Walking Distance: The Twilight Zone Episode that Hit Too Close to Home

I used to watch marathons of the Twilight Zone with my mom almost every New Years on the SyFy channel. The activity became so customary that I have a strong memory of probably 80% of the entire series. Throughout my viewings of various Twilight Zone episodes, I’ve ran through different phases and mannerisms that made the experiences of watching these old shows ‘boring’ and ‘weird’. As I grew older, the fun of watching Rod Serling’s masterpiece became more and more entertaining, valuable.

The weird motif that runs through a lot of the early season 1 episodes focuses on the motif of life, mainly the idea of growing up, growing old, dying. Many stories focus on decrepit older characters who are forced to confront their mortality, the end of their youth, with the most touching of these stories being “Walking Distance”. Walking Distance displays the narrative of nostalgia, exploring the construct of youth in the rose tinted glasses that we boring adults imagine from time to time. The story focuses on a Martin Sloan who, through misadventure, finds himself in a parallel dimension which captures the rosary sweetness of his childhood nostalgia. Martin discovers in time that he is in the wrong place, the wrong space. It is implied that a lot of this nostalgia is nothing more than an illusion, especially Martin’s parents. This ties in with my own nostalgia, my own wish to return to ‘better days’. Days where I had the opportunity to be stupid, days where I could spend time with people that are no longer with me. Days, that I can’t return to. It hurts in some respects, the idea of being able to see my mother, my grandmother, to relive the time when life was mysterious and special. Martin is a lucky man, being given the opportunity to see his family once more. Even better, he can communicate with his younger self. I almost broke down when Martin attempted to tell his younger self about not taking his youth for granted, cherishing the things that he has. I can’t help but think about what I would say to my young self. “Don’t act like everything is permanent. Nothing lasts forever. Those closest to you aren’t immortal. The freedom of youth is a one time deal and you only have so long to have it, make it count.”

At the same time, Martin’s father at the end of the episode had some outstanding advice. Rod Serling truly is a fantastic writer. He says that there are plenty of potential ‘merrygorounds’ in Martin’s timeline, plenty of opportunities to be happy, to find that same satisfaction. We can’t see the opportunities in front of us if we’re looking backwards the entire time. This is something that proves true in many different elements of adulthood, spending time being nostalgic is unproductive and it just leads to me being sad. Those who I lost wouldn’t wish for me to be looking back at them all the time anyway, it would be much better to internalize the things they taught me and make something out of myself.

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