The Twilight Zone - Stopover in a Quiet Town



The fifth season of the Twilight Zone has developed a rather blasé reputation over the decades but I had noticed when perusing the IMDb Message Board for the show—particularly in late December/early January—that the show’s faithful fanbase was actually quite vocally supportive of it. While I think it does show signs of creative fatigue, the season still appealed to me. It has Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, The Masks, and Night Call so Season 5 isn’t too bad. As much as I love Stopover in a Quiet Town (and I do truly enjoy it and have watched it too many times to count), it is among those “creative fatigue” episodes that has not just a ring of familiarity to it but a BONG at full swing. In fact we can go all the way back to the very first episode, Where is Everybody?, and the similarities (besides the resolutions) are striking. Basically Holliman is replaced by Barry Nelson and Nancy Malone and the ghost town is substituted by a ghost suburbia / neighborhood. There are mannequins in vehicles in both. Machines come on and there are noises (in this episode a train toots and circles the town with this giggly child’s laugh seemingly close and just away enough to keep our protagonists from noticing) as there was when Holliman prowled around trying to find folks to talk to. After awakening from a night of liqueur with quite the hangovers, Nelson and Malone, a married couple, are unsure of how they found their way into the bed of a fake house seemingly made similarly to a dollhouse. Mock food in refrigerator, a sawdust-stuffed squirrel on a tree, paper mache lawns, trees that tip over to reveal wood planks holding them up underneath, telephone easily pulled from the wall, handles pulling away no cabinets but just boards resembling them, and not a single soul in sight are just some of the peculiarities. Something mighty odd about this town (said in my most inquisitive tone)!

Nelson and Malone make the episode for me, too. I just think they’re fun to follow. They offer a clueless and frustrated couple (obviously!) just trying to figure out how they got here and why. “Hicksville” seemingly sunny and bright (it doesn’t really carry as much of an eerie appearance as Holliman’s ghost town, and maybe that bit of familiarity does take a bit away from Stopover…) isn’t exactly welcoming to the couple with them often commenting sarcastically about “those small towners peeking from behind curtains”. It’s Sunday and no one is even at church, with Nelson ringing the bell to no effect. Nelson gets so flustered he ponders to Malone exactly how she drove them into Centerville, later recanting what seemed like this involuntary accusation borne from increasing tension and anxiety. Hearing the child’s laugh doesn’t encourage comfort in the couple but paranoia, especially late in the episode when a dark shadow casts over them like a quickening thundercloud. Stopping momentarily to reflect on the current dilemma with a smoke, dropping a match to the ground causes instant flames, and the train (where there is no one manning the ticket booth or a conductor onboard to check on tickets) doesn’t carry them out of Centerville as much as a trip around it back to the station. This is one town you arrive to but cannot leave! That is unless “she wants to play with you”. Keep an eye out for that shadow overhead because “daddy might be looking for a couple of new toys for his little girl while visiting Earth”!

Many will recognize Nelson as the Overlook’s operations manager telling Torrance about the cabin fever in The Shining (1980), and he’s blessed with the kind face that knows how to evoke confusion but confidence, cool under pressure without cracking, a nervous smile that doesn’t ever sway into any outburst. Malone, so pretty, has the character maintaining her resolve but gradually revealing slippage, recognizing that their situation is nuts and yet trying to remain positive that there is an answer out of this mess they find themselves. There is anxious laughter, cracking-wise, and verbal questions noised aloud quizzically. There just has to be a reason why this fake town exists and some explanation behind their placement there. I always enjoy seeing these two actors set loose on some sound stage with these props, as if a cool joke played to the hilt only in some show like the Twilight Zone.



 


This is a select favorite during Syfy’s 4th of July and New Year’s marathons. It always seems to show up right at that time of the marathon during its prime period where you have that time to stop at the Stopover. Be on the lookout and if you are an early bird, you might can catch it like around 4:00 in the morning. Not too long ago, some of my family passed by the room as I started watching this one, compelled by its design and air of mystery. So despite its lack of significance, Stopover in a Quiet Town remains a personal favorite of mine. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it in my top tier in terms of importance, but as an episode I truly find rewatchable on a consistent basis, Stopover… fits the bill.

Comments