Twilight Zone – A Message from Charity (11/01/85)

tzmessagecharity1There are multiple reasons for me to not like this.  1) After getting off easy with a 10-minute segment yesterday, I’m left with a 37-minute chore. 2) It stars an uninteresting actor from a so-so Star Trek series . . . as a kid. 3) It is the kindler / gentler Twilight Zone as seen in If She Dies and Ye Gods.  And yet . . .

In 1700, Farmer Hoggett is worried about his daughter Charity who is sick with fever.  The doctor in this small Pilgrim community seems to double as the veterinarian.  Hoggett says, “Master Towbridge is more experienced at delivering lambs and foals than treating human maladies.”

In her fever, Charity hears the roar of some great beast which turns out to be a car — even worse, it is a car on a TV.  In the present, teenager Peter Wood [1] is also laid up with a fever, watching TV.  He is getting chilled orange juice and Advil, not so much with the bark and leaches.

He too gets a glimpse across time as he sees a pilgrim woman in his bedroom.  As the woman puts a damp cloth on Charity’s forehead, Peter feels the relief.  As Charity brushes her hand across a burlap blanket, she says it feels like a soft quilt.  There is a strange close up shot of Peter’s hand brushing over his soft quilt.  It is just a couple of seconds and too close to see the context — but was he copping a feel?

tzmessagecharity2The next day as Charity and Peter are each outdoors recuperating, they are able to communicate.  They learn that they both live close to Bear Rock near Harmon Brook in Massachusetts.  However, one lives there in a dark time when there is a dull uniformity of thought, great oppression, taxation without representation, and a ruling puritanical elite which gets the vapors if thou expresseth any perceived heresy; and Charity lives in 1700.   Heyooooo!

They are also able to see through each other’s eyes.  Peter looks at an airplane flying above to prove he is in the future.  She is still skeptical until Peter takes a drink of orange juice, now with 90% less scurvy.  He begins chowing down on all kinds of junk food to show her you how modern Americans eat.  Sadly, we do not get to see him vicariously enjoying Charity’s dinner of souse, scrapple and fetid water.

She asks him to look in a mirror so she can see what he looks like.  He asks her to look look into the brook so he can see her reflection.  It is love at second-sight.  Charity tells her friend Ursula of the miraculous things she has seen through Peter’s eyes — horseless carriages, boxes with likenesses of people many leagues [2] distant, men walking on the moon, and cheese in aerosol cans.

He shows her a library, takes a trip on an airplane, gives her a tour of Washington DC, and tells her of the Revolution (the one in her future, not the inevitable one in his future). For some reason, Peter’s father gives him a glass of wine, so Charity gets her first taste of alcohol.  Hoggett doesn’t cotton to her jocularity and thinks she is still not over her fever.  Ursula attributes Charity’s recent shenanigans to her being a witch.

tzmessagecharity5This is scientifically confirmed when one of the neighbors has a calf born with “a pinched up face and a third eye.”  Squire Hacker tells her he must search her whole teenage body for witchmarks, and “the search must be thorough for the devil’s ways are cunning.”  Charity belts him and runs as fast as her little buckled shoes will carry her.

She asks Peter to research whatever became of her.  He finds nothing about Charity being on trial for witchcraft, but does dig up some dirt on Squire Hacker.  She is able to leverage this into a not-guilty verdict. Charity ends their communication but leaves him a message which he finds 285 years later — their initials carved into a rock which miraculously is not underneath an 7-11.

For a not-your-father’s-Twilight Zone [3], this was a pretty great segment.  I completely bought into the design which felt like 1700.  The performances seemed perfectly suited to the era.  James Cromwell (Hoggett — OK, Obediah) only had a few scenes, but was convincing.  However, the episode was really carried by Kelly Noonan (Charity).  She seemed perfectly of that era in her accent and movement.  Robert Duncan McNeill (Peter) had a thankless job of having no one to play off of in almost every scene; also wearing giant 1980s glasses.  He did it about as well as possible, though.

I give it 1600 out of 1700.


  • [1] The previous segment had a kid named Dickie and this one has a kid named Peter from the Wood family.  What the hell?
  • [2] I did not realize a league was a unit of distance other than under the sea.  On land, it is the distance one can walk in an hour, which seems pretty subjective for a unit of measurement.
  • [3] Although airing in 1985, maybe now it is your father’s Twilight Zone.
  • Peter and Charity were 16 and 11 in the short story.  Good move, upping her age.
  • Cromwell and McNeill went on to be big shots in the Star Trek world.  Sadly, the best of the lot, Kerry Noonan seems to have given up acting.  Maybe some scuzzy producer wanted to search her for actressmarks.
  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Michael (not J.) Fox was in 3 episodes of the 1960s series.
  • Available on YouTube.

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