Twilight Zone – Her Pilgrim Soul (12/13/85)

tzherpilgrimsoul09Note to self: Need to work on that macro that types “It was a fine episode, just not what I’m looking for from The Twilight Zone.” Maybe CTL-T-Z.

Scientists Kevin and Daniel are working on a holographic imaging system.  Suddenly, there is a 8 to 9 month old fetus hovering in the holographic field.  Unable to explain the miraculous scientific breakthrough, the two brainiacs decide to abort the fetus by rebooting the system.  This drastic step will take all day, or slightly less time than my old Windows Vista.  After they clock out for the day, a baby appears floating in the field.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-style house, Kevin is in bed with his wife Carol.  She is complaining that he knows she wants children.  He says he is too busy at work, and she counter-productively launches into a nagging tirade that ain’t exactly gonna put anyone in the mood to make a baby.  He spends the night in the guest room.

tzherpilgrimsoul02When he gets to work the next morning, there is a homely little girl in the purple holographic field. Kevin programs a ball for her to play with.  When Daniel finally drags his ass into work, she says her name is Nola Granville, from Westchester, New York.

Kevin tells Daniel that Nola is aging at about 10 months per hour, or about 10 years per day.  That seems more like 20 years per day to me, but I ain’t no scientist.  Daniel has done some research and discovered there was a Granville family in Westchester.  They recall having a great-aunt named Nola who was kind of a black sheep in the family.  Nola, now 10 years old [1], tells Kevin she remembers a trip to the beach with her father in 1916

The next day, Nola appears to be about 20; now we’re talkin’!  Nola and Kevin do two things unlikely on TV: 1) they quote William Butler Yeats back and forth, and 2) they don’t pronounce it Yeetz.[2]  This is the first portrayal of Nola to not be cringe-inducingly awful.  In fact, Anne Twomey is pretty awesome in the role.  This is no small feat as she is translucent, purple-tinted, and her words are smothered by insipidly sweet music.

tzherpilgrimsoul17She and Kevin talk about their lives and before you know it, Kevin is moving out of his house and into the lab.  Kristoffer Tabori as Kevin is a completely different person when he is with Nola.  There is an ease and comfort that is missing in his scenes with Carol.  The deck is a stacked by having Carol be a little bit of a passive-aggressive shrew, but Tabori grounds it perfectly.

While Kevin is making time with Nola, Daniel continues investigating her.  He tracks down a relative in Westchester with maybe the worst hair-do ever seen on American television.  Her accent is also grating, but my God, that hair!  She tells him how Nola’s father threatened to disown her over dating a Jewish student.  Queue the insipid music, but this time there is an interesting difference.  The first five notes, which are repeated frequently, are right out of Star Wars.  I don’t know what it is called, but it is here.  Seems like I remember it from the end of Empire, but I’m Star Warred out.

Nola continues to age up to the point where she was pregnant.  She suddenly doubles over, screaming in pain.  She tells Kevin she lost the baby.  Thank God we are not treated to another floating fetus.  They go on talking and talking (and talking and talking) as she ages.  Turns out, she is there for a reason.  Blah, blah, blah.

Despite some great performances and a good concept, this is hard to recommend.  The mawkish music and Lifetime Movie vibe must have driven away many of the few remaining fans of the original series. C’mon, you started out great!  An unexplained fetus in the holographic field — something the original could never have gotten away with — and this is where you went with it?

CTL-T-Z:  It was a fine episode, just not what I’m looking for from The Twilight Zone.


  • [1] Now played by Winnie from The Wonder Years who could have helped with the math.
  • [2] They do, however, irritate me by saying patronize with a short “a” and eye-ther instead of ee-ither.  I have literally never heard anyone in real life use those pronunciations.
  • Nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award.  No argument.
  • Skipped segment:  I of Newton, which turned me off with a cutesy title and 8 minute run-time.  Once again, African Americans are segregated into their own story. However, it was worth the time to see Sherman Helmsley play someone other than George Jefferson.

Science Fiction Theatre – No Food for Thought (04/23/55)

The host tells us we are in Santa Rosa where “nothing much has happened since the Wells Fargo robbery of 1882”; that streak will not end tonight.  Sheriff Simpson enters Silas Barker’s funeral parlor, sadly for the business, on his own two feet.  He tells Simpson about a call he got to pick up a stiff at the Tyson place.  He was told the corpse would be in the garage.  He found it there with a death certificate that fingered pneumonia as the murderer.  There was no one else around.

Believe it or not, this might be the most visually interesting shot in the episode.

County Health Officer Paul Novak is the next person through the door, also sadly vertical.  Walk-in business — not good for a mortuary.  He examines the corpse which the death certificate identifies as John Corey.  It gives his age as 52, but Novak says he has the body of a 20 year old.  He asks who this E.M. Hall is who signed the death certificate, but no one knows.

Novak drives out to the ol’ Hall place to ask a few questions.  He gets no answer at the door, but does have the good fortune to meet TV’s Fred Ziffel from Green Acres who is delivering a package!

Back at the Sheriff’s office, Novak suddenly decides “Dr. Hall” sounds familiar.  He pulls out a medical directory and flips through the pages, “Haynes . . . Haynes . . . Hale . . . Haley . . . Hall”.  What bloody order is this thing in? [1]  Hall was a Nobel Prize winner in 1936, when that meant something.  He was a leader in the field of nutrient biology.

Novak returns the next morning to the Hall house.  This time, via an intercom, Hall tells Novak he may come in.  However, just inside the door he will find a shower where he must scrub down.  Luckily, not airing on Showtime, the next shot is of him post-shower buttoning a fresh surgical gown.  Hall greets him and takes him into the lab.

Hall tells Novak that Corey worked for him 3 years.  Corey’s hot daughter Jan is also working in the lab.  They are searching for a nutrient — an artificial food — that is cheap and foolproof because earth has gotten to the point where it can’t feed the number of people living on it.[2]  As proof, he shows off a fully grown rabbit that is only 6 weeks old. Sadly it will die soon as a virus occurs whenever the nutrient is used.

The next day, Novak goes back to see the doctor.  He confronts him about not buying groceries and John Corey’s inexplicable youth.  He suggests that Corey did not die of pneumonia, but from testing the nutrient on himself.  Once on the nutrient you can never go back to real food.  Everyone in the lab is now taking the nutrient.

They were able to survive by switching to the New & Improved nutrient after Corey croaked.  Unfortunately, the novelty wears off and Jan contracts the virus.  Blah, blah, blah, Novak comes up with a cure.

This was excruciating.  The YouTube transfers are terrible but whatta ya gonna to do? The score continues to be offensively pompous.  The story was just an utter nothing although some of the dialogue was good.  John Howard had a few good moments as Novak.  The real catch was Vera Miles who would be in The Searchers the next year, and in Psycho a few years later.

I rate it 20% of the minimum daily requirement.


  • [1] I guess it could have been the less-used Haines, but why would they do that?
  • [2] This was when the earth’s population was about 1/3 of what it is now.  This is the kind of shrewd analysis that led to Hillary being given a 95% chance of winning.
  • Director Jack Arnold, writer Robert Fresco, and hayseed Fred Ziffel previously worked on Tarantula together.  That film was one of Clint Eastwood’s first gigs.

Outer Limits – Stream of Consciousness (02/07/97)

olstream0233-year old Ryan Unger is hitting the engineering books trying to figure out why he is one of the few humans who cannot suck on the titular Stream.  15-year old Nazi Mark helpfully reminds him that it is not a hardware limitation, he is defective. Mark orders him to get rid of shelves of books that are taking up space. This society has a networked stream that can wirelessly send and receive data directly into the brain, but the Kindle is still in beta, I guess.

Ryan sees Cheryl accessing the Stream and tries to strike up a conversation.  It is clear he is regarded as less than a man because he does not spend his life online. So Outer Limits is not exactly Nostradamus on that point.

There is an excellent exchange where Ryan asks Cheryl if she has read Ulysses by James Joyce.  She downloads it into her memory in five seconds and sincerely asks, “Is there something you didn’t understand?”  Kudos!  The trite reading would have been condescension, but they put a refreshing spin on it.

olstream11Ryan’s step-father Stanley helpfully tells us, “The Stream gives us instantaneous access to every fact and idea ever recorded.”  Cheryl finds Ryan in the basement reading. She tells him, the other 99% look at a page and it is translated and dumped into their memory.  She doesn’t even understand the concept of looking at words and reading.

That night, Stanley flips out.  He obsessively counts the number of hairs on his head, which would have been far easier for me.  He then frantically starts on his arm.  He collapses in a quivering heap but Ryan can’t call for help because he can’t call 911 with his brain.  Turns out, Stanley has contracted a computer virus.

Stanley goes into surgery because apparently these big-shots can’t fix the virus remotely.  During the operation, a nurse gets the virus and chaos ensues.  Stanley has a cerebral hemorrhage as random data floods into it, such as dates, numbers and how to spell hemorrhage.  The virus causes an insatiable, obsessive curiosity in people — it’s the V’ger Virus.

As other people become infected, Ryan realizes that the stream must be shut down.  When he starts whacking Stream routers with a baseball bat, Mark calls him the r-word (this episode is so old, the r-word was retarded, not racist).

olstream21As more and more people fall victim to the virus, Ryan decides the Stream must be stopped.  It really kind of feels like wish fulfillment for him, but his point is valid.  He finds a book with instructions on how to shut down the Stream and tricks Cheryl into scanning it.  This causes the program to upload to the stream and be executed.

The Stream stops and the citizens are a helpless bunch of illiterate dopes.  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  As in Idiocracy, an average dude is now the smartest guy on the planet.  He is seen teaching Cheryl and a little kid the alphabet using a chalkboard.  On a planet of billions, this does not seem to be the most efficient way to educate the masses.

One of my favorite episodes.  It feels ahead of its time even if it wasn’t.[1]  I was consistently surprised at the writing and dialogue.  Sadly, this is David Shore’s only script for the series.

Any rating I give it (baud rate, kbps, mbps, etc) will just become outdated, so let’s just say it’s some good shit.

  • [1] The same year this episode aired, Internet Explorer 4.0 was released, so it isn’t as prescient as it might seem.
  • This episode aired a few months before the similar Gattaca was released.
  • In what is surely a slip-up and still humiliating to the producers 20 years later, one of Ryan’s books is Freedom to Choose by Milton Friedman.  [UPDATE] Friedman’s book was Free to Choose — I should have known better.

The Hitchhiker – Nightshift (09/15/85)

hnightshift30We open with workmen clearing the debris from a massive roof collapse.  A reporter tells us the accident “left one man dead and one man miraculously alive” as we pan across a dead body on the ground.  A pulse is detected in a body previously thought to be dead.  But how did the reporter already know there was a survivor?  Where was this Nostradamus on Election Night?

The titular hitchhiker tells us, “Jane Reynolds works the night shift at an old age home, governing her charges with rules and an iron hand. [1] But there are some rules that bend when the night shifts.”[2]  We meet her making the rounds in the television room, taking a board game away from some oldsters, taking a cat from an old lady, and reminding another that her husband is dead.

That night, her boyfriend Johnny drops by for some hanky-panky.  And by hanky-panky, I mean taking a look at the jewelry Jane has lifted off the old people.  Johnny quite rightly points out that these geezers would have had their assets picked clean by their kids by the time they end up here.

hnightshift32Their date is interrupted by a new patient being admitted to the home.  It is the revived man from the roof collapse.  Played by Darren McGavin, he is credited as “Old Man” which in this episode is about as helpful as crediting “White Guy” on Seinfeld.  Jane is immediately captivated by his ring which really looks more like a high school graduation ring than a precious jewel; or maybe it’s a ruby — I’m no icthyologist. [4] She gives up after she is unable to slip it off his bony finger.

Johnny comes back, and he too is stunned by the ring.  I can understand that maybe he’s never seen a high school graduation ring, but she’s a nurse, for cryin’ out loud!  They work together to remove the ring.  Johnny suggests Vaseline, but this is no time for love.  She suggests muscle relaxant, but he whips out a knife.  Fortunately, they are interrupted by an old lady in a wheelchair.  They wheel her out, and the cat comes into Old Man’s room.

Regrouping in the med room to get the muscle relaxant — I thought that knife idea had real potential —  the poor couple is again interrupted.  The patients are distraught that the old lady’s cat has been killed.  Jane gets so upset that she smacks one of the geezers.  Not that I approve, but she must be worn out — she apparently is the only nurse and works a 24 hour shift.

hnightshift36After dispatching the mob which actually remembers pitchforks and torches, she returns to find Johnny has gone.  She grabs the muscle relaxant and heads back to Old Man’s room.  She injects the old man and works the ring off his finger.  Suddenly he awakens and grabs her hand.  He sits up, breaking the restraints across his bed.  She runs, but Old Man ambles after her.  She barricades herself in the laundry room, but flees when she sees Johnny’s corpse.  Old Man relentlessly follows her as she tries to escape.  When he catches her, he slits her throat with a little knife hidden in the ring.

In a strange coda, the patients are assembled in the hall as the police investigate the murder.  It is filmed from the detective’s POV. [3]  He asks what happened, and an old lady leads them into the office.  They spin the chair around to reveal Jane, dead, with white hair and having aged a few decades.  Well, hadn’t the cops already found her?  Why else would they be there?

The last scene is a newly rejuvenated Darren McGavin seeing the headline RETIREMENT HOME SLAYING at a newsstand.  He must still have a menacing aura of evil around him because the newsstand guy totally lets him walk off with the paper.

There is a great episode here somewhere, it just isn’t on the screen.  Darren McGavin is squandered in the role of Old Man.  He is such an affable and comedic actor, that he should have been used in another episode because, God knows, this series is utterly lacking in humor.  He is fine here, but the role is undemanding.  Margot Kidder just doesn’t work for me at all.


  • [1] Just like the coolly efficient, misunderstood Nurse Ratched.
  • [2] Title Analysis:  I like it!  Much of it literally takes place during Jane’s shift at night.  It also conveys the otherworldliness of the night as things shift away from reality.  But why is it spelled as one word?
  • [3] The commentary explains this was due to budgetary (i.e.union) reasons.
  • [4] I know that is a fish-guy, but I can’t think of the fancy word for jeweler and I can’t find it on Google.
  • In the commentary, and on IMDb there is talk of a nude scene.  I didn’t see it, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed.  If it was censored off the DVD, though, that I have a problem with.
  • Directed by Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Patriot Games, Salt)