Time Enough at Last: “The One That Haunts People”
Of all the episodes of The Twilight Zone, perhaps none has left more of a mark on viewers than “Time Enough at Last.” The episode that struck fear in the hearts of book-lovers everywhere — and inspired horrified glasses-wearers to opt for a back-up pair — turns 55 today.
In a 1984 article for Twilight Zone magazine, star Burgess Meredith recalled how the episode excited writer Rod Serling himself:
He had just seen some rushes of the show, which made him very enthusiastic. He said, ‘Hey, you’re wonderful. Let’s do more shows with you.’ After that, Rod wrote a Twilight Zone for me each season. Our relationship wound up lasting a long time. And of course, later in our careers, we both did a lot of voice-over work.
Not quite EACH season, as it turns out. Meredith did “Time Enough at Last” in the first season, “Mr. Dingle, The Strong” and “The Obsolete Man” in the second, and “Printer’s Devil” in the fourth. But the fact remains that Serling clearly enjoyed writing for this talented man.
Meredith was also impressed by the show’s production schedule, which allowed for a day of rehearsals, as well as script conferences and other meetings with cast and crew — a real luxury in the otherwise harried world of network TV:
I didn’t realize it back then, but that rehearsal time was pretty unusual. And perhaps the relationships developed at those sessions help explain why I stayed in touch with many of the show’s behind-the-scenes people after Twilight Zone went off the air.
The final scene, of course, is the one that remains seared in every viewer’s memory — and with good reason. The steps of a book-covered, bomb-blasted public library was remarkably realistic on a TV budget years before CGI work was possible.
I suppose that shot was quite ornate for a weekly show. But you have to remember The Twilight Zone was shot at MGM, where they had those exterior sets all over the place. As a result, the only thing the production people had to do for that scene was get a few books.
Combine this production value with Serling’s writing, Meredith’s acting and John Brahm’s direction, and it’s easy to see why this episode is still considered a TV classic over half a century later. As Meredith says:
‘Time Enough at Last’ is the one that haunts people. It ultimately proved to be the most successful of the Twilight Zones I acted in. I don’t think I’ve ever done any other project that people talk to me more about than that show. Roughly every two or three months, someone comes up to me and mentions ‘Time Enough at Last’. It’s gotten to the point where when they first approach me, I almost know what they’re going to say.
For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress members can also hit “follow” at the top of this page.
Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!