“ Listening Length: 41 minutes / Program Type: Audiobook / Version: Unabridged / Publisher: Falcon Picture Group / Release Date: 6 Aug 2010 „
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"On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man's life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them; all of Mr Corry's machines -- including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete -- in the Twilight Zone." The Lonely is a 2010 radio drama based on the classic 1959 episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling. The year is 2046 (or something) and on a desolate asteroid nine million miles from Earth convicted convict Corry is all alone and serving a fifty year sentence for murder - although he insists it was self-defence and considers himself to be innocent. The asteroid is a barren dungeon of mountains and salt flats that stretch to infinity, Corry's residence an old metal shack that bakes in the searing heat and is surrounded by endless as far as the eye can see alienating vistas of dust and rock. This interstellar solitary confinement punishment has driven Corry to the very end of his tether and he is literally dying of loneliness. Corry's only contact with other people comes when the supply ship from Earth does its periodic rounds and brings him fresh supplies of food and water. During the latest (and as usual brief) visit of the supply ship, the captain takes pity on Corry after informing him that his legal appeal has been refused a hearing again and leaves him a gift in the form of a large box. When Corry opens the box later he finds a female android who looks (on the outside anyway) and sounds exactly like a real woman. Corry is angry about the gift at first and feels as if he is being mocked. It seems pathetic and distasteful. But over time he comes to cherish the company of the android (which is named Alicia) and even starts to fall in love. To Corry, Alicia has become a real person.
The Lonely is one of the most highly regarded Twilight Zone stories and an interesting meditation by Serling on the need for human contact and the effect that isolation can have on the mind and soul. This could just as easily have been set on Earth but it was an inspired move to base the story on the desolate asteroid and use it as the absolute physical manifestation of loneliness. "Every morning when I get up I tell myself this is my last day of sanity. I can't stand this loneliness one more day, not one more day! I know when I can't keep my fingers still and the inside of my mouth feels like gunpowder and burnt copper. Down deep inside my gut I get an ache that's just pulling everything out. Then I force myself to hold on for one more day, just one more day. But I can't do that for another 46 years. I'll go right out of my mind." There are many interesting themes in this story and the premise is far more complex than it appears to be on the surface. What constitutes a person? Alicia might not be made of flesh of blood but she is unique and even proves to be capable of emotion when Corry hurts her feelings. Corry comes to see Alicia as an individual and individuality is something we think of as a very human trait. The television episode made good use of Death Valley as a location but having to use your imagination here is no bad thing and with the atmospheric use of sound effects you can picture the asteroid as an altogether more alien (although no less barren) environment than 1959 television budgets could stretch to. The music in these radio adaptations always feels nicely judged and the restrained and vaguely jazzy sound feels like a nice nod back to the late fifties/early sixties aura of the originals.
Jack Warden was fantastic as Corry in the original and is almost impossible to beat but Mike Starr (our narrator here) has a valiant stab at stepping into his Twilight Zone shoes and does manage to convey some of the gruff humanity that Warden brought to the part in spades. Starr is not the most well known guest star to grace these Twilight Zone radio dramas but you'd probably recognise him if you saw his face. He was the mobster heavy in Dumb & Dumber. Stacey Keach is the one constant in this series and is on hand here again to provide the opening and closing monologues and intro ("There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow...) that were performed so famously by Serling in the original television series. I love Stacey Keach but he does sound a trifle sedated here sometimes. Wake up Stacey! The story is nicely developed because Corry is resentful of Alicia at first for looking so human and reminding him of his tragic predicament. "Why didn't they build you to look like a machine? Why didn't they build you out of metal with bolts and wires and electrodes and things like that? Why'd they turn you into a lie, cover you with something that looks like flesh, give you a face? You're just like this heap. A hunk of metal with arms and legs, instead of wheels. But this heap doesn't mock me the way you do. It doesn't look at me with make believe eyes or talk to me with a make believe voice. Well, I'm sick of being mocked by the memory of women. And that's all you are. A reminder to me that I'm so lonely I'm about to lose my mind."
He softens when she proves to be capable of conversation and simple basic companionship. Having someone to go for a walk with etc. I think this is not a bad story at all to adapt into an audio drama from the television series because the tone is low-key and thoughtful and relies on dialogue rather than visual cues or revelations. You don't actually have to make too many changes. The most important thing is that you capture some of the atmosphere of the original and they manage to do that here fairly well. The fundamental themes of Serling's original text are fairly timeless and still work well. Not just his recurring theme of the need for human contact and the nature of individuality and humanity but also the concepts of freedom and punishment and what they actually mean. This is one of the better audio adaptations in the radio series and just about different enough to be worthwhile - even for those familiar with the television series - without feeling as if it has strayed too far from the pen of Serling and the essential premise. Some of these Twilight Zone audio dramas are a bit jarring when they deviate from the source texts or try to update them slightly but The Lonely has such a simple and effective premise that you'd have to be fairly inept to lose the essential complexity and emotion of the story. The third act is also strong and it becomes more compelling when Corry is forced to make a very important decision. This radio version of The Lonely runs to just over 40 minutes and is on The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas Vol 4 collection (which was unavailable last time I looked and also a trifle expensive at £20) but can also be downloaded individually for £1.19. This is a decent adaptation of the television story and not bad at all.