Rod Serling’s Opening Narration – “Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night. Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes, not given to undue anxiety or fears, or, for that matter, even the most temporal flights of fancy. Like most career women, she has a generic classification as a, quote, girl with a head on her shoulders, end of quote.
All of which is mentioned now because, in just a moment, the head on Miss Barnes’ shoulders will be put to a test. Circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block. Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she’s going mad.”
Directed by John Brahm
Director John Brahm (The Man from Uncle) along with Serling’s brilliant writing and story brings us one of the most disturbing and imaginative entries of TZ’s amazing first season. The very attractive Vera Miles (Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) plays Millicent Barnes who is taking a trip in Upstate New York State and is waiting for a perpetually late bus at a run down and crummy looking Bus Depot. Miles, displaying her very incredible, Hitchcock impressing, acting chops takes a steady and slow descent into madness.
Millicent not only runs afoul of the bus depot ticket manager but of what appears to be her doppelganger. Brahm channels Hitchcock here with a story that unfolds nicely and without hurry. We are led in deliberately and slowly, for example whenever Millicent feels obliged to ask the Depot manager about the lateness of the Bus he has a meltdown about her asking so frequently about the schedule.
Millicent, though, doesn’t remember ever asking even the first time. It isn’t until she starts to see things in double that we are launched full throttle into the uncanny. She sees her luggage not only behind the check in counter but over at her bench where she has been sitting, too. Miles starts to slowly question her sanity in a tour de force performance that makes this episode a rare episode indeed. Miles is very adept at playing women in trouble and here she is in trouble indeed.
The ep works on many levels. Isolation, identity, mental illness and even the breakdown of what we think is reality is on display here. The Bus Station is a character all on it’s own as well. It’s dim and foreboding. One effective scene involves Millicent in the washroom with a confused cleaning lady and an awesome reveal in the washroom mirror.
Bernard Herrmann’s very ethereal and fear inducing score for this episode is strong and other worldy. Especially his frenzied piano towards the end. I can’t say enough about the very young baby faced Martin Milner (Adam 12) who is on the fence about actually believing Millicent or dis-believing her insane ramblings about a double of her occupying the same universe as her. Miles delivers a speech about how she read about “Parallel Worlds” and the look on her face is frightening and so surreal that it chills to the bone.
By the end the episode has just totally twisted the reality that Millicent resides in. It even oozes into Paul’s (Milner) reality. Paul straddles that line that Serling draws in the sand and the last few minutes of the episode shows us the fate that befalls Millicent because of Paul’s rational disbelief. It is in the last few minutes that this brilliantly written and directed episode truly shines and solidifies the themes and metaphors that Serling will become iconic for. Don’t miss this one, gang!
Serling’s Closing Narration – “Obscure metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon, reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain which cannot be explained. Call it parallel planes or just insanity. Whatever it is, you find it in the Twilight Zone.”