight Zone Marathon. It’s been occurring on Syfy for as far back as I can remember and is one of my favorite yearly traditions. I’d say I’m way overdue for some Twilight Zone reviews and that’s what I’ll be delivering this week. I’d also like to point out that just because these reviews will probably be written in the same mocking tone I write everything, that doesn’t mean I have no respect for the show. Quite the opposite in face, I hold Twilight Zone in incredibly high regard as one of the best television shows of all time. Twilight Zone didn’t just make great sci-fi television, but it also elevated the genre to knew heights, using typical sci-fi tropes as allegories for social, political and philosophical issues.
Now, it’s not easy to find episodes to share with you on YouTube, so bear with me, because the selection may not be as great as I had planned. Also, please keep in mind that my screen grabs are coming off a YouTube video of a television program from 50 years ago.
Today’s episode is called “Nothing in the Dark” and here are your links:
We begin with an old woman, Wanda Dunn, asleep in her bed, being awoken by a commotion outside her window. Someone appears to be trying to break in, but is caught red handed by a police officer. Gunshots are exchanged, a car drives off and then there’s a knock at the old woman’s door.
Someone on the other side is calling for help, claiming they’ve been shot. The man identifies himself as a police officer, but Wanda refuses to believe him. She begs him to leave her alone, claiming she knows who he really is, and what he really is. With that, we cut to our host Rod Serling, for the episode’s introduction.
“An old woman living in a nightmare, an old woman who has fought a thousand battles with death and always won. Now she’s faced with a grim decision – whether or not to open a door. And in some strange and frightening way she knows that this seemingly ordinary door leads to the Twilight Zone.”
Wanda reluctantly opens the door a crack, to get a look at the man outside. She sees that the man appears to be telling the truth, he’s wearing a police officer’s uniform and seems to be in quite a bit of pain. The man identifies himself as Harold Belden, and begs the old woman to help him. Wanda, however, is still too frightened to open the door. Can’t say I blame her, judging by the lack of sunlight, it’s at least 6:30 at night, way past her bedtime.
Wanda explains that she can’t open the door, because she doesn’t want to die. It’s a sentiment that I’m sure Officer Belden, in his current state, can relate to. After a befuddled Belden continues to plead for his life, the woman finally unlocks her door, all the while mentioning that “It isn’t fair.” How dare a police officer get shot on your doorstep, while trying to stop someone from breaking into your house! The nerve on some people, I swear.
Wanda goes to help Belden up and after she first makes contact with him, remarks that she’s still alive. Happy with the fact that she didn’t drop dead as soon as she stepped outside, she helps Belden into her home. She sets him up in a bed and makes some tea, clearly relieved that he didn’t try to kill her. Later, Belden remarks that he’s feeling much better and will be able to leave whenever the doctor arrives. She informs him that she hasn’t called a doctor because she doesn’t have a phone, and she can’t use the neighbor’s phone because the neighbors have all moved away.
Wanda goes on to explain that even if she could call a doctor, she’d never actually let him in her house, because he could be…Mr. Death. She claims that Mr. Death has been trying to take her for several months, always coming to the door with a new disguise. Mr. Death pretended to be a man from the gas company and she turned him away, then he came disguised as a contractor, claiming her building was being condemned, but she refused to open the door and let him in. She’s managed to keep Mr. Death at bay, but it sure sounds like she’s let Mr. Dementia move all his stuff right in.
Wanda goes on to tell the story of her first brush with Mr. Death, which occurred on a bus. She was sitting across from an old woman who was knitting, when a young man boarded the bus and sat down next to the woman. When she dropped her yarn, he picked it up and gave it back to her, touching her hand as he did. When the bus reached its final destination, she was dead. She claims she’s seen Mr. Death countless times since then, always under a different guise. She also reveals that she hasn’t left her house in years and has a local boy buy her groceries for her. Belden is, understandably, skeptical of the old woman’s tales.
As Wanda is lamenting about her younger days, spent in the sun, far away from the darkness that she now lives in, there’s another knock at her door. She is once again terrified to open it, but Belden encourages her. The man at the door claims he has his orders and can’t wait any longer, then forces his way in, knocking the old woman to the ground.
The man is the same contractor she feared was Mr. Death. The man has helped her up and into her bed however, so Wanda’s fear of him has subsided. The problem remains though, that her building has been condemned and is due for demolition in a few hours time. The contractor explains that he’s not a monster and he’s just trying to do his job. The old woman remains terrified of the notion of leaving her house and begs Belden to help her explain the situation. The contractor seems confused by this, because he can’t see who she’s talking to. He seems to be saddened by the Wanda’s apparently dementia and leaves, but not before reminding her that if she’s still in her house in an hour, he’ll have to call the police. After the contractor leaves, Wanda confronts Belden about why he didn’t help her. Belden tell her to look in the mirror, and when she does, she sees only her own reflection, and not Belden’s.
Wanda chastises Belden for tricking her and getting her to let him into her house. When she asks why he didn’t just take her as soon as he got inside, Belden informs her that he had to gain her trust, that he had to make her understand that it wasn’t death that she feared, but rather the unknown. She still refuses to believe him, claiming that she doesn’t want to die, but he’s eventually able to talk her down and get her to take his hand.
He goes on to explain that she had nothing to fear, and that death, which she feared would be agonizing, and would come like an explosion, was completely painless and came only as a whisper. Relieved and finally ready to pass on, Wanda walks out with Belden, into the sunlight and into the next phase of her existence.
“There was an old woman who lived in a room and, like all of us, was frightened of the dark, but who discovered in the minute last fragment of her life that there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on. Object lesson for the more frightened amongst us, in or out of the Twilight Zone.”