020 – The Elegy

Original air date – 2/19/60

Written by Charles Beaumont |  Directed by Douglas Heyes

Starring Cecil KellawayJeff MorrowKevin HagenDon Dubbins

Three astronauts from 2185, Captain James Webber (Kevin Hagen), Kurt Meyers (Jeff Morrow) and Peter Kirby (Don Dubbins), land on an asteroid that looks strangely like Planet Earth circa 1950s America. They have been wandering lost in space for several months, and this is the first planet they have come across that has the proper levels of oxygen and nitrogen to support human life.

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But what looks like a warm and fuzzy small town Americana isn’t what it seems.

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Wherever they go, they see people. Lifelike yet frozen like Madame Tussaud’s wax sculptures, these people do not move.

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The astronauts are undoubtedly baffled and try to make scientific sense out of what could be going on here. Not making any headway figuring out why people are standing about like statues, they decide to take refuge in a house. At the front porch, they are greeted by a man, who unlike others, can move and talk.

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The man introduces himself as Wickwire and welcomes the astronauts into his house and serves them wine.

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He explains that he is the caretaker of this asteroid, a cemetery built in the 1970s called Happy Glades. This is a cemetery for dead people who are preserved in their eternal poses – the way they want to be in the afterlife. Wickwire is a actually a robot who activates to do his job whenever there are visitors. Soon enough, the astronauts start to feel dizzy. They now realize that they shouldn’t have drank the wine. The wine is going traveling into their system to freeze them for eternity.

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Slowly dropping to the floor, one of the astronauts asks Wickwire why he poisoned them. Wickwire says, “Because you are here and you’re men. And while there are men, there can be no peace.”

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The next scene we see Wickwire dusting the inside of the spacecraft. The three astronauts now are situated on their command posts. Wickwire then goes back to his house, sits down and becomes as still as a sculpture…

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My favorite thing when watching Elegy is to look at all the extras acting frozen and try to catch them blinking or swaying. That’s the five-year-old in me. I always look at the extras more than the main characters themselves. For a television show in the 50s, Elegy has a rather elaborate production.

\Written by the tragic but talented Charles Beaumont (refer to the back story about Beaumont here), Elegy (watch it here on imdv) was originally a short story (read it here on The Project Gutenberg site). In that story, the wholesome and elderly Wickwire is a strange little man named Greypoole. At the end of the short story, the astronauts are resigned to their fate. As the matter of fact, they obediently walk back to the spacecraft with Greypoole and even ask him if he thinks having the spacecraft in Happy Glades for eternity is offensive (Greypoole says no). One by one, the astronauts begin to freeze into their eternal poses while Greypoole asks, “I see understanding in your face; that pleases me more than I can say. My position is so difficult! But you can see, when a machine is geared to its job—which is to retain permanence on HAPPY GLADES—well, a machine is a machine. Where shall we put you?” I wish that the great last line in the original had made it into The Twilight Zone adaptation.

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