Shadow Play (The Twilight Zone, 1959)
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Directed by||John Brahm|
|Written by||Charles Beaumont (adapted, uncredited, from his short story, "Träumerei")|
|Original air date||May 5, 1961|
|“||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 jury finds Adam Grant (Weaver) guilty of murder, and the judge sentences him to death. Grant laughs with despair, then exclaims that he refuses to die again. He frantically tries to tell those present – including district attorney Henry Ritchie (Townes) and newspaper editor Paul Carson (King) – that he is dreaming, and if he is executed they will all cease to exist. Locked up on death row, he describes the electric chair execution experience, from the perspective of the condemned, to a fellow prisoner in chilling graphic detail.
Later, Carson shows up at Ritchie's house, drunk. He has been speaking to Grant, and fears the convict might be telling the truth. He argues that their lives seem impossibly perfect, and encourages Ritchie to explore his own doubts. Ritchie's wife Carol, annoyed by Carson's outburst, goes to bed early, telling her husband that there are steaks almost ready in the oven.
Back at the prison, Grant waits for Ritchie to arrive as usual, noting the implausibility of his fellow inmate Jiggs (Edmondson) having a watch to tell him the time. Ritchie comes, and they have a conversation Grant has had many times before with other DAs, enough times to mouth the man's words as he says them. He points out as an example the implausibility of the DA coming to visit like this. Ritchie asks him why he cares about dying if it's all a dream, and Grant explains that he's tormented by having this same incredibly realistic nightmare every night. As Ritchie leaves, Grant tries to prove that they're in a dream, by predicting that the steak Ritchie's wife had cooked for supper will now be something else. Ritchie rushes home, and finds a roast in the oven.
Meanwhile Jiggs suggests to Grant that he try to get a psychiatric exemption from execution. To prove his sanity to Jiggs, Grant points out logical errors accepted as normal by those around him, such as the fact that his trial and execution are happening on the same day, and the fact that the prisoners perfectly fit the stereotypes Grant would come up with from movies. Meanwhile at Ritchie's home, he and Carson watch the approach of midnight, debating the unlikelihood that the execution time matches the one shown in movies.
As Grant waits to be taken to the electric chair, Father Beaman visits him. Grant vaguely recalls him as a real priest who died when he was a boy. He further remembers that Carson is really the young priest who replaced Beaman, but struggles to place Ritchie.
Carson finally persuades Ritchie that either Grant is right or he's insane, so he calls the governor for a stay of execution. But the call comes seconds too late, Grant is executed, and the world blinks out.
The lights come up and Grant finds himself back in the courtroom, just as at the beginning. He is being convicted and sentenced to death for murder, again. The same people surround him in the courtroom, but their identities and roles have changed (e.g., Jiggs is now the judge, Carson is the jury foreman, Ritchie is Grant's public defender). The story begins to proceed as before.
|“||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?||”|
Although no source material appears on screen, the episode is likely adapted from writer Charles Beaumont's short story "Traumerei" (which roughly translates from the German as "daydream" or "reverie") which originally appeared in the February, 1956 issue of Infinity Science Fiction. Beaumont's teleplay features passages taken wholly and unchanged from his earlier story.
- Dennis Weaver as Adam Grant
- Harry Townes as District Attorney Henry Ritchie
- Wright King as Paul Carson
- Bernie Hamilton as Coley
- William Edmonson as Jiggs
- Anne Barton as Carol Ritchie
- Tommy Nello as Phillips
- Mack Williams as Father Beaman
- Gene Roth as Judge
This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- List of The Twilight Zone episodes
- 12:01 PM
- Allegory of the Cave
- Dark City
- End Day
- Groundhog Day
- Prejean, Jordan (2014-09-25). ""Shadow Play"". The Twilight Zone Vortex. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
- 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