Original Air Date: November 13, 1959
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Jack Smight
“The Lonely” is an ominous Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Sterling, directed by Jack Smight, and featuring a signature brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann. I truly love these early episodes and their Hermann musical accompaniment. This episode takes us deep into space for a pure science fiction story, as we travel forward place many years from now to a remote asteroid some nine million miles from Earth where one lone man is imprisoned and relegated to finish his solitary confinement sentence of roughly 50 years.
“Witness if you will, a dungeon, made out of mountains, salt flats, and sand that stretch to infinity. The dungeon has an inmate: James A. Corry. And this is his residence: a metal shack. An old touring car that squats in the sun and goes nowhere—for there is nowhere to go. For the record, let it be known that James A. Corry is a convicted criminal placed in solitary confinement. Confinement in this case stretches as far as the eye can see, because this particular dungeon is on an asteroid nine million miles from the Earth. Now witness, if you will, a man’s mind and body shriveling in the sun, a man dying of loneliness.”
We encounter James Corry (played by Jack Warden) in the year 2046 –on the fifteenth day of the sixth month of the fourth year of his incarceration. He has been banished to a distant asteroid to live alone. He once killed a person, which he claims was in self-defense, and now he must serve out a life sentence –a sentence which some might call worse than death.
A ship carrying supplies arrives and Corry rushes out to greet the men onboard. He hopes for the possibility of being pardoned. He asks the crew, including Captain Allenby (played by John Dehner) to come into his modest dwelling to play a game of cards, but they can only stay a few moments because there are other asteroids which demand their time. James Corry is desperate for companionship. In sympathy, Captain Allenby brings various distractions for Corry: frivolous games and material parts to construct an old car. On this trip, the crew also gives Corry a mysterious box which he opens after they leave. Inside is a robot woman named “Alicia” (played by Jean Marsh).
As time passes, Corry falls in love with Alicia, his mind is so starved for fellow humans that he fabricates an inanimate partner in the absence of true companionship. Today skepticism of technology is rife throughout our culture, but perhaps in 1959 the viewer was only just beginning to grow concerned about the rapid development of machinery and technology, and its subsequent obscuring of reality. At any rate, one day about 11 months later, Captain Allenby and his crew return to Corry’s asteroid bringing news that he has been pardoned. The group has only a few minutes to dodge asteroids en route home so Corry must grab no more than 15 pounds worth of possessions to balance the weight of the ship (there are already 7 other prisoners aboard). Corry realizes he cannot bring Alicia and he panics. He runs after her screaming, until Major Allenby follows Corry and shoots Alicia in the face, exposing her wires as she repeats the words “Corry… Corry” over and over.
She was only a robot, and now James Corry can truly be cured of his loneliness. As Captain Allenby says: “All you’re leaving behind is loneliness,” Corry says ominously, “I must remember that… I must remember to keep that in mind.” Like a lonely Pygmalion, in the absence of true love, James Corry has fabricated his own companion out of a robot only to abandon it alone on a desolate asteroid.
“On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man’s life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them. All of Mr. Corry’s machines, including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete—in The Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was one of the first episodes that Rod Sterling pitched to sponsors and it became the second episode in the series to be filmed.
- The crew shot the episode for two full days in 130 degree heat in Death Valley, California with the crew suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. It was the first of many Twilight Zone episodes filmed in Death Valley though in the future the crew would be better prepared.
- Cinematographer George T. Clemens later said that sweat from the cast and crew evaporated almost immediately while filming. Because of this, the sweat which can be seen in the finished show is actually a thick coat of glycerin.
- This episode takes place between the futuristic years of 2046 to 2047.
- Ted Knight makes an uncredited appearance as a crew member aboard the spaceship (known for his role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show).