Shadow Play (1961 The Twilight Zone episode)
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||John Brahm|
|Written by||Charles Beaumont (adapted from his short story, "Traumerei")|
|Original air date||May 5, 1961|
|List of Twilight Zone episodes|
|“||Adam Grant, a nondescript kind of man, found guilty of murder and sentenced to the electric chair. Like every other criminal caught in the wheels of justice, he's scared, right down to the marrow of his bones. But it isn't prison that scares him, the long, silent nights of waiting, the slow walk to the little room, or even death itself. It's something else that holds Adam Grant in the hot, sweaty grip of fear, something worse than any punishment this world has to offer, something found only in - The Twilight Zone.||”|
A man convicted of murder, Adam Grant (Weaver), tries to convince those about to execute him that the world all around them is just his recurring nightmare. The story opens with the jury finding Grant guilty of murder and the judge sentencing him to death. He laughs uncontrollably and then rants that he refuses to die again. He claims that the district attorney and lawyers are all people he has known in his past who are playing parts in his dream.
Speaking to others including his cellmate and the district attorney he points out obvious logical errors accepted as normal by those around him such as the fact his arrest, trial and execution are happening on the same day and the fact the prisoners seem to stereotypically look like what you'd see in a story. The district attorney is persuaded to visit Grant by his friend, a reporter who is questioning reality given the unlikely perfect life that he enjoys. He speaks to Grant but does not believe him. He asks Grant if he cares about dying if it's all a dream. Grant explains that he cannot get a decent night's sleep because he always wakes up screaming. He tells the district attorney to go home and he will find that what he thought was for dinner will be something else.
This happens and unnerves the district attorney, who discusses the issue with a friend. The friend reasons that the man's claims constitute reasonable doubt as to his sanity, and that the district attorney should ask the governor to issue a stay of execution. With reservations, he places the call and asks the governor to do so as Grant is being prepared for execution. He tells the reporter that the governor said he would make the necessary phone call. The stay of execution arrives too late, and we discover that Grant was correct: the world was a dream for them and a nightmare for him. Everything vanishes and goes dark.
Grant then finds himself in the courtroom being sentenced to death for murder again, with the same people each now in different roles (e.g., a fellow inmate is now the judge behind the bench).
|“||We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how, in what way? As we believe, as flesh-and-blood human beings, or are we simply parts of someone's feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it, and then ask yourself, do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live, instead, - in The Twilight Zone?||”|
References in popular culture
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- "Shadow Play" at the Internet Movie Database
- TV.com episode page
- Full video of the episode at CBS.com