Last evening I watched one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone. In fact, it might be my absolute favorite episode.
I hadn’t seen it since it first aired in April of 1962, and yet I could remember it as if it were, well, perhaps not yesterday, but I recalled all the essentials of the plot. It was entitled “The Trade-Ins” but that’s such a mundane title for the episode, that I prefer to think of it as “The Best Is Yet To Be”, a line from a Robert Browning poem that is quoted in the the show.
Unlike some of my other favorite Twilight Zone episodes, it’s not a horror story (like “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet”, which had a jolt midway through that I don’t think I’ve yet recovered from), nor does it have a twist ending (like “To Serve Man”, based on a Damon Knight short story). No, it’s just a simple tale of an elderly couple, John and Marie Holt, trying to navigate their world as best they can.
It takes place in some undefined future where it is now possible to trade in their aging, and in John’s case, pain-wracked bodies for younger models. They are initially excited about the prospect as the salesman shows them the various models they have to choose from, but they are heartbroken when they realize they only have enough money to pay for one of them to have the operation. Marie insists that John should have the procedure, but he’s reluctant to do it without his beloved Marie. Is there some way around the problem?
It’s a very human story with no gimmicks other than the basic premise that sets the story in motion.
Joseph Schildkraut and Alma Platt play the parts of John and Marie, and they couldn’t be better cast.
I was surprised to learn that actor Edson Stroll, who played a small but crucial role in another of my favorite episodes, “Eye of the Beholder”, appears in this one as well—once again in a small but crucial role. The script was written by Rod Serling and according to the interview with Stroll on the Blu-ray, it may have been his favorite.
It’s in Season 3 Episode 31 of the original The Twilight Zone. Don’t accept any substitutes. Even if you normally don’t care for that show, you might enjoy this episode.
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