Original Airdate: October 30, 1959
The Thomas Wolfe adage, “You can’t go home again,” is the basis for “Twilight Zone’s” fifth episode, “Walking Distance” in which a walk to town becomes a much longer walk through time and memory.
Martin Sloan (Gig Young, “Rear Window”) is a New York ad executive fleeing the Big Apple in his fancy car on a hot Sunday. He pulls into a gas station and while his car is being serviced he walks the mile-and-a-half to his old hometown. When he arrives he has been mysteriously transported twenty years back in time to the summer when he was eleven years old.
It doesn’t take long for Older Martin Sloan to suss out his situation, try to stake out and recapture his youth, even running into his younger self. He seeks out his parents, his old haunts, even the old carousel that dominates his memories. As he finds rejection and hostility at every corner his desperation for acceptance mounts and he seeks out the sole person he feels he can wield influence over, himself.
When calamity ensues and a voice from his past forces him to confront his choices he must reassess what he wants, why he is there in the past, and what is trying to accomplish. This episode reeks of desperation and regret. It oozes fear and guilt from each scene. As Martin Sloan is harried from place to place his terror mounts as he feels his grasp slipping.
Again, brilliant casting anchors a well-written story humanizing the fantastical and making a time-travel story secondary to one about regret and a last opportunity for a son to have a conversation with his long-lost father. The conversation on the carousel is one that will tug at the heartstrings, evoking memories of unresolved issues and emotions unspoken. With every episode my admiration for Rod Serling’s writing talents increases. There is a reason “Twilight Zone” is such a classic and Rod Serling is a significant driving force. “Walking Distance” showcases yet another in the vast range of a highly-capable artist.