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Recap / The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E20: "Elegy"
aka: The Twilight Zone S 1 E 20 Elegy

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"As long as there are men, there can be no peace."

Rod Serling: The time is the day after tomorrow. The place: a far corner of the universe. A cast of characters: three men, lost amongst the stars. Three men sharing the common urgency of all men lost - they're looking for home. And in a moment, they'll find home; not a home that is a place to be seen but a strange, unexplainable experience to be felt.

Air date: Feb. 19, 1960

In the year 2185, three astronauts, Peter Kirby, Kurt Meyers, and James Webber, land on an asteroid orbiting two suns. Everything on this asteroid looks like mid-20th century America, only all the people there are frozen in place. Realizing that they can't leave the asteroid without fuel for their ship, the trio are aware that they'll have to settle in this disturbing place for the time being. While moving through the town, the three finally encounter someone that moves and talks: Jeremy Wickwire, a humanoid robot who acts as caretaker of the asteroid. He explains that the asteroid was actually by the Happy Glades Mortuary, turned into an interstellar graveyard where those who could afford it could "experience" the dreams they were never able to achieve in life, like being elected mayor or winning a beauty contest. A genial host, Wickwire serves the astronauts drinks while asking them about the news from Earth. They explain that there was an atomic war in 1985, and Earth is still rebuilding. He also asks them about their greatest desire, and the astronauts agree that what they want most is to return to Earth in their ship. They suddenly begin to fall to the floor, realizing that they've been poisoned. When they ask Wickwire why he's doing this, the automatic caretaker explains "As long as there are men, there can be no peace." Sometime later, Wickwire is arranging the trio's preserved bodies inside their ship, complete with a flag, achieving in death the dream they did not achieve in life.


Tropegy:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the short story, the caretaker of the cemetery and the most rational crewman are named Mr. Greypoole and Mr. Friden respectively. In the television adaptation, their names are Jeremy Wickwire and Professor Kurt Meyers.
  • Adaptation Species Change: In the short story, caretaker Mr. Greypoole is a human who became a cyborg after being augmented with artificial parts to restore his health and keep him alive for centuries. In the television adaptation, Jeremy Wickwire is a robot.
  • Asteroid Thicket: One of the astronauts explains that they went through a meteor storm, which caused them to run low on fuel. The only way they could experience a meteor storm is if the asteroid field they passed through was unusually thick and dangerous.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After hearing that the entire asteroid is a mausoleum for rich people to achieve their greatest wishes in death, Wickwire asks what the astronauts' own deepest request would be. They tell him that they want to hop into their ship and return home... and he grants their wish through some potent poison.
  • Binary Suns: The asteroid Happy Glades' is built upon resides in a solar system with two suns.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The astronauts are poisoned by Wickwire, but they get what they desired in the end, as he arranges their bodies to be in their ship, heading for home.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Wickwire's explanation of the asteroid.
    Wickwire: We have many sections. There's the Roman, the Egyptian, the Wild Western, but this is the most popular, because it represents a period in American culture when creature comforts were most abundant, and before peace on Earth became impossible.
  • Chromosome Casting: This episode does not feature any speaking roles for women (the third in a row).
  • Composite Character: Peter Kirby is a composite of four characters from the short story: Lt. Peterson, Chitterwick, Goeblin, and Milton.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The asteroid turns out to be one, colonized by the Happy Glades Mortuary in 1973. It's less dark and misty and more just creepily fake, where rich people can live out their greatest fantasies forever.
    Meyers: In other words, this is the place where your dreams come true after you've stopped dreaming.
  • Freak Out: Kirby finally loses his mind in the beauty pageant exhibit.
    Kirby: Your majesty, I don't blame the judges. You're the prettiest of them all, but tell me something your majesty...what's wrong with you? WHAT'S WRONG WITH EVERYBODY IN THIS CRAZY PLACE?! Answer me! Can't you talk? Can't you move? Answer me!
  • Freudian Trio: Kirby is emotional, Meyers is logical and reasoning, and Captain Webber leads and balances the two.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Wickwire's rationale for poisoning the astronauts. Just take a look at his quote.
  • Irony: The astronauts land on an asteroid which is basically a cemetery. With no way to escape or anyway to return home, they end up dying and joining the "exhibits".
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: After the astronauts land on the unexplored asteroid and find it to be filled with deserted buildings and mannequins, they decide to split up and search the place, which is a really bad idea that trained astronauts should never even consider.
  • Lost Common Knowledge: When the astronauts first arrive on the asteroid, they land on a farm and start exploring. Kirby and Webber both seem confused by the presence of a machine, which Meyers identifies as a tractor, a machine that was in use on Earth before the Total War, which was seemingly World War III.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Wickwire's been running the cemetery since 1973, which was over 200 years ago in-universe. He looks pretty good for two centuries, especially since he's a robot.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Wickwire, who is a perfect imitation of a kindly, middle-aged gentleman.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: It's stated at the beginning that the astronauts are lost and 655 million miles away from Earth. That would put them well within the solar system, somewhere around the orbit of Saturn, yet they're in an entirely different star system with two suns.
  • Stealth Pun: The astronauts' final destination is a cemetery asteroid. They've reached a dead end on their journey.
  • Time Stands Still: One theory as to what's happened to everyone the astronauts find.
  • World War III: According to Meyers, there was an atomic war in 1985 and it's taken over 200 years for humanity to pick up the pieces.

Rod Serling: Kirby, Webber, and Meyers, three men lost. They shared a common wish - a simple one, really. They wanted to be aboard their ship, headed for home. And fate - a laughing fate - a practical jokester with a smile stretched across the stars, saw to it that they got their wish, with just one reservation: The wish came true, but only in the Twilight Zone.

Alternative Title(s): The Twilight Zone S 1 E 20 Elegy

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