|Season 1, Episode 9.|
"Twelve O'Clock noon. An ordinary scene, an ordinary city. Lunch time for thousands of ordinary people. To most of them, this hour will be a rest, a pleasant break in the day's routine. To most, but not all. To Edward Hall time is an enemy, and the hour to come is a matter of life and death."
|Rod Serling did not appear on-camera to deliver his intros and outros in Season 1. He doesn't here, either - this is a picture from Season 2's "King Nine Will Not Return". But hey! Rod Serling, ladies and gentlemen.|
As Mr. Serling narrates the above, the camera settles on the rotating door entryway through which a steady stream of people enter and exit. Our beleaguered man Edward staggers before it. He tells a concerned passerby that he is the most tired man in the world, but he mustn't go to sleep - if he goes to sleep, he'll never wake up.
|He's at the building for a talking cure with a shrink, Dr. Rathmann, that his regular doctor has recommended.|
|He mutters ominously to himself while looking out the window.|
Finally Rathmann draws him out, and Edward lies down to tell the doctor his tale. Edward suffers from a congenital heart condition and is one doctor's orders to avoid thinking about any unpleasantries. He finds this difficult as he has such an active imagination. One particular thing he imagines is the possibility that he'll be driving along one day and someone will be in the backseat of his car, hiding there to kill him.
|He begins to obsess on the idea, until...|
He loses control of the wheel and crashes. His doctor tells him he should have died from the shock. He vows to take it even easier, but then the dreams begin.
|In them, he's at an amusement park, "the kind you see out of nightmares, everything warped and twisted out of shape."|
|He overhears a barker promoting the "most sensational and electrifying exhibition since Little Egypt" and wanders over.|
|And it is there he first espies...|
|Maya. (Suzanne Lloyd)|
|She laser-focuses on Edward and begins to taunt him with hard-to-believe-this-was-1959 grinding and gyrating.|
|When he flees in panic, she's almost orgasmically delighted.|
He doesn't get very far before she appears, now in a glimmering white dress, and chides him for running from her. She knows things about him that she couldn't possibly know. She tells him she knows he's dreaming and that she wants him to take her into a nearby ride, where it's soft and cool and dark. (Like a grave.)
|"How can I argue with a dream?"|
|Into the underworld...|
"You can kiss me now."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Oh you want to."
"Whose dream is this?"
It's then that he wakes up screaming. Edward tells the doctor that as a child he dreamed in chapters, like a movie serial, and he knows as soon as he lets his guard down and falls back asleep, she'll be waiting there.
|Sure enough, the next night...|
Back at the amusement park, Maya re-appears. He begs her to leave him alone, but, powerless before her despite his own narration, she maneuvers him onto the roller coaster.
The ride begins, and she takes sadistic delight in driving him to the precipice of fatal excitement, then pulling back to watch him writhe in agony. What follows is only slightly less suggestive than the Kahn-ut-tu healing ritual from "A Private Little War."
When he finally can't take it anymore, her demeanor suddenly changes and she tells him repeatedly and urgently to jump. JUMP, EDWARD! He wakes, again in a cold panic, convinced if he dares sleep again, he'll be right back on the roller coaster. But, he tells the psychiatrist, if he stays awake much longer, the strain will be too much for his heart. "Heads, you win; tails, I lose."
He leaves the office, convinced no one can help him, when he is stopped dead in his tracks by the site of the secretary:
|Whereupon he races back into the office -|
There's a storytelling proverb that if you have a gun on the mantle in the first act, it's got to be fired in the third. The same might not go for windows, but I very much appreciate the defenestration payoff from the scene screencapped earlier.
The Twilight Zone, like EC before it, is synonymous with ironic twist endings. Here we get a double-zing: first Maya as the secretary and then this:
|"When he came in, I told him to sit down and he did. In less than two seconds, he was asleep."|
|"A heart attack? Well, I suppose there are worse ways to go."|
"They say a dream takes only a second or so and yet in that second a man can live a lifetime. He can suffer and die and who's to say which is the greater reality, the one we know or the one in dreams, between heaven, the sky, the earth, in the Twilight Zone."
"Perchance to Dream" shares some conceptual and visual design with the classic German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, particularly with its shadowy, skewed sets and its twist ending and concerns with somnambulist homicide.
Interesting names, too. The psychiatrist is "Rathmann," which is a short walk to "Rational Man" while the word "Maya" comes from ancient Hindu texts and means "illusion." According to Wendy Doniger's Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities, "to say that the universe is an illusion (māyā) is not to say that it is unreal; it is to say, instead, that it is not what it seems to be, that it is something constantly being made. Māyā not only deceives people about the things they think they know; more basically, it limits their knowledge."
Our main character's surname is named "Hall," too - as in the hallway between the rational and the illusory/ unreal? Am I overthinking this? Sure. Roll another number for the road.
Suzanne Lloyd's performance is a standout. I can't claim to be all that familiar with her body of work, but here she combines sensual with sinister quite effectively.
|Most of the subtext is actually more how-did-they-get-away-with-this-text.|
|(no stranger to horror with a staggering amount of credits to his name) and|
|Adapting his own short story published in Playboy, November 1958.|