030 – A Stop at Willoughby

Original air date – 5/6/60

Written by Rod Serling | Directed by Robert Parish

Starring James Daly, Patricia Donahue, Howard Smith, Jason Wingreen, James Maloney

Watch it here

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Gart Williams (James Daly) is an advertising executive in New York City whose boss, Mr. Misrell (Howard Smith), is pushing him to a brink of nervous breakdown by his daily mantra of “push, push, push” in order to land accounts.

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By night, Williams rides the commuter train in the midst of a snow back to his expensive home outside of the city, perfect but high-maintenance wife and country club that he doesn’t feel like he belongs.

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On the train, he starts to get into the habit of falling asleep and waking up to a stop called Willoughby – a quaint and neighborly town in the 1880s where it’s forever summer and people are laid back.

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Each time Williams dozes off in the train and wakes up at Willoughby, he quickly grabs his briefcase and attempt to get off. Each time, he is woken up before he steps off the platform.

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While his sleeping moment teases him with a glimpse at the paradise that is Willoughby, his waking moment is tormented by pressure from work and home.

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On the verge of a breakdown, Williams naps on the train on his way home hoping to escape to Willoughby again. This time he leaves his briefcase on the train.

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Surrendering all ties to his present life, Williams finally is able to step off the platform and into the land of Willoughby where everyone greets him by name and the sunshine is eternal.

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Back in the grim and snowy night in the present day of New York, the conductor and police gather around the body of Williams who lies dead in the snow from apparently having jumped off the ongoing train.

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As the funeral home takes his body away, we see that Willoughby is the name of the company.

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A Stop at Willoughby reminds me of The Walking Distance. Both men are advertising executive. Both are at the crossroad of their lives. In The Walking Distance, the protagonist is merely looking back at the innocent time he spent in a small town USA when things were simpler. But he is forced to ultimately leave the happy place behind because his presence there almost alters the history. Like the rule of thumb for time traveling per all the Back to The Future films, it’s a definite no-no no matter how much you love the place, you have got to leave. In A Stop at Willoughby, Williams’s mental stage is in a critical phase. Willoughby might be a funeral home which equates to death. Willoughby might be an afterlife, a land of eternal happiness perfected by William’s imagination. Whatever Willoughby is, it’s a fantastical escape. And there is nothing wrong with choosing to be there.

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