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Recap / The Twilight Zone S5E126 "Living Doll"

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My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much.

Rod Serling: Talky Tina—a doll that does everything, a lifelike creation of plastic and springs and painted smile. To Erich Streator, she is a most unwelcome addition to his household, but without her, he'd never enter The Twilight Zone.
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It's little Christie's birthday and she is excited about her new present. However, as they pull into the driveway, her mother, Annabelle, instructs Christie to run upstairs with her new doll, not to show it to her father. However, mother and daughter are stopped by Erich, as they enter the home. Christie is eager to show off her new present, a talking doll called "Talky Tina", which repeats "My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much!" Erich demands to know how much it cost. Annabelle says Christie has wanted this doll for months and that she charged it. Erich angrily states that Christie does not need another doll. Christie flees the room, leaving Talky Tina behind. Annabelle follows Christie, and Erich examines the doll. He winds the key on the back of the doll and hears it say:

"My name is Talky Tina and I don't think I like you."
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He winds the key again and the doll says:

"My name is Talky Tina, and I think I could even hate you".

At hearing this, he throws the doll against the wall across the room.

"My name is Talky Tina, and you'll be sorry..."

Annabelle re-enters, and we learn that Erich is actually Christie's stepfather and is bitter because he cannot sire children; further, it is implied that Annabelle did not even tell him she had a daughter until after they were married. Annabelle pleads with Erich to be kinder to Christie. At the dinner table, Christie pretends to feed Tina. Erich becomes annoyed, and Annabelle declares that Tina is good for Christie, that it gives her someone to play with. Erich still believes Annabelle bought Tina as a reminder they cannot have children of their own. Erich catches the doll winking at him, while the others are looking elsewhere at the table.

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Left alone with the doll, Erich hears it say "My name is Talky Tina and I'm beginning to hate you." He replies, "My name is Erich Streator, and I'm going to get rid of you." Tina exclaims "You wouldn't dare! Annabelle would hate you, Christie would hate you, and I would hate you." Erich places a match next to Tina, who gasps. He says, "Then you have feelings!" The doll replies, "Doesn't everything?" Erich accuses Annabelle of placing a walkie-talkie in Tina and speaking through the doll to "get back at him." She, of course, denies it.

Finding the doll, Erich goes into the garage and places it in a trash can with a lid. When Christie seeks the doll, he tells her he doesn't know where it is. Later, the telephone rings. Erich answers and the voice on the other end says:

"My name is Talky Tina, and I'm going to kill you."

He checks the trash can and is startled to find Tina gone. He again accuses Annabelle of teaming up with Christie to frighten him. He declares "Will the two of you stop it?!" ; she, worried and baffled by his seemingly irrational accusations and suddenly insane behavior, pleadingly denies it. Erich finds Tina in Christie's bed. Christie is asleep, but the doll speaks to awaken her. Erich confiscates the doll as Christie cries and Annabelle rushes in. Erich says "The doll was in her bed. She's the one that's been doing it." Christie begs "Daddy, please!", and Erich yells "I'm not your Daddy!"

As Annabelle desperately tries to reason with Erich, he starts to come to the chilling realization that neither she nor Christie is the source of Tina's taunts. It is something unexplained and frightening. Now knowing he must destroy the doll to save his life, he returns to the garage intent on destroying the doll. He first places the doll's head into a vice and tightens it, but the doll only looks at him and laughs. He then tries to use the blow torch to burn it, but the torch keeps extinguishing before it reaches the doll. He then attempts to use the table saw on it; however, that only throws up sparks. While he tries to destroy the doll, Annabelle walks into the garage. When she tries to stop him, believing him to be mad in destroying what is only a child's toy, he angrily pushes her away. After Annabelle flees the garage, Erich looks at the doll's neck, only to find the neck to have not even a scratch on it.

Realizing he is unable to damage the doll, he puts it into a burlap sack and ties a cord around it, then throws the doll back into the trash can. As he places three heavy bricks on top of the can's lid, he hears the doll laugh. He returns to his bedroom to find Annabelle packing to leave. "How could I live with you after what you've done?" "I had to", Erich insists. "You had to, to show your hatred towards me and for Christie!", she snaps. She states his need to see a psychiatrist. Erich insists the doll was talking to him, but offers to return it. She agrees to stay. Returning to the trash can, he is relieved to see Tina still there. As he retrieves it from the can, it says "My name is Talky Tina, and I don't forgive you!" Erich hushes "Shut up, shut up!", and goes back to Christie's bedroom to hand her the doll reluctantly.

Later that night, Erich is awakened in bed by muffled noises outside the closed bedroom door. Telling Annabelle to stay in the bedroom, he goes out of the bedroom to investigate. He looks into Christie's room to see Tina gone. He starts to walk down the stairs, but trips on Tina, lying on one of the steps, and tumbles uncontrolled down the long stairway. Tina falls down to the bottom of the stairs, landing inches away from where Erich lies dying. Erich, with just enough fading strength to open his eyes, sees Tina looking at him - as his vanquisher. He then closes his eyes and dies. Annabelle screams "Erich!" and runs down the stairs. Kneeling over Erich's body, she picks up Tina who chillingly warns her:

"My name is Talky Tina...and you better be nice to me!"

Annabelle, in stunned horror of realizing the doll's true, evil nature, drops the doll to the ground.

Rod Serling: Of course, we all know dolls can't really talk and they certainly can't commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder in the misty region of The Twilight Zone.

Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Erich is cold, impatient, and sometimes verbally hostile, driving Christie to tears on more than one occasion, though as stated below, he really wants to make things work with Annabelle and Christie, only to fail badly because of the doll.
  • Aerith and Bob: If not for the subtitles, one would not know the oddly spelled Erich is cast alongside Tina, Annabelle, and Christie.
  • Anti-Villain: Erich. Even the writer of the episode stated that he's not a bad guy (even if he is a little cold to his daughter). It's tough not to feel for him in this situation. He wants to improve himself, but the evil talking doll keeps screwing up his chances.
  • Asshole Victim: Erich, albeit more of a world weary, pragmatic asshole.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tina of course. First she says things like "I love you very much" to "I'm going to kill you" (albeit to different people).
  • Bland-Name Product: Talky Tina is based off the real life "Chatty Cathy" dolls. They even had the same voice actress.
  • Blatant Lies: Erich sees for himself that Tina can speak even while Christie is fast asleep, but moments later he tells Annabelle that Christie is to blame for the doll's threats.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Erich to Tina.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Or in this case, via an unknown power of Talky Tina. The line between magic and science is very much blurred.
  • Creepy Doll: Talky Tina, who has a certain Uncanny Valley quality of her own, takes it Up to Eleven by threatening Erich throughout the episode.
  • The Doll Episode: The episode is wholly focused on Talky Tina.
  • Elephant in the Room: It's not stated openly, but Erich seems very defensive about the fact that he doesn't have children of his own. It's implied that his negative attitude toward Christie is that she's a living reminder of this fact. It's also implied that Annabelle didn't tell him about Christie until fairly late into their relationship.
  • Hate Sink: Invoked, as Annabelle comes to feel that Erich is using Tina as an outlet for his anger towards her and Christie. She might have a point, since Erich hated the doll long before it showed any signs of wanting to hurt him.
  • Haunted Technology / Living Toys: While left up to the imagination, most contemporary viewers would interpret Talky Tina as a haunted mechanical toy.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Near the end, Erich was close to overcoming his Jerkass attitude, even managing to make amends with Annabelle, only for Talky Tina to fulfill her threats.
  • Karmic Death: Erich at the end, though given the relatively light amount of verbal abuse he dishes to Christie, it's an instance of Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • After throwing Tina in the garbage, Erich feigns concern to Annabelle before smirking to himself upon hearing that Christie's upset about it.
    • When he finds Tina in Christie's room, Erich forcibly takes her from her, and when Annabelle asks what's going on, he lies that Christie is the one behind everything. This exchange then occurs:
    Christie: Daddy, please...
    Erich: I'm not your daddy!
  • Made of Indestructium: Erich can't even make a mark on Tina.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Erich spends a good portion of the episode attempting to rationalize Talky Tina's behavior. The ending itself is ambiguous, and could be interpreted differently depending on the era.
  • Meaningful Name: Both Christie and Tina are nicknames for Christina.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Erich is annoyed when Tina tells him she doesn't like him. For some reason, throwing her across the room and trying to burn her with a match doesn't improve her attitude.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Annabelle originally thinks her husband is acting out because he hates her and her daughter (or that he's going insane). In the end she finds out the truth — Tina is in fact alive.
  • Psychological Projection: Erich at one point accuses Annabelle of being abusive to Christie, claiming that she got her a doll just to remind her that she's an only child.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Erich has a big one the first time he throws Tina in the trash. He also smirks to himself in the next scene after being told that Christie is upset about her being missing.
  • Smug Snake: Erich is inappropriately gleeful each time he thinks he's about to destroy Tina, only to fail each time.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Unlikeable as Erich is, the fact remains that he is the breadwinner and should have a say in where the money goes, especially since early one we see that they don't have much - they have more important needs than expensive toys. Also, Annabelle's dismissive remark that she "charged it" and that would somehow make the expense go away implies that she doesn't quite understand money.
    • Or that having a little credit card debt (and making a few monthly payments) was worth it for her kid instead of keeping to budget.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Inverted, up until the very ending, Talky Tina only acts like anything besides an ordinary doll when she's alone with Erich.
  • Taking the Kids: Anabelle almost takes Christie and leaves the house when Erich starts ranting about the doll, but changes her mind. Sadly, it doesn't make much of a difference in Tina's behavior.
  • Third-Person Person: "My name's Talky Tina..." is how the toy speaks.
  • Villain Protagonist: Erich, to some extent.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Averted with Erich who, as much of a Jerkass that he is, has no high threshold for antagonism.
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