The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Episode Twenty-Eight “The Little People”

Original Air Date: March 30, 1962
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: William F. Claxton

“It’s a whole race of people no bigger than ants!”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The time is the space age, the place is a barren landscape of a rock-walled canyon that lies millions of miles from the planet Earth. The cast of characters? You’ve met them: William Fletcher, commander of the spaceship; his copilot, Peter Craig. The other characters who inhabit this place you may never see, but they’re there, as these two gentlemen will soon find out. Because they’re about to partake in a little exploration into that gray, shaded area in space and time that’s known as the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Somewhere in space two men, Commander William Fletcher (Claude Akins) and Navigator Peter Craig (Joe Maross), make an emergency landing on an uncharted asteroid. Their ship has sustained damage in a meteor shower. Craig sits on a rock complaining about their food supply, and he decides to explore the asteroid while Fletcher diligently repairs the ship. More than anything Craig longs to be free from loneliness –he wants to be around fellow humans again, perhaps at Yankee Stadium. Suddenly, he hears voices on the asteroid.

Later Fletcher notices that Craig has not been drinking water –Craig reluctantly shows Fletcher where he has been wandering. He has actually found a pure water stream up in the canyon, and there are microscopic trees and cars lining the stream. Most importantly they discover a whole race of tiny people living alongside this little stream in a scene reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels in while Lemuel Gulliver’s voyages to the miniature kingdom of the Lilliputians the story is explicitly alluded to in the episode). Craig has discovered they can communicate via mathematics and he begins to have delusions of grandeur, believing himself to be a god among these little people. Craig and Fletcher get into a fight, but later the little people create a life-size statue likeness of Craig while Fletcher has fully repaired the ship. However, Craig pulls a gun on Fletcher and decides to remain with the little people. Fletcher attempts to persuade him otherwise, but it is no use.

Just as Fletcher takes off in the spaceship, Craig maniacally lords over the little people until another spaceship lands and two gigantic human spacemen emerge. They pick up a screaming Craig but toss him back into the dirt and return to their own ship for repairs. Moments later, the little people tear down their giant statue of Craig over his lifeless corpse.

“The case of navigator Peter Craig, a victim of a delusion. In this case, the dream dies a little harder than the man. A small exercise in space psychology that you can try on for size in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

This episode uses a familiar story-line in The Twilight Zone series: a group of astronauts lands on a foreign planet to discover something strange and previously unknown, owing a certain debt of gratitude to Ray Bradbury and his Martian Chronicles as well as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. This episode is a fun bit of science fiction/space fantasy that leaves the audience with a more refined sense of perspective.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • As in many other Twilight Zone episodes, this episode uses several props and costumes originally created for MGM’s Forbidden Planet –including ‘blaster pistols’ and their tunic costumes.
  • This episode makes allusion to the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels.
  • This episode aired about a month after John Glenn became the first astronaut to attain orbit around earth.
  • The stock footage of a rocket launch was of a test flight of a Mercury Atlas booster.
  • Unlike other episodes featuring barren asteroid scenery, this episode was shot on an MGM backlot rather than in the California desert.
  • Actor Claude Akins previously appeared in The Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and Joe Maross appeared in a supporting role in “Third From The Sun.”
  • This was the first of four episodes in the series directed by William Claxton. He was mainly known for his work on Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie.

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

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