Original Air Date: December 9, 1960
Writer: E. Jack Neuman
Director: Buzz Kulik
“Why don’t you go back to where you came from? We don’t want you here!”
“Pleased to present for your consideration, Mr. Booth Templeton; serious and successful star of over thirty Broadway plays, who is not quite all right today. Yesterday and its memories is what he wants, and yesterday is what he’ll get. Soon his years and his troubles will descend on him in an avalanche. In order not to be crushed Mr. Booth Templeton will escape from his theater and his world, and make his debut on another stage, in another world, that we call the Twilight Zone.”
Mr. Booth Templeton (played by Brian Aherne, an actor whose career spanned back to the silent era) is an aging actor with his best years behind him. While getting dressed for his Broadway show, he peers out the window to see his young wife flirting beside the pool with another young man. He waxes nostalgically to his assistant about his first wife who died when she was only twenty-five. He remembers her fondly in the golden years of his youth. He pulls on a coat and heads to the theatre. When he arrives he is greeted by an intense, militant director who berates Templeton for showing up late. Frustrated, Templeton runs out of the theatre and out into the street.
Suddenly he is greeted by a crowd of adoring fans. The year is 1927. Somehow, Templeton has traveled back to his golden years. He is informed that his wife is waiting for him at a bar. He races to the bar where he spots her face, a face he has longed to see for many decades -his flapper girl wife in her early twenties. She is seated beside an old friend named Barney Flueger. Templeton sits down next to them but they ignore Templeton who now appears old and forlorn. He begs his wife numerous times to go somewhere private where they may talk, but she treats him with only coldness and contempt. She is not the woman Templeton remembers. He flees the crowded, hazy bar which suddenly goes silent and the lights dim. It is one of the more beautiful and disorienting moments in the series. Is this all a charade? Is it a mere fantasy?
Templeton runs back to the theatre and the year returns to 1960. Inside his pocket he pulls out a magazine he had taken from his wife but instead he finds a script: “What To Do When Booth Comes Back.” He flips through the pages and realizes it is an exact transcript of the conversation he had only moments ago with her in the speakeasy. It dawns on him that Laura and Flueger were only acting for his benefit. They were intentionally cold to him so that he would return to his own time and live a happier life instead of romanticizing the past. Empowered with his new sense of self-worth, Templeton struts forward with confidence, demanding respect from the young director, and preparing to deliver what promises to be his best performance in years.
“Mr. Booth Templeton, who shared with most human beings the hunger to recapture the past moments, the ones that soften with the years. But in his case, the characters of his past blocked him out and sent him back to his own time, which is where we find him now. Mr. Booth Templeton, who had a round-trip ticket – into The Twilight Zone.”
In a meta-commentary on the nature of an actor’s performance, E. Jack Neumann offers us an aging actor who has lost his confidence on the stage of life. The true “trouble” with Templeton is that he has forgotten the true power of a stage performance, and so he needs to be reminded in the dark recesses of his memory. As in Season 1’s “Walking Distance” here we see a man travel backward in time only to learn how to better live in the present day.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This episode is E. Jack Neuman’s only contribution to the series. Neuman was a friend of producer Buck Houghton.
- In an interview with Marc Scott Zicree for The Twilight Zone Companion, Kulik commented that of the nine episodes he directed for the show “The Trouble with Templeton” was his favorite.
- A young Sydney Pollack plays the militant theatre director in this episode. Today his directorial fame includes The Way We Were and other Hollywood classics.