The Twilight Zone (Episode #9): “Perchance To Dream” (airdate 11/27/59)
The Plot: The most tired man alive insists the problem isn’t that he can’t sleep, but that he mustn’t sleep… because he’d never wake up again.
The Goods: Edward Hall (Richard Conte) has two problems. The first is a bum ticker that he’s been warned against exciting for fear it just may give out on him. The second is a wild-eyed minx named Maya (Suzanne Lloyd) who stalks him in his dreams with the promise that she’ll do just that. Hall’s solution is to stay awake by any means necessary, but the pressure and desire to sleep is overwhelming so he goes to a psychiatrist named Dr. Eliot Rathmann (John Larch) for help. He shares his story, including the atmospheric dreams and the mysteriously seductive femme fatale. Believing the doctor can do nothing for him Hall leaves the office only to discover his nightmare has followed him into the real world… or has it?
The first episode of the series not written by Rod Serling is a solid effort from Charles Beaumont, and while the ending features a typical Twilight Zone kicker the most successful aspect of it are the visuals. Hall’s dreams are presented in an appropriately intangible and enticing style that draws the viewer in even as events cause the pulse to race. Lloyd’s Maya is exotic to the point of being a quixotic creation, but while she straddles the line between ideal and unreal the effort needed to resist her temptations grows.
If it’s your time to go there are certainly worse harbingers of doom to find haunting your dreams…
Beyond the dreamy visuals the episode is fairly straightforward. One line stands out though for its recognition of the powerful fuel behind Serling’s creation… imagination. “I knew intellectually that I was alone,” Hall says to the doctor. “But I also knew that my imagination could make me see something if I thought about it long enough.” It’s that wonderful element of imagination on the part of Serling, Beaumont, everyone else who’s worked on the show, and even the viewers that makes The Twilight Zone the eternally iconic show that it is.
What do you think of the episode?
The Trivia: In addition to being the first of the series not to be written by Serling, this episode is also the first of twenty-two to be written by Beaumont.
On the Next Episode: “A man finds himself on a ship in the Atlantic in 1942 not knowing who he was or how he got there. He does know that the ship would be attacked by a German submarine.”
We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.