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Recap / The Twilight Zone 1985 S 1 E 11 The Beacon One Life Furnished In Early Poverty

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The Beacon

A man stumbles onto a town where the inhabitants fear and worship a lighthouse.

One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty

A depressed man is transported to the past and meets his child self and his father.

This episode contains the following tropes:

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    The Beacon 
  • Cargo Cult: The people of Mellweather have worshipped a lighthouse called the Beacon for 200 years. They believe that it is controlled by the spirit of their collective ancestor Seth Janes.
  • Deadly Closing Credits: Dr. Dennis Barrows is swarmed by the people of Mellweather so that he can be the Human Sacrifice that the Beacon demands.
  • Downer Ending: The lighthouse gets its sacrifice.
  • Human Sacrifice: The people of Mellweather believe that a lighthouse called the Beacon chooses one of them to be sacrificed every year. If the chosen one does not die, an "accident" is arranged to ensure that the Beacon is satisfied.
  • Inbred and Evil: The inhabitants of the small town of Mellweather are all descended from a prominent citizen named Seth Janes who lived in the 18th Century. They believe that his spirit guides the Beacon, a lighthouse that seemingly chooses a Human Sacrifice every year, and that they must keep their bloodlines strong in order to serve him. After Dr. Dennis Barrows saves the intended victim, a little girl named Katie, he is killed by the townspeople in order to placate Seth.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It is never made clear whether the Beacon is truly controlled by the spirit of Seth Janes as the people of Mellweather believe or whether it is simply an old lighthouse with a faulty mechanism as suggested by Dr. Dennis Barrows.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Dr. Dennis Barrows stumbles into a small town called Mellweather which is protected by an enigmatic lighthouse that demands a Human Sacrifice for its services.

    One Life, Furnished In Early Poverty 
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Gus Rosenthal had a difficult relationship with his father Lou growing up and regretted never telling him that he loved him before he died when Gus was in his teens. In the short story by Harlan Ellison, Gus' relationship with both of his parents was even more difficult. He was sent to a military school at seven years old because of his poor behavior and ran away from home when he was thirteen.
  • Adaptation Expansion: This episode places greater emphasis on Gus Rosenthal's poor relationship with his father Lou than the short story by Harlan Ellison. The present day Gus meets Lou twice after he is sent back in time. On the second occasion, he reveals that he has always regretted never telling his father how much he loved him. For his part, Lou confesses that he has never been able to get through to Gus, though he loves him very much. In the short story, the older Gus and his father never come face to face and nothing is revealed of their relationship other than it being difficult.
  • Age Lift: The younger Gus Rosenthal is ten or eleven when he meets his future self. In the short story by Harlan Ellison, he is seven years old.
  • Author Avatar: Gus Rosenthal, the lead character, was directly based on Harlan Ellison, who wrote the original story - to such an extent that (according to his audio commentary on the DVD) he actually wept while watching the filming of one scene.
  • Canon Foreigner: Gus Rosenthal sleeps with a fan of his whom he met after he delivered a lecture on writing. She does not appear in the short story by Harlan Ellison.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Gus Rosenthal's father Lou hits him with his belt to punish him for shoplifting a comic book, which he has done several times before. However, Lou hates himself for doing it and breaks down in tears as soon as Gus leaves the room. His wife Sarita tries to console him by saying that it is the only way that Gus will learn.
  • Five-Finger Discount: The young Gus Rosenthal often stole comic books and toy soldiers, leading his father Lou to hit him with his belt to teach him a lesson. Even so, he was going to steal another toy soldier the next day but stopped when he noticed his older self looking at him.
  • Gang of Bullies: The young Gus Rosenthal is chased by a gang of bullies led by Jack Wheeldon but he literally runs into his future self and the bullies immediately leave as they think that the older Gus might be a G-man. Later, the bullies attack the young Gus when he is on the swings and begin to beat him up until the present day Gus intervenes.
  • My Future Self and Me: Gus Rosenthal is transported back in time to the 1940s and befriends his past self. The young Gus never finds out that Harry Rosenthal, a writer from Los Angeles conducting research for a new story, is himself from the future. However, he comes to view him as a surrogate father who, unlike his actual father Lou, plays with him and reads him stories. The young Gus is very upset when "Mr. Rosenthal" tells him that he has to leave as it makes him feel unloved and abandoned. He tells his future self that he will be successful one day and will spit in his face and beat him up. When the boy runs away, the older Gus remembers that he made his vow to become successful after Mr. Rosenthal left and never came back.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Gus Rosenthal's parents' names are Lou and Sarita. In the short story by Harlan Ellison, their first names are not revealed.
  • Parting Words Regret: Gus Rosenthal visits his old hometown and finds himself in the past. During that time, he meets his father Lou. Not telling him who he is, he says that his father was always angry and he never got the chance to tell him that he loved him.
  • Stable Time Loop: Gus Rosenthal is sent back in time to the 1940s and acts as a mentor and surrogate father to his younger self, who had a difficult relationship with his father Lou. Eventually, the older Gus realizes that he must return to his own time as his presence in the past is making him sick. When the younger Gus finds out that he is leaving, he angrily tells his future self that he will be a "big something" when he is older and will beat "Mr. Rosenthal" up if he ever sees him again. The older Gus then remembers meeting Mr. Rosenthal as a child and vowing to become successful because he was hurt at him leaving.
  • Temporal Sickness: Gus Rosenthal begins feeling weak soon after he is transported back in time to the 1940s. After several days, he realizes that he has to return to his own time or he will die.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: There are two examples:
    • Gus Rosenthal is played by Peter Riegert as an adult and Chris Hebert as a child.
    • Jack Wheeldon is played by Biff Yeager as an adult and Gary Karp as a child.
  • Time-Travel Episode: An unhappy and bitter writer named Gus Rosenthal becomes a mentor to his younger self in the 1940s and hopes to be able to change his life for the better.
  • Tuckerization: Jack Wheeldon is named after a boy who bullied Harlan Ellison while he was growing up.
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