|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Robert Stevens|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Original score by Bernard Herrmann (accompanied with carnival music)|
|Original air date||October 30, 1959|
|List of Twilight Zone episodes|
While driving his car in the countryside, thirty-six-year-old advertising executive Martin Sloan (Gig Young) stops to have his car serviced at a gas station within walking distance of his hometown. After walking into town, he sees that it apparently has not changed since he was a boy.
Sloan walks to the park where he is startled to see himself as a boy. Following the boy home, he meets his parents as they were in his childhood. Confused and worried, Sloan wanders around town and ends up at his former home again that evening, where he again tries to convince his parents who he is, but is again turned away.
Sloan wanders back to the park and finds his childhood self on a carousel, and tries to tell him to enjoy his childhood while it lasts. His advances scare young Martin, who falls off the merry-go-round and injures his leg. After young Martin is carried away, Sloan is confronted by his father who, having seen the documents and money with future dates on them in Sloan's lost wallet, now believes his story. The man advises his son that everyone has their time, and that instead of looking behind him, he should look ahead, because the happiness he is seeking may be in the places he hasn't looked yet.
When Sloan walks back into the drugstore, he finds himself in present-day Homewood during the afternoon. After discovering he now has a limp from the carousel injury, he makes his way back to the gas station. He picks up his car and drives away, content to live his life as it is.
Unlike some episodes of the show that were accompanied by pre-composed stock music cues, Walking Distance was underscored with music specially written for it. As for other Twilight Zone episodes, Bernard Herrmann—also composer of the first season's main title music and most of its stock music—wrote the music for this one. The very intimate and tuneful score has an isolated running time of about 19 minutes and is played by a 19-piece-orchestra consisting of strings (violins, violas, cellos, basses) and one harp.
The park in this episode is said to be inspired by Recreation Park in Binghamton, New York. Like the park in "Walking Distance", Recreation Park has a carousel and a bandstand. There is a plaque in the Recreation Park bandstand commemorating the episode.
Similar themes of nostalgia, its potential risks, and the relentless pressures of the business world are explored in "A Stop at Willoughby", "Young Man's Fancy", "The Incredible World of Horace Ford", and, to a lesser extent, "The Brain Center at Whipple's", as well as two Serling teleplays from before and after The Twilight Zone: Patterns and the Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar".
"Walking Distance" has continued to be one of the most popular and critically acclaimed of all Twilight Zone episodes. One noted that the episode "was a little more depressing than most, in that it does not have a happy ending and the man’s problems are never really resolved. But it is a deep meditation on life and lost youth that was compelling and interesting." Paul Mandell, of American Cinematographer magazine, wrote: "[Walking Distance] was the most personal story Serling ever wrote, and easily the most sensitive dramatic fantasy in the history of television." The episode was listed as the ninth best episode in the history of the series by Time Magazine in celebration of the series' 50th anniversary.
Film director J. J. Abrams said the episode is his favorite, saying, "[The episode] is a beautiful demonstration of the burden of adulthood, told in The Twilight Zone, which everyone thinks is a scary show, but it's actually a beautiful show," and "The Twilight Zone at its best is better than anything else I've ever seen on television."
Due to the high popularity of the episode and the music itself the score has received several releases on CD in its original film version in monoaural sound and two re-recordings in stereo as well, one done by Joel McNeely with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (the only complete version) and the other by William Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrator John Morgan enlarged all sections of the orchestra for the latter, referring to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings as Herrmann's main influence on the score in the liner notes.
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- 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
- Mandell, Paul. "'Walking Distance' from The Twilight Zone", American Cinematographer (June 1988, print)