Twilight Zone – Quarantine (02/07/86)

Matthew Foreman (Scott Wilson) is awakened from suspended anim-ation.  In the future, it is apparently recommended to shine a flashlight directly into the eyes of people waking up after a coma. Sarah is evasive about how long he has been asleep.  He tells her to “cut to the chase” thus ensuring that idiotic phrase will survive another 324 years into the future.

They go outside and Foreman sees a pastoral, almost Amish, farming community. There is a horse, a pig, a bull and I swear I think I even see a monkey.  He asks why he was brought “way out here” and not taken to a city.  They take him in for a medical procedure.  Rather than getting an anesthetic, an empath feels his pain for him.  A remote viewer diagnoses his carcinomas.  Sarah performs psychic surgery, reaching into his stomach without an incision to remove the growths.  There is great synergy in this being a farming community because there’s a lot of horseshit here.

After he recovers (i.e. the next day), Sarah explains the new-agey philosophy that governs life now.  Foreman was an engineer who actually built things — planes, tanks, satellites.  He wonders what his role is in this society.  After the nuclear war, the earth’s population fell to 200,000.  They take him to their computer room which is hefty Hefty bags of primates wired up like the human battery farms in The Matrix, but hairier.  The monkeys are intelligent enough to choose life in the matrix where they have all the bananas they can eat and all the feces they can fling — which is efficiently circuitous.

Three weeks ago, the remote viewers spotted an asteroid heading toward earth.  That image is telepathically sent to Foreman.  Such a rock could pound the earth back to the stone age which is, granted, not as far as it used to be.  They hope Foreman can use his engineering skills to instruct satellites still in orbit to blast the asteroid into bits, and also get free HBO.

Foreman successfully reboots the old satellite and targets the asteroid.  As it comes into range, it slows down and alters its course as if it is slipping into orbit.  He suddenly realizes that with their psychic ability, they can make him see whatever they want him to see.  They allow him to see the truth — he has targeted a spacecraft with an American flag on it.   He is outraged, but they tell him the ship is “full of the military and politicians — the ones who started the war.”  Unfortunately he can’t just target the front of the ship because you know the politicians would be in first class.

He tries to stop the satellite, but Sarah sabotages the computer.  She says the ship is bringing nuclear weapons back and that can not be allowed.  The laser fires, destroying the ship and its 1,000 passengers.  Congratulations to TZ for going dark.

Wracked with guilt, Foreman sits on the porch and looks at the stars.  As a kid, he had gone into engineering hoping one day to go out there.  Now he feels unworthy.  The remote viewer offers to show him the universe.  He declines, but she does a quick mind-meld [1] and gives him a fly-by of Saturn.  The hell with the 1,000 people he killed five minutes ago, he excitedly decides to explore the galaxy from the front porch.

There was such a good premise here, but it was somewhat squandered.  Once again the squishiness of the 1980s TZ is at fault.  Much of the issue in this case is the totally inappropriate score.  This could have been a suspenseful, gut-wrenching episode. Think of the elements: Waking up after 324 years, a completely changed society, your life & career are obsolete, humans have harnessed spiritual powers, a killer asteroid, then the betrayal, then the crushing guilt of murdering 1,000 people, and the finally the ability to live his childhood dream of exploring the cosmos.  The episode just lacks an edge that I can imagine if it had been made in the 1960s.  For example, Foreman has a monologue that is greatly undercut by the score.  I can imagine Serling writing a monologue for that section — with no score — that would have nailed it.

The 1980s version just tries to be too nice.  I could have done without Fore-man’s exploration of the cosmos.  Ending on him as distraught as Nancy Pelosi at the SOTU speech would have been fine.  And, frankly, part of the problem is Charles Aidman’s narration. I’ve heard him praised in commentaries and in articles, but he’s too dang avuncular.  This isn’t a guy who would have left William Benteen behind.

Serling, in both his clenched-jaw speech and in his appearance had an edgy, slightly menacing vibe.  The black suits and skinny ties are even now are associated with Tarrantino-esque psychopaths — I think that is partially due to Serling.  Plus, he had a butt going half the time and he had the virtue of being the creator — he was The Twilight Zone — and that gave him even greater gravitas.

An OK episode that could have been great.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Appropriate as I believe this actress was was driving the ship when baby Spock was found on the Genesis planet in Star Trek III.  It seems to have dropped out of streaming, so I could be wrong.
  • Scott Wilson would do more time on a farm later as Herschel on The Walking Dead.  He’ll always be Scott Crossfield to me, though.

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