Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #135: "The Long Morrow"
Talk about bad timing! An astronaut who is a happy bachelor accepts a 40-year solo mission. And only then does he meet the love of his life. Aargh!!!
The Twilight Zone, Episode #135: "The Long Morrow" (original air date Jan. 10, 1964)
The Plot: Humans have developed faster-than-light travel and space travel has become commonplace. But there are still new vistas to explore, and Commander Douglas Stansfield (Robert Lansing) is the most experienced man around. Plus, he happens to be a happy bachelor.
That makes him the ideal choice to undertake a solo mission that will consume 40 years. He'll be in suspended animation, so he won't actually age a day, but, still, everyone he knows will have aged while he's gone. He's a happy bachelor and, apparently, an orphan, without many close friends, so the mission sounds good to him.
And then he meets a beautiful woman named Sandra Horn (Mariette Hartley), and it's love at first sight ... dang it!
The Goods: There's nothing terrible wrong about the episode, which was written by Rod Serling. The sentiments are clearly expressed, the dialogue is believable, the performances are fine; Lansing is properly stoic and Hartley is lovely. And if you'd never seen a TZ episode before, the O. Henry-style twist at the end might surprise or even shock you.
But here we are, devoted readers and/or viewers, and we've seen most if not all of the previous 134 episodes, and so we can pretty much guess what's going to happen. This became a problem, more and more, during Season 5, as new writers had trouble capturing the essence of the formula that made the show work, and veterans -- or even the creator of the show -- began running on fumes.
So with the episode set up as it is, with two people deeply, truly in love, facing 40 years apart, realizing that, when they are reunited, one will still be 30 years of age while the other will be 66 years old, well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the ending, which blunts whatever impact it might otherwise have had.
The Trivia: At the time the episode was first broadcast, Lansing was 35 and Hartley was 23. Hartley's film and television career began just two years before this episode, and it's continued to the present day.
Director Robert Florey, born in France, began his career as an assistant director there before moving to Hollywood and becoming a set designer for King Vidor's silent classic The Big Parade in 1925. He started directing shorts in 1927 before graduating to feature-length projects. He stayed busy in the studio era from the 1930s to the 50s, with his notable films perhaps being 1945's God is My Co-Pilot and 1946's The Beast With Five Fingers. He transitioned into TV in the early 50s, winding up his career by helming three TZ episodes, including this one, and then finishing with an episode of The Outer Limits that aired a couple of months after this one. He died in 1979 at the age of 78.
On the Next Episode: Daily coverage returns to the control of Film School Rejects on Monday, with an episode about a man with "a unique talent ... he can trade physical characteristics with other people ... [and] will do anything to get the love of [a certain woman]."
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @ScreenAnarhcy and @rejectnation.