Original Air Date: January 3, 1963
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Director: Perry Lafferty
“All kids have dreams, don’t they? Well, you were mine.”
This classic inaugural episode of the penultimate season of The Twilight Zone is based on Charles Beaumont’s 1957 short story “The Man Who Made Himself.” It is about a man who discovers a disturbing fact about himself while visiting his hometown. It presents a delightful blend of themes found in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? While the fourth season offers a bright spot in Beaumont’s writing career, tragically by the end of 1963 he began to develop Alzheimer’s disease, a rare degenerative mental disease for a man in his thirties at the height of his career. “In His Image” introduces us to a man named Alan Talbot (George Grizzard). He is walking alone in New York City in the early morning hours when he hears strange mechanical noises in his head. He wanders into the subway where he is accosted by a persistent religious proselytizer. He starts hearing the noises again. As the train approaches he grows exasperated with this religious fanatic before he suddenly pushes her onto the tracks in front of the oncoming train.
“What you have just witnessed could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn’t. It’s the beginning. Although Alan Talbot doesn’t know it, he’s about to enter a strange new world, too incredible to be real, too real to be a dream. It’s called – The Twilight Zone.”
As the episode continues we meet Alan’s girlfriend Jessica “Jess” Connelly (Gail Kobe). Together they take a trip to Alan’s hometown of Coeurville, NY but his memory is a bit hazy on various town landmarks. Slowly, Alan begins to realize that none of his former friends or family recognize him and he starts to lose his sanity while hearing a voice in his head commanding him to kill Jess. As he dashes off into the woods he is hit by a passing motorist and the resulting injury reveals a connected assembly of machinery and wires underneath his forearm skin. In a typical half-hour Twilight Zone episode, the plot might end here but the fourth season expanded the episode run-times to 1-hour.
Later he tracks down a man in the phone book named Walter Ryder, Jr. who looks exactly like him (also played by George Grizzard). Walter leads Alan down to his laboratory and reveals that he actually constructed Alan as a synthetic man but somehow he started to malfunction. Suddenly, Alan lunges at Walter and they battle one another as the screen fades to black.
Next we see Jess who answers her door to find Walter whom she believes to be Alan standing before her. They decide to reignite their relationship anew as the camera pans back to Walter’s laboratory where we see a dead Alan lying lifeless and deactivated amidst the room’s machinery.
“In a way it can be said that Walter Ryder succeeded in his life’s ambition, even though the man he created was, after all, himself. There may be easier ways to self-improvement but sometimes it happens that the shortest distance between two points is a crooked line through – The Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This episode was based on Charles Beaumont’s 1957 short story “The Man Who Made Himself.” It was first published in Imagination magazine and later included in Beaumont’s Yonder collection. In the story the main character is named Pete Nolan, after Beaumont’s friend William F. Nolan, but he changed it for the episode thinking his friend might not wish his name associated with a murderous robot. Talbot may well have been named after the “Wolf Man” Lawrence Talbot.
- The title for this episode alludes to Genesis 1:27.
- While this episode has generally been reviewed favorably by fans, many episodes in season 4 have not been met with such critical praise.
- Alan Talbot collects money for a fictional boy scouts group called the Junior Woodchucks, a group created in 1951 by Carl Bucks for the Donald Duck comic book series.
- This was the first episode featuring a new opening segment with a door, window breaking, and flying doll.
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This Twilight Zone episode was particularly impressive for how it clearly inspired several similarly themed SF for TV and films. Especially thanks to George Grizzard’s quite courageous performance.
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