The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode Seven “The Lonely”

Original Air Date: November 13, 1959
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Jack Smight

“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.”
-Rod Serling


Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The Lonely” is an ominous and unforgettable Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Sterling, directed by Jack Smight, and featuring another signature brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann. I truly love these early episodes and their Hermann musical accompaniment. As far back as I can remember, “The Lonely” was actually one of the first Twilight Zone episodes I remember watching during a television marathon. This episode takes us deep into space for a pure science fiction story, as we travel forward place many years henceforth to a remote asteroid some nine million miles from Earth where one lone man is imprisoned and relegated to finish his solitary confinement, a sentence of roughly 50 years.

We meet 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 a punishment worse than death.

Now, a ship carrying supplies arrives and Corry rushes out to greet the men onboard. He continues to hope for a pardon, but the outlook for such a verdict seems bleak. Corry asks the crew, including Captain Allenby (played by John Dehner), to join him inside 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, however, the crew also gives Corry a mysterious box which he opens only after they depart. Inside is a robot woman named “Alicia” (played by Jean Marsh).

While Corry initially despises the robot, 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 average viewer was only just beginning to grow concerned about the rapid development of machinery and technology encroaching on ordinary life, and its subsequent obscuring of reality. At any rate, one day about eleven 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) and then quickly board. However, Corry suddenly realizes that he cannot bring Alicia and he panics. He runs after her in the desert, screaming, until Major Allenby follows and shoots Alicia in the face, exposing her wires, demonstrating she is nothing more than a robot as she repeats the words “Corry… Corry” over and over until her power fades.

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,” to which Corry responds 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.”
-Rod Serling

My Thoughts on “The Lonely”

Extreme isolation, artificial intelligence, space travel, wrongful imprisonment —The Twilight Zone is still as relevant as when it first aired in 1959. In our day and age, we are just beginning to embark on a new frontier of artificial intelligence, even as the horrifying prospect of extreme loneliness in the modern world is leading some people to purchase robots for comfort and attachment. Perhaps people around us are already living James Corry’s horrid imprisonment in their own minds, a feeling of utter despair and loneliness. As always, The Twilight Zone offers a prescient reminder of things to come.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This was one of the first episodes Rod Sterling pitched to sponsors and it became the second episode in the series to be filmed according to production order.
  • The crew shot the entire episode for two full days in 130 degree heat in Death Valley, California with many suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. It was the first of many Twilight Zone episodes filmed in Death Valley though in future ventures the crew would be better prepared.
  • Cinematographer George T. Clemens later said that sweat from the cast and crew evaporated almost immediately while filming in the desert. Because of this, the sweat which can be seen in the finished episode 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 in this episode (known for his role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here to read my reflections on Rod Serling’s short story “The Lonely.”

1 thought on “The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode Seven “The Lonely”

  1. I first saw The Lonely on VHS when I started buying Twilight Zone episodes on home video. I really envy everyone involved who were able enough to work in all that heat.

    Liked by 1 person

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