When we watched the last episode of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling invited us back for an episode set in a “battleground” and our son insisted on watching it. We tried to dissuade him, knowing that he meant an emotional battleground, and assured him that it wouldn’t have any explosions, but he wouldn’t back down. So we watched “Young Man’s Fancy,” in which Richard Matheson weaves a tale, as if there weren’t enough in this show already, of a tedious, emotionally stunted manchild lost in nostalgia, and everybody hated it. Most of the grownups’ loathing was directed at the dummy who refuses to grow up and move on, but I had to spare a mean thought for the idiot woman who waited thirteen years for him to marry her. If we’re meant to believe this clown ever gave this sad, desperate woman any reason whatever to fall in love with him, the episode didn’t show it. It was an awful story, one of the very worst we’ve sat through.
Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” on the other hand, was magical. A really good actress named Josephine Hutchinson plays the robot Grandma in this fantasy set in a world where a company called Facsimile Ltd. can bring love and guidance to people in need. David White and Veronica Cartwright also star.
Cartwright, by the way, is also completely excellent in this. She plays the sibling who rejects the grandmother, using her heartbreak over her mother’s death to justify closing her heart to anyone else. It’s powerful stuff, and I was riveted watching these two play what could have been a mawkish scene about everyone leaving the young girl. But it’s not all deep and serious. We get a twinkling of whimsy at the strange offices of Facsimile Ltd., and a kite-flying scene is absolutely charming. It’s a great, great little half-hour.
Bradbury himself was really dissatisfied with the production. The Twilight Zone Vortex went deep, deep into the reasons why in a post a few months ago. I was sorry to learn that Bradbury was so unhappy with it. A scene that he considered critical was removed, in which the grandmother and David White’s character, the children’s father, discuss the differences between humanity and her electronic approximation of it. It led to the end of Bradbury’s friendship and working relationship with Rod Serling. The writer turned his teleplay into a short story in 1969, and it later became a short TV movie for NBC in 1982.
But with all respect, I thought the story was magical and sweet and very well made. It led to a fun discussion about whether we might build some older or younger siblings for our son, and it didn’t require three pauses to explain the emotional battleground of the first story that we watched!
That’s all from The Twilight Zone for this run, but stick around! We’ll be watching a short selection from season four in May. Stay tuned!