Original air date – 11/20/59
Based on short story by Lynn Venable
Written by Rod Serling | Directed by John Brahm
Starring Burgess Meredith, Jacqueline deWit
In Time Enough at Last, Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) is a bank teller and a husband, but first and foremost, he is a reader with a capital R. He is so absorbed with reading that it interferes with his job and his personal life. From Mr. Bemis’ perspective, however, it’s his job and his wife (Jacqueline deWit) that interfere with his reading.
Mr. Bemis hides in the bank vault each day during his lunch hour to ensure the peace and quiet he seeks to read the newspaper without distraction. On this particular day, he opens the paper to the front page where it says “H-BOMB CAPABLE OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION.” And faster than you can say Hiroshima, Mr. Bemis is shaken by a big explosion.
Emerging from the vault, he finds nothing but rubble, the world outside evidently corroborating the truth in this morning’s headline. With not one person left alive in the ruins that surround him, Henry considers suicide. He knows there is enough food to last him for years since he’s the only one who will be eating left on the planet, but living the rest of his life in loneliness without anyone else seems more than he can bear –until he notices just where he’s standing.
Mr. Bemis finds that he stands before the wreckage of the town’s public library. His despair turns to joy.
Dickens, Browning, Shelly, Keats. They are all there. With the world standing still and no one left to distract him, Mr. Bemis will have time enough at last to read these books, enough to last him a lifetime.
Sitting on the steps surrounded by books, his reading glasses slip off his face and land on the ground. Alas, the lenses shatter leaving him just useless frames.
“That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed. That’s not fair,” Mr. Bemis weeps as he comes to terms with the life that’s left for him, to be surrounded by books but with no glasses to read them.
What does one have to say about a much-loved episode like Time Enough at Last? Similar to the first episode, Where Is Everybody?, Time Enough at Last explores loneliness. Meredith is to Twilight Zone what Alec Baldwin is to SNL. He would go on to guest-star in three other Twilight Zone episodes and even narrate Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Several parodies have been made of this episode, too. Check out this amusing parody Futurama’s Scary Door.
In my version of an epilogue for this episode, Mr. Bemis will stumble upon an optometrist’s shop and find lenses to make a pair of glasses to read those damned books (if you detect a tinge of mockery, that’s because I, too, am married to a Mr. Bemis). After all, he has all the time in the world to do it now.