Perchance to Dream (The Twilight Zone)

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"Perchance to Dream"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 9
Directed by Robert Florey
Written by Based on the Charles Beaumont story of the same name, published in the November 1958 issue of Playboy
Featured music Nathan Van Cleave
Production code 173-3616
Original air date November 27, 1959
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Time Enough at Last"
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"Judgment Night"
List of season 1 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"Perchance to Dream" is episode nine of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on November 27, 1959 on CBS. The title of the episode and the Charles Beaumont short story that inspired it is taken from Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" speech.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Edward Hall (Conte), a man with a severe heart condition, believes that if he falls asleep, he'll die. On the other hand, keeping himself awake will put too much of a strain on his heart. He believes this due to his constantly overactive imagination. He believes that his imagination is severely out of control, to the point where he'd be able to see and feel something that was not there. Due to this, his heart condition is especially dangerous. He seeks out the aid of psychiatrist Rathmann and explains that he has been dreaming in chapters, as if in a movie serial. In his dreams, Maya, a carnival dancer, lures him first into a funhouse and later onto a roller coaster in an attempt to scare him to death. Realizing that Rathmann cannot help him, Hall starts to leave, but stops when he realizes that Rathmann's receptionist looks exactly like Maya. Terrified, he runs back into Rathmann's office and jumps out of the window.

In reality, the doctor calls his receptionist, who does in fact look exactly like Maya, into his office, where Hall lies on the couch, his eyes closed. Rathmann tells the receptionist that Hall came in, laid down, immediately fell asleep, and then a few moments later let out a scream and died. "Well, I guess there are worse ways to go," the doctor says philosophically. "At least he died peacefully..." Rod Serling's narration then reveals that in a split-second, a person can dream up a thirty-minute dream.

Episode notes[edit]

  • This was the first episode aired that was written by Charles Beaumont (and also the first that was not written by Rod Serling).
  • "Throughout the TV filming, Florey strove for quality. It might have been the most expensive MGM feature. He rooted out the meanings of certain lines, frequently surprising me with symbols and shadings I'd neither planned nor suspected. The set was truly impressionistic, recalling the days of Caligari and Liliom. The costumes were generally perfect. And in the starring role, Richard Conte gave a performance which displays both intensity and subtlety." ―Charles Beaumont writing in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 1959.
  • This is one of several episodes from season one to have its opening title sequence plastered over with the opening for season two. This was done during the Summer of 1961 in order to give the re-running episodes of season one the new look that the show would take in the upcoming second season.
  • Screenwriter-director Wes Craven (who filmed several Twilight Zone episodes in the mid-1980s) has been asked whether or not "Perchance to Dream" inspired his creation of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Craven denies that it did, although both productions play heavily upon fear of death in one's sleep.
  • Maya is a word from Sanskrit. In Hinduism and Buddhism it's the misperception of reality.
  • The concept that a person can dream a thirty-minute dream in a split second has been used in other times in different media, although time estimated in a dream is akin to waking time estimations.[2] The 2010 film Inception used the same concept.

Radio drama[edit]

The episode was adapted for radio in 2002 featuring Fred Willard as Edward Hall. It was then released as part of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas – Volume 9 collection.


  1. ^ from Hamlet, Act III, Scene I:

    To die, - To sleep, -
    To sleep ! Perchance to dream: - ay, there's the rub;
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause: there's the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life;

  2. ^ Levitan, L., & LaBerge, S. (1993)


  • 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

External links[edit]