A Saucer of Loneliness
|"The Saucer of Loneliness"|
|The Twilight Zone (1985 series) episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||John D. Hancock|
|Written by||David Gerrold
|Original air date||September 27, 1986|
|List of The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series) episodes|
"A Saucer of Loneliness" is a short story by Theodore Sturgeon which first appeared in Galaxy Magazine in February 1953. It was later adapted as a radio play for X Minus One in 1957; and as the second segment of the twenty-fifth episode (the first episode of the second season, 1986–87) of the television series The Twilight Zone.
The short story is told from the point of view of a man who rescues a would-be suicide at the sea shore. The unnamed woman tells her story reluctantly. She had heard and understood a message from a flying saucer. When she refused to reveal the message, she was imprisoned, rejected, and ridiculed, but she still would not say what the alien space ship had told her...
In 2004, "A Saucer Of Loneliness" was nominated for a 'Retro Hugo' for Short Story 1954 (Hugo Award for Best Short Story). It was also the title of the seventh book in the anthology series "The Collected Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon", published in 2000.
Twilight Zone Episode
The TV adaptation differs from the short story in several aspects mostly due to TV storytelling requirements. The woman's loneliness, revealed only gradually in the short story, is obvious from the beginning in the episode. The time frame is shorter. The resolution (the orb) is missing in the short story.
Margaret is a lonely waitress who seems to enjoy spending time walking on the beach. When she returns home after work one night, her mother berates her for being alone at her age, that she should be married. Margaret just wanders into her bedroom and cries herself to sleep. The next day, Margaret is walking to work on a sunny day, when a crowd at the beach notices a flying saucer. It wanders around as if looking for someone. It follows Margaret and apparently communicates with her, but then she passes out. She awakens telling everyone it spoke to her. She also explains that the saucer specifically wanted her and to tell her a message, but she doesn't reveal what the message was, saying it was private. Later on, the government determines that the saucer, which ended up being confiscated, was empty and the only proof of anything about it, is the mysterious alloy of the hull, which is unknown.
Margaret's mother becomes furious and throws her out. After finding a place to live, Margaret returns to the beach as if searching for something. On the busy boardwalk, she is approached by people who think Jesus came through the saucer to Margaret and want her to heal their son. She runs away crying, unable to explain. Margaret then writes notes in bottles and throws them into the ocean. The notes start with "to the loneliest one..." At work, a patron asks Margaret for a date and she agrees. Margaret gets all dressed up with new clothes and starts to enjoy her date. He then asks about the message and wants to know what it was. Margaret becomes upset and keeps saying that it was private and not for anyone else to hear. Then she storms out and goes home.
Apparently desperate and without hope, Margaret walks along the beach and decides to end it all. She walks out into the ocean, but suddenly a man comes from behind and pulls her out. He explains that he found one of the bottles and the message meant something to him. She tells him it was the only thing she could call her own and the only thing she could do for someone else. He says that when he read it, he knew it was connected to the saucer and the words were like a song. She says that the saucer was not a weapon or anything, just an interstellar "message in a bottle", just like her bottles thrown into the ocean. But she admits that the message were her words, not the message from the saucer, exactly. She reveals the actual message from the saucer to him, as a small glowing orb in the palm of her hand. They both caress the orb in their four hands and then it disappears. Margaret and the man walk off, arm in arm.
Message found in a bottle, sender unknown. Still alive or long dead. The last of his species or a traveler marooned on alien shores. Perhaps in the end, all that matters is this: that even to loneliness, there is an end. And for those who are lonely enough, long enough, a message cast adrift on the darkest beaches...of the Twilight Zone.