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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.

Little Christie and her mother Annabelle go to the store and Ammabelle buys her a gift in a large box wrapped in pretty paper while her stepfather Erich (Telly Savalas) is less than thrilled when he finds out. Christie shows him that the box contains "Talky Tina," a doll that repeats "My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much!" Annabelle is thrilled with her daughter's response, but a disgruntled Erich demands to know how much it cost. Annabelle says Christie has wanted this doll for months and that she put it on their credit account, which only infuriates him further. 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."

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.

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 are 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 at 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.

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

  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Talky Tina is this. She only starts becoming hostile when Erich yells at Annabelle for spending a lot of money on the doll, making her and Christie leave the room upset. While she is gaslighting Erich, one interpretation is that she's a Well-Intentioned Extremist trying to protect Christie, albeit one that doesn't let up even when Erich tries to make amends.
  • 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 Christie). 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.
  • Bald of Evil: Erich, while not outright evil, is definitely a jerk to Christie and is played by the famously bald Telly Savalas, albeit before he adopted his iconic fully shaved look.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Rather, little doll instinct for your human. Talky Tina only becomes hostile towards Erich when he makes Christie cry and yells at Annabelle for buying it.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tina. 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 on the real life "Chatty Cathy" dolls. They even had the same voice actress. The doll used in the episode was actually a Vogue Brikette doll rather than a Chatty Cathy.
  • 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.
  • Bottle Episode: With the exception of one exterior shot of Annabelle and Christie coming out of the car and into the house, the majority of the episode takes place inside the house.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag: June Foray, the actual voice of Chatty Cathy, provides Tina’s voice.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Erich cannot rid himself of the doll Talky Tina no matter what he tries. He throws it in the trash and it reappears in Christie's bed. He later attempts to destroy it using a vise, a blowtorch and a circular saw but it is completely undamaged. Erich later trips over Tina on the stairs and falls to his death.
  • 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.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: While it is clear that Erich is meant to be seen as the jerkier party to his marriage with Annabelle, our introduction to their dynamic is Annabelle making a frivolous purchase they're implied to be unable to afford, trying to hide it from Erich, attempting to verbally evade his direct request to know what it cost, and resorting to an emotional barb when he isn't thrown off track so easily. A husband pulling that with his wife would be crucified as an emotionally abusive narcissist with a manipulative streak barring her from knowledge of their finances and very possibly trying to poison the child against the stepmother by buying ostentatious presents and urging that they be kept secret.
  • 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.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Erich first assumes that Talky Tina has been programmed with an "extensive vocabulary" while trying to show its various responses to Annabelle. It's perfectly logical except when the doll starts moving around on its own.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Annabelle buys an expensive doll for Christie that she's been wanting for a while, while Erich doesn't care about how happy it makes her, and his first concern is how much money she spent on the doll.
  • Freudian Excuse: Erich is suggested to be cold and bitter towards Christie as his stepchild because he is sterile and unable to father any biological children of his own.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Sometimes trying to be a better parent isn't enough when your words and actions are visibly hurting your partner and their child. Annabelle outright threatens to leave when Erich has made Christie cry too many times, because she wants to protect her daughter.
  • Hate at First Sight: Erich and Tina immediately take a disliking to each other—Erich because his wife spent a lot of money on the doll, and Tina because she sees him being abusive to her new owner, his stepdaughter Christie. Her first words to him are, "My name is Talky Tina, and I don't think I like you."
  • 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: 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!
  • Living Toys: Talky Tina is a magical doll that is alive, fully sentient, capable of speech, inexplicably immune to any sort of physical damage, and apparently able to teleport. Oh, and she does not like people being mean to the little girl who owns her.
  • Made of Indestructium: Erich tries to destroy Talky Tina with a vice, blowtorch and table saw, but can't even leave a mark on her.
  • 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.
  • Minimalist Cast: In two ways: the episode only has three actors (and one voice actor, June Foray as Talky Tina), while a doorbell ring is heard, we never actually see who was at the door. Also, Bernard Herrmann's score only uses a small chamber quartet consisting of bass clarinet, two harps, and a celesta.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Erich throws Tina in the garbage can, but when he comes back and opens it again, she isn't there. He goes to Christie's room and finds her snuggled up with the doll.
  • Parents as People: Erich is trying to make things work with Annabelle and Christie, but he has a nasty temper and baggage. Though for Talky Tina, "trying" isn't enough.
  • 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.
  • Sleeping Single: Eric and Annabelle sleep in separete beds.
  • Smug Snake: Erich is inappropriately gleeful each time he thinks he's about to destroy Tina, only to fail each time.
  • Staircase Tumble: Erich dies when he trips over Talky Tina on one of the steps when walking down the stairs.
  • 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: Annabelle almost takes Christie and leaves the house when Erich starts ranting about the doll, but changes her mind. It doesn't make much of a difference in Tina's behavior.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: How Tina feels after Erich tries to destroy her with a vice, blowtorch, and table saw, then wraps her in a burlap sack, throws her in the garbage again, and stacks concrete blocks on the lid to keep her from getting out. When he takes her out, she says, "My name is Talky Tina, and I don't forgive you!"
  • Unbuilt Trope: Due to so many parodies that play the premise for all its craziness, it could come as a surprise to some that the original story does not revolve around an Ax-Crazy doll that springs to life and tries to murder a guy just because (at least until the very climax), otherwise being a psychological story about a Jerkass parent trying to get rid of a doll that heckles his unpleasant demeanour. Even when the doll does try to kill him, it doesn't drop from the ceiling with a knife or anything, it causes his death in a way a regular doll might: he accidentally steps on it and falls down the stairs. The story also leaves it ambiguous until the end if Tina is really sentient or if Erich is having an emotional breakdown.
  • Villain Protagonist: Erich, to some extent.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Averted with Erich who, as much of a Jerkass that he is, has no high threshold for antagonism.