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Recap / The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E7: "The Lonely"
aka: The Twilight Zone S 1 E 7 The Lonely

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James and Alicia.

Rod Serling: Witness if you will, a dungeon, made out of mountains, salt flats, and sand that stretch to infinity. The dungeon has an inmate: James A. Corry. And this is his residence: a metal shack. An old touring car that squats in the sun and goes nowhere—for there is nowhere to go. For the record, let it be known that James A. Corry is a convicted criminal placed in solitary confinement. Confinement in this case stretches as far as the eye can see, because this particular dungeon is on an asteroid nine million miles from the Earth. Now witness, if you will, a man's mind and body shriveling in the sun, a man dying of loneliness.

Air date: November 13, 1959

In the year 2046, James Corry (Jack Warden) a prisoner convicted of homicide, is sentenced to fifty years of solitary confinement on an asteroid nine million miles from Earth. The only regular contact he has is with the crew of a spaceship that stops by four times a year to deliver supplies and news updates. Though Corry is ecstatic when they land, the crew can never stay for more than a few minutes at a time due to the asteroid's orbit and their limited fuel supply. Beyond that, all Corry has is a metal shack, a nonfunctioning car, a journal, and the endless desert surrounding him.

Captain Allenby (John Dehner) has been doing whatever he can to make Corry's sentence more humane for a long time, often bringing him things to take his mind off the loneliness. As such, on the fifteenth day of his sixth month, he leaves Corry with a large crate and instructs him not to open it until the transport crew leaves. When he does open it, he discovers that Allenby has left him a female robot named Alicia (Jean Marsh).

At first, Corry rejects Alicia, considering her a machine with synthetic skin only sent to pity him and mock his pain. However, when he sees that Alicia is capable of expressing emotion and crying, he begins to change his tune. The two spend the next eleven months together playing games and looking at the stars, during which Corry starts to fall in love with her.

Sometime later, Allenby's ship returns three months ahead of schedule with good news: Corry has been pardoned and they're there to take him home. However, they have only twenty minutes to leave and Corry can only bring about fifteen pounds of luggage with him due to the limited space taken up by other pardoned inmates, and that means leaving Alicia behind. Corry can't bear that idea and runs to find her. When he begs Alicia to show them that she's human, Allenby apologizes to Corry and shoots her with his service pistol. Her face is blown off, exposing the mess of wires and metal underneath.

He explains to Corry that the whole thing was just like a bad dream, but when he wakes up he'll be back home. Allenby assures Corry that all he's leaving behind is loneliness. Corry tonelessly responds that he must remember to keep that in mind as he goes back to Earth.

The Lonely Tropes:

  • Artistic License – Space: The episode is set on an asteroid with a breathable atmosphere, which is a scientific impossibility.
  • Asteroid Thicket: During the episode (which takes place in Earth's solar system), a crewman says that the ship is "almost out of fuel" because they've been "dodging meteor storms". The only way this could happen in our solar system is if it had suddenly developed an area with a high concentration of asteroids.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Corry receives a pardon for his crime and is allowed to go home. However, he can't take Alicia with him, and between killing her or allowing her to live out her days as lonely as he was, Allenby does the guy a favor by shooting her dead. He sadly reminds Corry that he's leaving behind loneliness, and Corry (who knows better than anyone how cruel isolation can be) grimly affirms "I must remember that..."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Namely, the service gun prominently strapped to Allenby's hip.
  • Cold Equation: Used for a What Measure Is a Non-Human? theme. Alicia can't go with Corry because the spaceship can only take 15 extra pounds of weight.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Despite being convicted of homicide, Corry maintains that his killing was in self-defense.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: In a sense, Corry resents Alicia for being a walking, talking embodiment of pity for how unbearably lonely he is. He gets better after he realizes she has feelings too.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: After Alicia gets shot in the face, her robotic voice winds down like a slowing down record player: "Corry...Corrrrry....Cooooorrrrrrrrry...."
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Corry was well on this path before Allenby brought Alicia to him.
  • Hope Spot: At first, when Corry learns he's been pardoned, he's excited that after years of loneliness, he will finally come home with his new-found girlfriend in tow. But that's before he learns the ship has a weight limit. Take a wild guess who exceeds that limit.
  • Jerkass: Captain Allenby's subordinate Adams takes delight in mocking Corry, partly because he's bitter about how he has to be away from his family so much because of his job.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Adams is pointlessly cruel to Corry, he does have a point that Corry is a convicted felon serving his sentence, and there is no evidence that Corry ISN'T a murderer, only a pretty weak denial from Corry that "it was self-defense". Allenby's sympathy seems to be exclusively for Corry's situation, rather than any actual sympathy for Corry himself.
  • Mercy Kill: Allenby ends up doing this to Alicia, who couldn't come to Earth with Corry, so it was either destroy her right there, or keep her alive and have her suffer the same loneliness Corry did. Considering Alicia could feel emotion and loneliness, this was the kindest possible thing that could've been done.
  • The Pardon: Corry continually asks if he's been pardoned, but his case is never really reviewed by those back on Earth. However, when they finally get around to it, they do decide to pardon him.
  • Penal Colony: The asteroid Corry is exiled to functions as one, described as 6,000 by 4,000 miles of desert. It seems to be a controversial topic back on Earth.
  • Robot Girl: Alicia.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The episode takes place on an asteroid whose orbit brings it within 9 million miles of Earth on a regular basis. The asteroid is "6,000 miles from north to south, 4,000 from east to west". In other words, it has a circumference of roughly 5,000 miles and a diameter of around 1,600 miles. In Real Life, the largest known asteroid in the solar system is Ceres, which has a diameter of 587 miles. If an asteroid 1,600 miles wide had an orbit that often brought it within 9 million miles of Earth, astronomers would certainly have detected it by now.
  • Shoot the Dog: Or rather, shoot the Robot Girl. The almost-casual way Allenby does this implies it's far from the first time he had to cut the metaphorical cord.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: This story takes place from 2046 to 2047.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Is Alicia really as humanoid as Corry (and the audience) see her? Or is she really just a robot that Corry is hallucinating to be an actual woman because he went insane from sheer loneliness?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Corry initially rejects Alicia, calling her a lie and something to mock/pity him. However, when he sees that she's capable of feeling the same things as him and can even cry, he changes his mindset and sees her as a person. When Allenby's crew returns, Corry can't bear to leave her behind, so Allenby shoots her in the face, exposing the machinery underneath. He assures Corry that all he's leaving behind is loneliness.

Rod Serling: On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man's life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them. All of Mr. Corry's machines, including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete—in The Twilight Zone.

Alternative Title(s): The Twilight Zone S 1 E 7 The Lonely