Original Air Date: November 13, 1959
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Jack Smight
“The Lonely” is an ominous Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Sterling, featuring a brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann, and directed by Jack Smight. It is a science fiction story. It takes place many years from now, as one lone man is imprisoned and relegated to finish his solitary sentence of roughly 50 years on a distant asteroid some nine million miles from Earth.
“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
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 someone, which he claims was in self-defense, and now he must serve out a life sentence some might call worse than death.
A ship carrying supplies arrives and Corry rushes to greet them. 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 -the human mind will fabricate a 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. 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 about 15 pounds worth of possessions (there are already 7 other prisoners aboard). Corry realizes he cannot bring Alicia and he panics. He runs after her screaming, until Major Allenby 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.” “I must remember that,” Corry says ominously. “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
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was one of the first episodes that Rod Sterling pitched to sponsors. It was the second episode to be filmed.
- They 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.
- George T. Clemens later said that sweat from the cast and crew evaporated almost immediately. Because of this, the sweat seen in the show is actually a thick coat of glycerin.
- This episode takes place from 2046 to 2047.