The great Rod Serling was a television visionary and is among my favorite science fiction writers. Here’s a television interview with Rod conducted in 1970. From the YouTube description:
“In 1970 University of Kansas professor James Gunn interviewed a series of science fiction authors for his Centron film series ‘Science Fiction in Literature.’ This footage from an unreleased film in that series featuring an interview with Rod Serling, which wasn’t finished due to problems with obtaining rights to show footage from Serling’s work in television. This reconstruction is based on the original workprint footage that was saved on two separate analog sources since the audio track was separate. Re-syncing the footage was a long involved process as the audio track didn’t match the film and there was substantial sync drift. While not perfect, there’s a lot of interesting information on writing for television in the dialogue with Serling as well as a prophetic statement about his health at the beginning.”
In this series, I’ll be comparing the (non-Serling) short stories that inspired episodes of The Twilight Zone to their teleplays. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Often they are not. The topic of this post is Time Enough At Last, the eighth episode of season one.
Ask anyone to name their favorite episode of The Twilight Zone and many will say, “Time Enough At Last.” It’s a near perfect little story. In act I we meet the everyman hero. In act II he’s put into an impossible situation and finally, in act III, he is redeemed. Or is he? Serling has us rooting for Mr. Henry Beamis and just as he’s about to get ahead, life’s cruelty smacks him in the face. Well, in the glasses at least. It’s a vicious twist ending that shocked viewers long before shows like Law and Order trained audiences to expect a final jolt.
After reading Lyn Venable’s short story, I’ve got a new understanding of Henry, his wife Helen, the episode’s themes and the cruel moment that reduces Mr. Bemis to tears. Here’s my look at Time Enough At Last.