A Stop at Willoughby
|"A Stop at Willoughby"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
James Daly in "A Stop at Willoughby"
|Directed by||Robert Parrish|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Nathan Scott|
|Original air date||May 6, 1960|
|“||This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt, and Mr. Williams' protection fell away from him and left him a naked target. He's been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has shelled him, his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation, his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target, and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams, ad agency exec, who in just a moment, will move into the Twilight Zone—in a desperate search for survival.||”|
Gart Williams is a contemporary (c. 1960) New York City advertising executive who has grown exasperated with his career. His overbearing boss, Oliver Misrell, angered by the loss of a major account, lectures him about this "push-push-push" business. Unable to sleep properly at home, he drifts off for a short nap on the train during his daily commute through the November snow.
He wakes to find the train stopped and his car now a 19th-century railway car, deserted except for himself. The sun is bright outside, and as he looks out the window, he discovers that the train is in a town called Willoughby and that it's July 1888. He learns that this is a "peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure." Being jerked back awake into the real world, he asks the conductor if he has ever heard of Willoughby, but the conductor replies, "Not on this run...no Willoughby on the line."
That night, he has another argument with his shrewish wife Jane. Selfish, cold and uncaring, she makes him see that he is only a money machine to her. He tells her about his dream and about Willoughby, only to have her ridicule him as being "born too late", declaring it her "miserable tragic error" to have married a man "whose big dream in life is to be Huckleberry Finn."
The next week, Williams again dozes off on the train and returns to Willoughby where everything is the same as before. As he is about to get off the train carrying his briefcase, the train begins to roll, returning him to the present. Williams promises himself to get off at Willoughby next time.
Experiencing a breakdown at work, he calls his wife, who abandons him in his time of need. On his way home, once again he falls asleep to find himself in Willoughby. This time, as the conductor warmly beckons him to the door, Williams intentionally leaves his briefcase on the train. Getting off the train, he is greeted by name by various inhabitants who welcome him while he tells them he's glad to be there and plans to stay and join their idyllic life.
The swinging pendulum of the station clock fades into the swinging lantern of a train engineer, standing over Williams' body. The 1960 conductor explains to the engineer that Williams "shouted something about Willoughby", before jumping off the train and was killed instantly. Williams' body is loaded into a hearse. The back door of the hearse closes to reveal the name of the funeral home: Willoughby & Son.
|“||Willoughby? Maybe it's wishful thinking nestled in a hidden part of a man's mind, or maybe it's the last stop in the vast design of things—or perhaps, for a man like Mr. Gart Williams, who climbed on a world that went by too fast, it's a place around the bend where he could jump off. Willoughby? Whatever it is, it comes with sunlight and serenity, and is a part of The Twilight Zone.||”|
The "Stamford" and the "Westport/Saugatuck" stops called out by the conductor in the episode exist in real life – Metro-North Railroad (at the time New Haven Railroad) stops in Fairfield County, Connecticut, include Stamford, Connecticut, and the Westport station serves the town of Westport, Connecticut, where series creator Rod Serling once lived.
Gart Williams' home phone number of Capital 7-9899 is also a legitimate telephone exchange in Westport.
Willoughby, Ohio, is the only town with that name in all of the United States, but it can also be noted that in Los Angeles, California, there is a street called 'Willoughby Avenue' within the greater Hollywood area, only a few miles from the Sony Pictures Studios (formerly MGM) where nearly all Twilight Zone episodes were shot. Willoughby, Ohio calls its annual neighborhood festival "Last Stop: Willoughby" in honor of the episode.
"Beautiful Dreamer", a popular song in Ohio at the time, can be heard being played by a band in the episode.
One of the last episodes of Thirtysomething clearly pays homage to this episode. It has the same title, and in it Michael experiences a crisis similar to that of Williams, though it does not end tragically.
The character Willoughby in Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!!, is a Twilight Zone fanatic and owns almost every episode on VHS. He pays homage to the episode as he is really 30 years old and skips from college to college under the false name of Willoughby so he can keep playing baseball and live the college lifestyle.
- 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