Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Twilight Time

Two Twilight Zones shown during the annual New Year’s marathon hearken back to literary past and foreshadow, in line with the Sci-Fi mythos of the series, inventions of the future. “The Little People” is Gulliver’s Travels with Swift’s satire of human nature in a space-age context. Two astronauts crash land on a far-away planet. Fletcher, the captain, is all about working to get the ship back into orbit again. His despondent subordinate Craig wanders off and discovers a civilization of microscopic people who treat him like a god, even going so far as to erect a statue in his honor. Convinced that he can become the one and only God, Craig orders Fletcher off the planet as soon as the ship is repaired. The only problem is that enormous Brobdingnagians also appear on the planet. In a climactic scene, the little people pull down the statue they have erected, much the way the statues of Stalin and Lenin were be pulled down at the end of the Communist era. “A Kind of a Stop Watch” introduces the garrulous character of Peter Thomas McNulty, who abuses the gift of time. This episode introduces a device like the one that would become the centerpiece of Nicholson Baker’s erotic novel The Fermata. McNulty wants attention, but no one listens to his ideas and he is soon fired from his job at a lingerie company. However, given a magical stopwatch that puts time on hold, McNulty realizes he can rob all the banks and get everything he wants. The problem is, the stopwatch breaks, and though he has all the money in the world, he can’t start life up again. The denouement is reminiscent of the famed Burgess Meredith episode (“Time Enough At Last”) about the book lover who finds himself in a paradise without people until his glasses shatter on the ground.

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