Where Is Everybody?
|"Where Is Everybody?"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
Earl Holliman in "Where Is Everybody?"
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Robert Stevens|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Original score by Bernard Herrmann|
|Cinematography by||Joseph La Shelle|
|Editing by||Roland Gross|
|Original air date||October 2, 1959|
A man finds himself alone on a dirt road, walking towards a diner. Inside he finds a jukebox playing loudly, and a pot of hot coffee on the stove, but there are no other people. He inquires for some breakfast, but no chef or waitress is to be found. He is dressed in an Air Force flight suit, but he does not remember who he is or how he got there.
After leaving the diner, he walks to a nearby town. The town seems deserted, but everywhere the man goes, he seems to find proof that someone had been there recently: food is cooking on a stove, water dripping in a sink, and a cigar is burning in an ashtray. He grows more and more unsettled as he wanders through the empty town, looking for someone—anyone—to talk to, all the while having the strange feeling that he is being watched.
In a soda shop after talking to himself he idly spins racks filled with paperback books until he comes to an already spinning rack filled from top to bottom with the same book: "The Last Man on Earth, Feb. 1959".
Day turns to night and the man is still alone in the town. Street lights turn on all around him. Even the movie theater is illuminated. As he goes into the theater, he sees a poster advertising the film playing Battle Hymn, which causes him to remember that he is in the US Air Force. Finding no one in audience or the projection booth, he desperately runs through the theater until he crashes into a mirror. In a panic, the man runs through the streets, until he finally collapses next to a street crossing and presses a button labeled WALK. As he whimpers for someone to help him, It is revealed that the walk button is actually a panic button. And the man is not alone in a deserted town, but is instead in an isolation booth being observed by a group of uniformed servicemen.
His name is Mike Ferris, an astronaut in training who has been confined to an isolation room located within an aircraft hangar for 484 hours and 36 minutes. He has been undergoing tests to determine his fitness for spaceflight and whether he can handle the psychological stress of a prolonged trip to the Moon alone. The town was a complete hallucination, an escape valve for his sensory-deprived mind.
As Ferris is carried out of the hangar on a stretcher, he sees the Moon above him, and says wistfully, "Hey! Don't go away up there! Next time it won't be a dream or a nightmare. Next time it'll be for real. So don't go away. We'll be up there in a little while."
Original transition after the story
Announcer: (as the title appears) "Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, will tell you about next week's story—after this word from our alternate sponsor."
Prior to this episode, Rod Serling had written an episode called "The Happy Place" as the pilot for his new series. It was rejected, because the story—centered on a society where people were executed when they turned 60 due to their inability to contribute to society—was considered too depressing by network executives. (My father, William Self, is the network exec. Who rejected "The Happy Place." At first Mr. Serling tried to get him fired, but the next day realized that William Self was right, and came in with "Where Is Everybody?" From that point on, Rod Serling and William Self became fast friends.
This idea was presented in Anthony Trollope's 1882 novel The Fixed Period, which envisaged a College where men retired at 67 and after a contemplative period of a year were 'peacefully extinguished' by chloroform. It was also endorsed in a 1905 speech by the famous physician William Osler. It was then used, slightly modified, in Isaac Asimov's novel "Pebble in the Sky", in the 1967 novel Logan's Run and adaptations of the novel as well as a 1991 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Half a Life".)
The episode, as debuted to potential advertisers, originally featured narration by announcer Westbrook Van Voorhis. As Voorhis was unavailable for subsequent episodes, however, narration for both the episode and the introduction was re-recorded for consistency by Serling himself; his presence later became a hallmark of the series. The Twilight Zone was the sixth dimension in the original narration but was changed to the fifth dimension in the re-recording. Together with the re-recording the series logo was also changed to the familiar typeface.
Several years later, Serling adapted this and other episodes into short stories for a book, Stories From the Twilight Zone. Reportedly[where?] dissatisfied with the lack of science fiction content, he added an additional twist to the end by having Mike Ferris discover a movie ticket in his pocket after being carried away on the stretcher. A variation on this twist was later used in "King Nine Will Not Return".
The haunting score composed by Bernard Herrmann for this episode would be reused for several episodes of the series, most notably "The After Hours" and "The Last Flight". Several record albums of original soundtrack music from the series were released, some having alternate theme music for the series that was never used. One of the alternate themes is a cue from the episode.
This was the only Twilight Zone episode filmed at Universal Studios, the rest of the entire series was filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The centerpiece of the episode is the Courthouse Square set, most well known for being used as the town square of "Hill Valley" in the Back to the Future series of films over 25 years later.
This episode was the lead-in to another CBS original, Hotel de Paree, which coincidentally premiered on the same day as this episode and starred Earl Holliman.
The main theme in this episode, as the title suggests, is isolation and loneliness and their effects on humans. The commanding officer in the final scene sums this up, observing, "The barrier of loneliness—that's the one thing we haven't licked yet." Serling would return to this theme in several other episodes, most prominently "The Mind and the Matter", in which a man finds he can eliminate outside influences and uses the power to rid himself of all humanity, only to realize the extreme loneliness that comes with deprivation of human interaction.
The pilot episode began a trend for The Twilight Zone of critical success accompanied by adequate, if not phenomenal, ratings. A New York Times review of the episode on October 3, 1959 stated:
Mr. Serling conceived his playlet in imaginative terms and underscored his point that science cannot foretell what may be the effect of total isolation on a human being. Indeed, the play's situation was almost bound to be better than its resolution, which by comparison seemed trite and anticlimactic. In the desultory field of filmed half-hour drama, however, Mr. Serling should not have much trouble in making his mark. At least his series promises to be different.
Later that year, in the December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction, Charles Beaumont wrote:
... I read Serling's first script. It was, or seemed to be, an end-of-the-world story. Resisting the impulse to throw the wretched thing across the room, I read on. A man is alone in a town which shows every sign of having been recently occupied. He finds cigarettes burning in ash trays. Stoves are still warm. Chimneys are smoking. But no one is there, only this one frightened man who can't even remember his name ... Old stuff? Of course. I thought so at the time, and I think so now. But there was one element in the story which kept me from my customary bitterness. The element was quality. Quality shone on every page. It shone in the dialogue and in the scene set-ups. And because of this, the story seemed fresh and new and powerful. There was one compromise, but it was made for the purpose of selling the series.
- 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