Spoiler Warning! This post contains spoilers for the end of specific episodes of The Twilight Zone.
For January, we are starting a new series, all starting with “Help, I’m Trapped…” In this series, the main characters are trapped, either literally or figuratively somewhere and cannot initially break free. This series will be beginning with one of the most famous “trapped” series, The Twilight Zone. This 1959-1964 series was created by Rod Serling, considered one of the most brilliant television writers of his day. This series was known for its science fiction and fantasy plots with a twist ending, the ending often being ironic or humorous ending relating directly to the situation in the episode. Because, for four of the five seasons, the episodes were only a half hour, the individual shows were tight and concise. This show inspired two follow-up series, but without the guidance of Rod Serling, both shows floundered and were cancelled quickly.
In “Time Enough at Last,” a glasses wearing bookworm, Henry Bemis would rather read than interact with people. He is an insufferable bank teller who ignores his customers to read David Copperfield and makes his wife read his own poetry. He takes his lunch in the bank vault so he cannot be interrupted from his reading. On one of his lunch breaks in the vault, an atomic bomb detonates and he finds himself alone in the world. At first, he is distraught at being the last man alive in a sea of destruction. But then he sees the library, with many of the books left un-destroyed. Henry is happy again, happier than he ever thought possible…until his glasses fall off of his face and break apart. Henry Bemis is doomed to be trapped alone in a world full of books, with no way to read them.
In “Eye of the Beholder,” Janet Tyler is a woman whose face is covered with bandages. Other than Janet’s bandaged face, no faces are seen in the first part of the episode. While there were vague descriptions of what was done to her face (“injections,” to name one), it definitely made clear from the doctors and nurses and Janet Tyler that has a hideous face and is trying to have a normal one. She has had her last and eleventh treatment, and cannot be worked on again. Finally, she is ready to be uncovered, and underneath the bandages reveals…a beautiful woman in her 20s. The doctor steps back in shock and says, “No change, no change at all.” It is then revealed at that the doctors, nurses and everyone in the hospital are pig nosed creatures with sunken eyes and twisted lips. They are all horrified by her appearance, and Janet runs away from them. She is then found by a man, who has another “hideous” face. He convinces her to join him in exile in a village of her own kind. Janet is trapped having a “hideous” face in a sea of pig-nosed people, never to be regarded as normal.
In both of these stories, the characters are trapped, but in entirely different ways. Henry Bemis was trapped in his own “perfect world” without a way to enjoy that perfect world. Janet Tyler was trapped with a traditional face of beauty when everyone found their own faces normal and attractive, and she considered herself hideous. Many, many other episodes also featured characters trapped, either by their own design or by the design of outside forces which relate so well to the situation presented. Thus, every single character in the The Twilight Zone is trapped, never to return to the normal world.