“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Author: Rod Serling / Audiobook published 2010-12-09 by Falcon Picture Group „
"Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives - trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then too because he'll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone."
Walking Distance is a 2009 radio adaption of a classic sixties Twilight Zone episode and features Stacy Keach and Chelcie Ross. This is a wistful, nostalgic fantasy rather than science fiction, a touching story about the burdens of adulthood and altogether one of the most poignant ever written for the Twilight Zone. It was inspired by Rod Serling walking through the MGM set in the 1950s and being struck by how much it reminded him of the town he grew up in. It occurred to him how people have a longing to go home - but to the misty, romantic notion of home they remember from their childhood. A place you can never actually go back to (except of course in The Twilight Zone). It was a familiar Serling theme, a man having a personal crisis and yearning to escape from the dog eat dog modern world with all its stresses and strains. Serling's incredible workload on The Twilight Zone often left him shattered and on the verge of a nervous breakdown himself and he incorporated this into several moving stories. The central character here, Martin Sloan, is overworked, stressed out and at the end of his tether. In an allusion to Alice in Wonderland (and maybe The Wizard of Oz too I suppose) he abandons his car and heads down a quiet road on foot towards the small town he grew up in. "Used to live in Homewood. Grew up there as a matter of fact. Haven't been back in 20, 25 years. Yesterday I just got in the car and drove. I had to get out of New York City. One more board meeting, phone call, report or problem, I would have jumped right out the window. That's walking distance, isn't it?" When he reaches the town however he gets more than he bargained for. It is identical to how he remembers it from his youth - right down to his parents and the childhood version of himself.
This audio version of Walking Distance is 35 minutes long and Chelcie Ross (no idea who he is) is excellent as the weary Martin Sloan as he goes on this incredible and bittersweet adventure. It's very Back to the Future in parts and for the most part works well on radio because of the great dialogue. There are some wonderful lines in the drama about the desperate desire to go back to the carefree days of Sloan's youth and leave the present behind. "I've been living at a dead run and I was tired. Then, one day, I knew I had to come back here. I had to come back and get on a merry-go-round and eat cotton candy and listen to a band concert, to stop and breathe and close my eyes and smell and listen." This is a personal and finely crafted story that only has one or two drawbacks in this format. One is the absence of Bernard Herrmann's gentle and richly evocative score from the television episode. The other is the visual absence of the small town that Martin travels back to. It's fun to imagine it though and paint pictures through your imagination. Martin entering the old store and finding it exactly as it was when he was a child. Ordering an ice cream sundae that is vastly superior and far cheaper to anything in his present. The story plays on that sense that everything was better in the old days.
The moral of Walking Distance I suppose is that you can never go home again and must face up to the future and the reality of one's present. It's about what would happen if, just for a time, you could go back. It's very poignant, especially when Martin meets his father and expresses a desire to stay. "You have to leave here. There's no room. There's no place. Do you understand that? I guess because we only get one chance. Maybe there's only one summer to every customer. That little boy, the one I know, the one who belongs here, this is his summer just as it was yours once. Don't make him share it." There are no huge changes to the original story here although this is not a 100% transcript. This is The Twilight Zone in its more gentle and reflective mode and the core essence of Serling's tale is captured here nicely enough to make this a worthwhile enterprise even if you have watched the original version. Ross carries the drama well enough and Stacey Keach is on hand to provide the opening and closing monologues (two of Serling's longest and most moving).
This is another solid addition to this series and not bad at all. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of a bumper Twilight Zone audio collection or download it individually for £1.19. If you find the homepage for this series too you can also listen to sample clips from a number of episodes.