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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 1 E 5 Walking Distance

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Martin Sloan watches himself get carried away.

Rod Serling: Martin Sloan, age thirty-six. Occupation: vice-president, ad agency, in charge of media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn't know it at the time - but it's an exodus. Somewhere up the road, he's looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he'll find something else.
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Air date: Oct. 30, 1959

Martin Sloan (Gig Young) is an ad executive passing through town one day when his car breaks down. As he's having it serviced, he observes that he's only a mile and a half from his hometown, Homewood. He walks there, arriving to find that the year is 1934 and everyone and everything he left behind is still there, including an 11-year-old version of himself. Waxing nostalgic, he attempts to get in touch with his kid self and warn him not to waste his childhood, but his efforts only scare off young Martin. When he meets his father (dead in the present, alive here), he is met with skepticism, which is only natural. All this culminates in Martin chasing his younger self around a merry-go-round. The boy gets his leg snared in the machinery, causing the older Martin to suffer the same wound. As the panic winds down and people leave the area, Martin's father approaches, having found Martin's wallet and concluded from its contents that Martin is, in fact, from the future. Martin's father advises him that he's in this time period because his nostalgia for Homewood got the better of him, and that he shouldn't force his 11-year-old self to share his childhood, regardless of his intentions. Martin takes his father's advice and rides the merry-go-round one last time to get back to the present, carrying with him the limp his misguided attempt to meddle with his past life earned him.

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Rod Serling: Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives - trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there'll be an occasion - maybe a summer night sometime - when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind, there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then, too, because he'll know that it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind - that are a part of The Twilight Zone.
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Troping Distance:

  • An Aesop: We all wish we could revisit good past times in our life, especially when things seem bad now, but nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Being caught up in it can be harmful to one's self, so as hard as it may be sometimes, it's best to live in the present.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Martin looks back fondly on his innocent young days, but being there as a 36-year-old man who doesn't belong is not pleasant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Martin has to return to his adult life and ends up with a bad leg as a result of his actions, but he seems to have started to let go of his past and realizes he can still find happiness as an adult.
  • Bookends: Rod Serling's opening and closing narrations both begin with "Martin Sloan, age thirty-six."
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: This episode was adapted as a graphic novel by Walker Paperback in 2008.
  • Dutch Angle: Sharp Dutch Angles are used for the entire sequence where Martin goes to the merry-go-round and has an unpleasant encounter with his childhood self. When Martin's father, who now believes him, shows up to deliver An Aesop, the picture straightens back up to vertical.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At the gas station. Martin's interaction with the gas station attendant firmly establishes him as cranky and stressed-out.
  • Genre Blindness: Martin meets himself as an 11-year-boy but he does not realize that he has traveled back in time until a teenager tells him that his 1934 roadster is brand new.
    • Note that this takes place shortly after the scene of him seeing his parents- at least one of whom is hinted to not be alive in 1959.
  • Glory Days: Martin Sloan seems to like his childhood a lot better than now.
  • Growing Up Sucks: The message Martin tries and fails to tell his 11-year-old self.
  • Meaningful Name: Homewood.
  • Newspaper Dating: An unusual variant using a car. Martin's dad also uses the stuff in Martin's wallet to conclude that he is from the future.
  • Time-Travel Episode: The first episode using time travel, which would be a frequent trope throughout the run of The Twilight Zone. Martin's wistful memories of his childhood wind up whisking him 25 years back to that childhood.
  • Title Drop: "That's walking distance, isn't it? Yeah, that's walking distance."
  • Tuckerization: A sign says that Ralph N. Nelson is the proprietor of the service station where Martin stops. He is named after the series' production manager Ralph W. Nelson.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Especially when "home" is a time in the past.
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