By Raymond C. McArdle- Both alone and lonely, Jack Warden has been sentenced to fifty years of confinement on an asteroid ( the result of a murder he claims to have committed in self-defense), and he and sanity appear to be dividing rapidly, until the arrival of a female robot temporarily restores purpose to his life.
Nothing particulary stand out in the episode, the acting was solid, but with such a methodical pacing and predictable plot you would think the enjoyment factor of the overall package would suffer. On the contrary the inevitabilty of it all for me only made it pull at the heart string all the more. You see the chracters grow over time, your happy when they work towards happyness, and sad when evrything falls apart again. There's nothing in the way of suprises, but it's just enjoyable.
The hints at the main characters past and the soceity he lived in are intriging. The supporting cast are eqaully as intresting as the main; the robot wife who is potrayed as a beaten and abused, mis-understood individual who only wishes to serve her purpose. And the likable ship captain, who is compassionate but driven to uphold the duites of his work.
All in all, as I've said before, in this review and others, nothing groundbreaking but it's enjoyable. And that's all you can ask for really.
Some of the best episodes of "The Twilight Zone" are stories like "The Lonely" - few characters, no complicated set-up/resolution, and an examination of a universal theme. In this case, the theme is loneliness, and the human need for companionship.
Jack Warden knocks this out of the park as Corry, the prisoner exiled to a barren world. John Dehner, one of the great unsung character actors of the golden age of TV, is his benefactor who provides Corry with an unusual way of passing the time. There's no "gotcha" twist ending to be found here, but the finale is still powerful and chilling. Warden's reaction to the sight of his companion's true "face" is amazing - simulatenously expressing dismay at the loss even as he knows he's about to get what he has wanted for so long.
Jack Warden portrays a convicted murderer sentenced to solitary confinement for 40 years - as the only inhabitant on a far, far away asteroid. After some years totally secluded he is unexpectedly given a companion - a robotic woman.
Not all the best Twilight Zone episodes were written by the most common great contributors. Yet I'd feel odd indeed if I didn't tap one of those "core" writers' works. I have chosen the seventh installment from the very first season, The Lonely; a product of Rod Slerling, the series' creator, narrator and face to the public.
The Lonely presents us with a classic test to John Donne's oft quoted contention that, "No man is an island." The convict placed beyond the pale of humanity for years has built up a structured existence devoid of relationships, interaction and true hope that any of this will change. He has made a grudging peace with his situation.
Suddenly one day, the scheduled supply spaceship arrives, bringing him the necessities of life and the usual small tokens of pleasure allowed him and an update on the state of his court appeals. Yet this delivery is like no other. In an attempt to offer him a concession to alleviate his loneliness he is given a robot fashioned in the image of woman.
His reaction is not as some would expect. He is resentful of this intrusion on his deeply developed and nurtured acceptance of life without companions or hope. He sees the automated woman as a mere machine, inherently mocking his lack of humanity by mimicking the behavior of a caring innocent living person. His feelings evolve gradually through phases, from stifled acceptance to friendship and love. He gets to the point he cannot imagine himself living without her, sensing her as real and as inherently important as any sentient being.
There are so many levels of interest in this case study in minimalist casting, scenery and effects. The barren landscape forbids any opportunity to alter the environment beyond the immediate confines of the convicts shack. He tinkers with the scraps of a automotive heap with no dream of ever actually driving it anywhere, because there is nowhere else to go. So the question arises, what constitutes inhumane punishment? Does a convicted murderer deserve any penalty he may possibly receive for his crime, or should there be a limit. What qualifies as justice, as wrongful persecution? Should a man, for any reason, be stripped of his dreams?
Then there is the issue of humanity. From Prospero's fanciful imaginary companions to Star Trek: Next Generation's Data, this conundrum has been posited. Does existence and/or the value thereof become like beauty, relative to the individual? Where does something become "real" enough to be considered a someone? Are these definitions malleable or is there a solid guideline which when ignored or disagreed with decides that a person is delusional? Does Descartes axiom, "I think therefore I am" carry its validity beyond existence - declaring that life is life whether or not it is organic?
In typical Twilight Zone fashion we are left to ponder these ideas. Many people come to the pat conclusion that life fits narrow parameters. Gene Roddenberry took the opposite stand, Data was a sentient being, deserving the right to cling to life despite the fact that he was was man-made. Shakespeare fills the void between the two polar stances. He chooses not. Not only does he avoid declaring what constitutes being a living thing, he asks what is the very nature of life. Deeply existential, he ponders if it be a dream.
The acting here is superb. Warden embodies the true essence of a great character actor. His appearance in any given role role does not illicit an instant expectation by the viewer. His casting solidifies Serling's attempt to leave the shows stand on the stated debates neutral. Warden is no glamorous star nor automatically considered villain material. His guilt or innocence is never argued, so we accept he is guilty of his crime. Therefore we must judge the situation from our own perspective on the issues. Warden's approach to the role doesn't weigh in as picking sides. Still, he is far from emotionless. His actions feel authentic and we lose the sense that he is acting. Jean Marsh has just as full a challenge. She successfully walks the fine line twixt being a submissive caring individual and being merely a doting machine programmed to approximate human behavior. Her ethereal appearance, without typical Hollywood starlet trappings nor exaggerated mechanical notion or communication, leaves us in a nether-land. She's not quite human, or just barely - depending on how you see her. Marsh's performance doesn't make the choice easy. Like Warden, at most she leaves us with clues to her nature. In T-Zone fashion you decide what those clues are and what they signify.
There are some side comments to touch on. John Dehner plays the seemingly sympathetic officer who is in charge of the delivery ship. A familiar face on both the big screen and the small, Dehner never fails to fit his roles - usually semi-important characters, seldom pivotal but not totally forgotten and never throwaway bits. Thus though his face and acting might have been recognized, his name never climbed to the point of common knowledge beyond movie buffs.
Ted Knight has a small part as one of Dehner's crewmen. His character is not so forgiving as his leader, not understand how anyone could offer a murderer any comforts or consideration.
Though the standard of quality was set high early for the series, it never deteriorated as so many other shows do. Not every outing was a masterpiece. Still there were plenty of great ones and they were peppered throughout the series' run.
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Jack Smight
Convicted of murder and sent to a deserted asteroid for 40 years, a man is given a robot woman for company. CAST: Jack Warden, John Dehner, Jim Turley, Jean Marsh, Ted Knight.
The episode begins at a look at the concept of loneliness. It shows the viewer that solitude is truly one of the worst forms of punishment for a person's crime. The actor does a fine job of displaying his utter frustration of his sentence until he is brought a companion in the form of a robot.
Long before there were films about AI that would make us question what the exact terms of "life" actually is, we see how the relationship with this man and his female robot develops into one of love and devotion, and how the robot is "killed" at the end when the man's sentence is complete. Just like the convicted man in the story, we begin to see this robot as real, and wonder if the qualities she exudes do not qualify her as human.
Just like in all "The Twilight Zone" episodes. this story leaves us with an ending that makes us think long after the closing credits have finished.
"The Lonely" tells the futuristic story of a man found guilty of murder. His sentence is to serve 50 years on a small asteroid alone. This episode starts with the convict looking forward to a supply ship arriving with provisions for him. This ship visits every 3 months and provide the convict with a brief break from the tedious boredom of his daily life. The captain of the supply ship feels sorry for the convict and believes his story of self-defense. We are told he often prolongs his stay on the asteroid to visit, play cards, and entertain this prisoner. But, on this visit, the captain leaves the convict with a present: a robot companion. The rest of the episode deals with the prisoners relationship with the robot. This is a well-written episode of "The Twilight Zone". We feel for the prisoner and understand his loneliness as well as the many emotions he feels after meeting the robot. This episode is well worth watching. It earns 9.3 out of 10.
It's Only the Ending which is painful. Otherwise,I would have rated it a "10." So as it stands, I have to truthfully rate it a "9."
James Corry as played by actor Jack Warden gives such a realistic portrait of loneliness that after all that BUILD-UP, I was expecting the female Robot to be actually sentient with actual emotions. But as it turned out, that was Not the case, as She turns out to be a soul-less machine. That's why the ending shocked me so much and even left me aghast. The way it affected me, it was as though Corry's friend killed an actual human-being! Yes, PAINFUL to watch, but its realistic depiction of Loneliness makes me view the episode over and over. Only Rod Serling could manipulate my emotions the way he did.
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