Original Air Date: May 12, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Buzz Kulik
“Concentration. Mind over matter. Today the landlady. Tomorrow, the world!”
“A brief if frenetic introduction to Mr. Archibald Beechcroft. A child of the 20th century, a product of the population explosion, and one of the inheritors of the legacy of progress. Mr. Beechcroft again, this time Act Two of his daily battle for survival, and in just a moment our hero will begin his personal one-man rebellion against the mechanics of his age, and to do so he will enlist certain aides available only in the Twilight Zone.”
“The Mind and the Matter” is another episode in the series wherein a predictably complacent curmudgeon is taught a valuable lesson about dreams and isolation. Archibald Beechcroft (played by Shelly Berman) is a middle-aged misanthrope. He despises the crowded, urban commute he takes to work. He spends his days in perpetual annoyance at other people. One day, he grows angry when a young errand boy named Henry spills coffee on him at work. While taking aspirin in the bathroom Mr. Beechcroft’s boss lectures him about synergy and productivity.
An exasperated Beechcroft wishes that every other person would simply disappear. Over lunch Henry apologizes to Beechcroft and presents him with a gift -a book about telepathy called The Mind and the Matter. The book teaches the power of concentration which Beechcroft studies intensely on the train ride home and over dinner in his tiny apartment. When the landlady arrives to collect his rent, he tries out the theory in the book and it works -she disappears.
He then begins erasing all people around him in his life but soon -predictably- he grows bored. He soon decides to repopulate the world with people just like himself, but he grows miserable at all the anti-social people so he simply returns things to normal. The next day, Henry bumps into Mr. Beechcroft and spills coffee on him again. He asks Mr. Beechcroft if the book was helpful but Mr. Beechcroft coyly brushes it off claiming the book is mostly nonsense. Henry shrugs and walks away.
“Mr. Archibald Beechcroft, a child of the twentieth century, who has found out through trial and error – and mostly error – that with all its faults, it may well be that this is the best of all possible worlds. People notwithstanding, it has much to offer. Tonight’s case in point – in the Twilight Zone.”
“The Mind and the Matter” is a bit of a silly episode with a clear moral lesson: be careful what you wish for. It is a comedy episode, and The Twilight Zone is not particularly remembered for its comedies.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- At one point in the episode Mr. Beechcroft hums the song “Alone” which was featured in the 1935 Marx Brothers movie “A Night At the Opera.”
- The artist William Tuttle created the Beechcroft masks for the scene in which everyone is supposed to look like Mr. Beechcroft.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
Being careful what we wish for is one of the most common lessons in The Twilight Zone, with the dramatic or comedic values of the characters always somehow having to learn the hard way.
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