Last year, prior to the months-long COVID lockdown, I recall having a conversation with a ‘kindred spirit’. He asked me if I knew about this TV series, The Twilight Zone. He said that it was ‘a really old series’. When I asked him if it aired in the nineties, he told me that it screened ‘ages and ages ago.’ He then related one of its eps.
Oldie but goodie
Apparently, there was this family guy who kept getting interrupted when he was trying to get work done. His kids were a handful; his wife never left him alone. So frustrated was the hombre that he exclaimed: ‘I wish everyone would just DIE.’
Suddenly, a great upheaval transpired. It destroyed the entire planet, including his meddlesome family. The father was the sole survivor of a species-level extinction. He got what he wished for. He had all the time to peruse his books. He even visited the library, which was like an Elysium of reads. His heart jumping in joy, he was ready to pounce on these titles. Suddenly, he realised that he lost his glasses. In his haste to get going, he stepped on his frames. Now, he had everything and yet nothing. He had every book at his disposal, but he couldn’t read ‘em without his spectacles. We shared a chuckle.
‘Should have gone to Specsavers,’ I told him. I was referring to the catchphrase by the eyewear giant.
That night, I did some web-based research on the ep. I found out that it was entitled ‘Time enough at last’ and featured a protagonist who was a show regular. It originally aired on November 1959. So ancient was the production that Time Enough was shot in black and white. I’m sure that my interlocutor wasn’t alive by then. He must’ve watched a rerun.The ep was noteworthy and was based on a short story. The show’s presenter, Rod Serling, regarded the ep as one of his favourites. Twilight Zone lasted for five seasons but it left an indelible imprint on American TV. To this day, the term ‘twilight zone’ is employed on something too unbelievable or bizarre for comprehension. Moreover, the programme has been considered as one of the finest US telly productions ever. Twilight Zone consistently charts on best shows lists.
There are a few interpretations of the ep. The overriding trope is ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Our perception may be to yearn for a different, better situation. However, the reality may not always meet our expectations. Before moving forward, human error must be factored. The reading scenario is likewise another theme. The protagonist, Henry Bemis’s voracity is at odds with the public, who could care less about pages. The ep implies that his family’s apathy toward books could be emblematic of future attitudes. Reading is clearly in decline.
The show’s ending highlighted the tensions of living in the Cold War. However, ironically, the sheer implausibility of Doomsday is what enabled the ep to be produced. Sterling stuck to his role, retaining poise even as the events turned darkly comic and unbelievable. His deadpan delivery is in stark contrast to the grimness on the screen. What was left unseen ultimately draws in the audience. The dangers of technology are also highlighted. Bemis has access to libraries, book stores, and universities. However, without his glasses, he’s unable to exploit these resources. Nowadays, we are blessed with the Internet and ebooks. The ep proves that, despite technological advancement, we remain – like Henry – indebted to wizard technology.
The glasses ‘crunch’ could be decontextualised further. The specs represents the quintessential tool of any trade. Imagine a hyped basketballer who joins a new team. He has all the skills and is even considered a mad player. However, upon joining his new squad, his teammates never pass him the rock. No matter how talented he is, no matter how much work he puts in, his new scenario becomes a nightmare. The lack of Spalding time severely negates his effectiveness.
Sometimes, having all the necessary resources is not enough. I recall this post on social media. A writer has all the ingredients ready but does not sight the biggest aid. The abundance of instruments so bewitches him that he fails to see the most obvious. Just like Henry, he is unable to maximise all his tools as a result of his lack of foresight. There was also this ep in Cobra Kai where Johnny angrily takes his laptop to the pawnshop. He wants a refund. It turns out that he did not press the power button.
‘Time Enough’ continues to resonate with the viewing public. Sixty years on, it is both an audience favourite and critics’ darling. The ep has been parodied in Modern Family, The Simpsons, and Futurama, among others.
I leave you with Rod Sterling’s closing monologue:
‘The best-laid plans of mice and men…and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deemed to himself. Mr Henry Bemis, now in the Twilight Zone.’