Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thou Seest The Twilight

I caught a few episodes recently of The Twilight Zone marathon that was on one of the cable channels. Airing I think twice over the course of the marathon was was the classic "Time Enough at Last" (1959). The program tells the story of a Henry Bemis, a bank teller "who loves books, yet is surrounded by those who would prevent him from reading them." Then something happens and he finds himself with more than enough time to read. And then something else happens and we’re left with one of the most popular and parodied episodes of the original run of Twilight Zone episodes. (I won’t tell you what happens – you’ll have to go out and spoil it for yourself or, better yet, watch the program.)

Anyway, I was reminded that the episode may have served as an influence on John with one of his characters. You’ll recall that Anthony and Miss Eells periodically come across a strange man wandering the stacks in the Hoosac Public Library. He’s described as "a secretive little character who spent about six nights a week in the library, aimlessly leafing through books and magazines" [The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb; 34] and sometimes playing chess [The Mansion in the Mist; 96]. Who is it? Mr. Beemis. We know nothing outside his name, and it's spelled differently from the character Burgess Meredith played in the 1959 episode, but they both appear to have some sort of bibliomania. I doubt the name chosen was a coincidence - but at the same time, part of me wonders if John added the character with his own doubts about anyone ever understanding the joke.

I’m curious if anyone knows of any other Twilight Zone influences that appear in John’s work? The only other episode that bears any resemblance (to me) is "The Mighty Casey" (1960) – the story of a broken-down baseball team whose manager permits a (gasp) robot to take the pitching mound.  Take that, Evaristus Sloane.

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