The Lateness of the Hour
|"The Lateness of the Hour"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Directed by||Jack Smight|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||December 2, 1960|
|“||The residence of Dr. William Loren, which is in reality a menagerie for machines. We're about to discover that sometimes the product of man's talent and genius can walk amongst us untouched by the normal ravages of time. These are Dr. Loren's robots, built to functional as well as artistic perfection. But in a moment Dr. William Loren, wife and daughter will discover that perfection is relative, that even robots have to be paid for, and very shortly will be shown exactly what is the bill.||”|
Jana, the sensitive daughter of a creative genius, Dr. William Loren, is distraught over her parents' reliance on her father's five seemingly perfect robot servants, complete with programmed memories and personalities. Jana repeatedly looks at the family photo album in dismay, asking her parents questions about the pictures.
She implores her father to dismantle the robots before he and her mother become completely dependent on them. When her request becomes an ultimatum, Dr. Loren complies to save his relationship with his daughter. Upon ordering the robots to go to Dr. Loren's basement workshop and wait to be dismantled, the robots verbally express concern by asking if their service was substandard, and even pleading that they are the best possible servants. Dr. Loren is not interested in hearing it and again orders them downstairs.
Once the robots are out of the picture, Jana is thrilled and looking forward to a new life with travel and parties and the prospect of finding a man, marrying and have children. Seeing the dismayed expressions of her parents, combined with a series of sudden realizations, including the fact that the family photo album contains no pictures of her as a child, she arrives at the shocking awareness that she, too, is a robot, albeit much more emotionally sophisticated than the ones that were dismantled. Like the servants, all of her past memories were created by Dr. Loren.
Dr. Loren tries to explain that they were childless and wanted someone to love. Jana is convinced that she was built as nothing more than a prop, rather than to be loved by the Lorens. She exclaims, "I'm a machine," and repeatedly bangs her arm against a railing while yelling "No pain." She realizes that she can't even feel love. The discovery causes Jana such anguish that her "father" realizes that Jana can't go on this way decides to erase the memory of her former "identity" and use her as a replacement for Nelda, the maid skilled at giving Mrs. Loren her shoulder massages, with the same blank expression as her predecessor.
|“||Let this be the postscript — Should you be worn out by the rigors of competing in a very competitive world, if you're distraught from having to share your existence with the noises and neuroses of the twentieth century, if you crave serenity but want it full time and with no strings attached, get yourself a workroom in the basement, and then drop a note to Dr. and Mrs. William Loren. They're a childless couple who made comfort a life's work, and maybe there are a few do-it-yourself pamphlets still available... in the Twilight Zone.||”|
- Directed by Jack Smight
- Written by Rod Serling
- Produced by Buck Houghton
- Inger Stevens as Jana
- John Hoyt as Dr. Loren
- Irene Tedrow as Mrs. Loren
- Tom Palmer as Robert (the butler)
- Mary Gregory as Nelda
- Valley Keene as Suzanne (the maid who tumbles down the stairs and reacts with a smile)
- Doris Karnes as Gretchen (the maid who says to Jana, "I consider that unforgivable behavior")
- Jason Johnson as Jensen (the handyman)
The theme of 'robots imbued with human memories, thus believing that they are human' is similar to the theme of Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which it predated. The novel is the basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner. CBS would later air a series (1964 to 1965) featuring a live-at-home, realistic female robot called My Living Doll starring Julie Newmar.
"The Lateness of the Hour" was one of six Twilight Zone episodes shot on videotape instead of film in an attempt to cut costs. By November 1960, The Twilight Zone's season-two had already broadcast five episodes and finished filming sixteen. However, at a cost of about $65,000 per episode, the show was exceeding its budget. As a result, six consecutive episodes were videotaped at CBS Television City and eventually transferred to 16-millimeter film ["kinescoped"] for syndicated rebroadcasts. Total savings on editing and cinematography amounted to around $30,000 for all six entries, not enough to justify the loss of depth of visual perspective, which made the shows look like stage-bound live TV dramas (e.g. Playhouse 90, also produced at CBS). The experiment was deemed a failure and never attempted again.
Even though the six shows were taped in a row, through November and into mid-December, their broadcast dates were out of order and varied widely, with this initial one airing on December 2, 1960 as the eighth episode of season 2. The second, "Static", aired on March 10, 1961 as the 20th episode; the third, "The Whole Truth", appeared on January 20, 1961 as the 14th episode; the fourth was Twilight Zone's sole Christmas entry, "The Night of the Meek", shown on December 23, 1960; the fifth, "Twenty Two", was aired on February 10, 1961 and the sixth, "Long Distance Call", was transmitted on March 31, 1961.
This was the second of two Twilight Zone starring roles for TV's Farmer's Daughter, Inger Stevens (1934–70) who, during her final decade, kept a busy schedule of television guest appearances as well as feature film roles. Her earlier performance was in one of the first season's most unsettling episodes, "The Hitch-Hiker", in which she played another tormented character, a lone driver who meets her inexorable fate in the personification of death.
- 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