The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Six “Living Doll”

Original Air Date: November 1, 1963
Writer: Jerry Sohl (based on a plot by Charles Beaumont)
Director: Richard C. Sarafian

“My name is Talky Tina and you’d better be nice to me…”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Erich Streater (played by greek-American actor Telly Savalas who also played Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and appeared in many other films and shows like Star Trek) is a somewhat abusive, controlling husband who is dismayed one day to find that his wife Annabelle (Mary LaRoche, known for her roles in Gidget and Bye Bye Birdie and numerous shows) has purchased an expensive doll called “Talky Tina” for their daughter Christie (Tracy Stratford). Erich berates his wife –curiously we pick up on a theme he is merely a stepfather to Christie because he and Annabelle cannot have any children of their own (Annabelle previously had Christie in a prior marriage). At any rate, soon the doll begins delivering menacing threats to Erich when no one else is listening: “My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry…” or “My name is Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you…”

“Talky Tina, a doll that does everything, a lifelike creation of plastic and springs and painted smile. To Erich Streator, she is the most unwelcome addition to his household—but without her, he’d never enter the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Amidst the backdrop of a wonderfully sinister score by Bernard Herrmann, Talky Tina continues issuing murderous threats to Erich, while at the same time his wife and daughter gaslight him. He is caught between and a rock and a hard place. If Erich destroys the doll, he seems to be over-reacting to an inanimate object beloved by his daughter; but if he allows the doll to stay it will surely try to kill him. He throws Talky Tina into the trashcan but somehow she escapes and Erich receives a phone call from the doll. Next, Erich attempts to burn Talky Tina and saw off her head, but all to no avail.

When Annabelle threatens to leave home with Christie, Erich promises to stop obsessing over the doll. However, later that night Erich is awoken. He tiptoes around the house when he hears a noise and he suddenly trips over Talky Tina falling down the flight of stairs, perhaps to his own death. In horror, Annabelle rushes to scene to find the doll seated beside Erich as she says, “My name is Talky Tina and you’d better be nice to me…”

“Of course, we all know dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder—in the misty region of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • By now, Charles Beaumont’s tragic disease was beginning to unfold and his friends were completing scripts on his behalf. In this episode sole credit was given to Beaumont in the episode even though Jerry Sohl truly wrote the script, in a single day no less!
  • June Foray supplies the voice of Talky Tina. She was also the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the “Chatty Cathy” doll by Mattel.
  • This well-celebrated episode spawned a number of murderous doll horror franchise spin-offs –such as the Chucky series or the Annabelle films (including The Conjuring).
  • Mary La Roche, Tracy Stratford, and June Foray each appeared in one other episode of The Twilight Zone. La Roche in “A World of His Own,” Stratford was uncredited in “Little Girl Lost,” and Foray was uncredited as the voice of Mary Badham’s character in the series’ final episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool.”
  • The house in this episode also was later used in the Season 5 episode “Ring-a-Ding Girl.”
  • The doll used for Talky Tina was produced by the Vogue Doll Company between 1959 and 1961 and marketed under the name “Brikette.” Contrary to its depiction on The Twilight Zone, Brikette did not speak.
  • “Living Doll” is parodied in the classic Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode “Clown Without Pity.” In the story, Homer gives Bart a talking Krusty the Clown doll for his birthday, and the toy tries to kill Homer until he realizes the doll has mistakenly been switched to “evil” mode.
  • There are some interesting Freudian theories about this episode –since Christie (the daughter) and Talky Tina share a name, perhaps the doll is a psychological outlet for Christie to exact vengeance on her abusive stepfather.
  • The child who plays Christie in this episode also voiced Lucy in the television classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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

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