The problem with figuring out a Twilight Zone twist immediately – and I mean before Rod Serling’s introduction immediately – is that you spend the whole half hour just watching events confirm your suspicions. “Stopover in a Quiet Town” was written by Earl Hamner, Jr., and if I had been watching this by myself, I’d have been annoyed that the episode was so incredibly obvious. But I didn’t watch it by myself, and so the experience was a little more fun.
Our kid had no idea what weird fate had befallen the inhabitants of Centerville, where a married couple played by Nancy Malone and Barry Nelson – the screen’s first James Bond – wake with foggy memories. Of course, he was approaching the problem from the wrong angle. The question is what weird fate had befallen the couple. So he grimaced and worked at it and said “Huh?” a few times, and, wide-eyed, said “This is so weird! Where is everybody?” at the commercial break. The episode may be obvious for grown-ups, but is a terrific mystery for kids.
One minor point that the writer and director could not possibly have predicted: at the precise moment where the characters comment about the lack of birdsong in the town, the cicadas outside our house erupted in the noisiest cacaphony of the summer. Ah, well! These things just can’t be helped.
There were six more episodes of The Twilight Zone after this one, and then the show was axed. It’s been revived a few times since, including a feature film along with more TV episodes. A second Zone ran on CBS from 1985-87 and continued in syndication with new episodes until 1989. A third Zone ran on UPN from 2002-03. A fourth series is apparently coming to CBS’s streaming service All Access sometime in 2019. We’re not presently planning to watch the eighties Zone – although that could change! – but we will look at a little of Rod Serling’s later series Night Gallery down the road when our son’s a little older. Stay tuned!