Thursday, October 23, 2008

His name is Bill. He solves problems.

In the haunted home stretch of his October Kill Fest, Jonathan "My next scary name may be your own" Lapper took time to celebrate The Twilight Zone. Jonathan's post and the accompanying leagues of comments put me in a TZ mood, as I am known to fall into occasionally. Jonathan's mention of Little Girl Lost as one of his favorite episodes got me thinking about it, specifically one of its supporting characters that I've always been fascinated with. He's the unsung character in a memorable episode. He might have deserved his own series. His name is Bill.

Little Girl Lost (watch the full episode here) is the episode that probably inspired Poltergeist, featuring a young girl who inexplicably disappears, though her family can still hear her. After a few frantic moments, the parents decide to do what they should have done at the start: call Bill. It's the middle of the night, but Bill is at the ready, and is soon at the door. Assessing the situation, Bill learns that little Tina went under her bed, and was later followed by the family dog, but both are now nowhere to be found. Bill takes the initiative to move the child's bed, and is smart enough to "mark where the legs were" (good call Bill, the last thing Tina needs after she's found is to see that her bed was moved and then replaced slightly out of position).

Bill comes to the conclusion that Tina and the dog had vanished via an invisible portal, and after some awkward movements he locates said portal in a nearby wall. Bill's hand goes right through the wall, so it's not your average wall. Bill quickly deduces that we're dealing with the 4th Dimension ("just a step up from the third"), a dimension that occasionally meets up with our own. In the episode's best moment, Bill gives a scholarly explanation of the 4th Dimension's properties while drawing a perimeter of the portal on the wall. It's a wonderful moment, and Bill does it with unflinching confidence.

A plan comes together where Tina's father will poke his head into the portal and try to locate his daughter, whom he eventually find. Though Chris the father is seen walking around in this odd, echo-y 4th Dimension, Bill reveals after all is back to normal that Chris was actually never all the way through the portal -- Bill was holding on to him the whole time. The portal closes up just as Chris and Tina cross back over, and to all a good night.

Everything's back to normal, yet one question remains: how is Bill not the coolest man alive? So knowledgeable is Bill, so unflappable, he doesn't even blink when faced with the prospect of a close friend's daughter vanishing into an unknown dimension. Oh, wait -- it's not an unknown dimension because Bill knows all about it! Just imagine how many calls Bill takes a day from his friends about their stupid problems: there's a meteor with glowing goo in my backyard, I think I just created a mini-black hole, there's an eye growing on my hand, my son says he's gay, blah blah blah. Bill's there, just give him a call.

Another thing I love about this episode, you have to love the ending Rod Serling tacks on:

The other half where? The fourth dimension? The fifth? Perhaps. They never found the answer. Despite a battery of research physicists equipped with every device known to man, electronic and otherwise, no result was ever achieved, except perhaps a little more respect for and uncertainty about the mechanisms of the Twilight Zone.


Fox said...

That chalkboard explanation of the 4th dimension looks awesome. Please forgive me if I've never seen this episode... heck, I've probably only seen about 3 or 4 eps in my life!

Greg said...

Fox, only 3 or 4????????? Jesus are you missing out! Get 'em from Netflix today. The Zone rocks.

And Adam this was brilliant. I've seen that episode many times and have often marvelled at Bill's expertise with something that has never happened before in the known universe but never thought to write it down. I love that Bill. Next time an alternate universe appears in my living room I'm calling Bill. Or I'll just turn off Fox News myself.

Adam Ross said...

Fox -- you wouldn't believe what Bill can do with a stick of chalk: he could explain the plot of "Mulholland Dr." to a group of senior citizens.

Lapper -- Thanks, another supporting character I like is the Soviet rep at the U.N. in "To Serve Man" -- he starts eating a sandwich while an intelligent alien being is addressing the room!

Anonymous said...

I think when the term "cool" entered the vernacular in the 1950s (in its original sense of calm, restrained manner) it was referring to West Coast jazz and to Bill.

Me, I'd have started cursing and shooting a the wall straight away :D

elgringo said...

Twilight Zone IS amazing!
Little Girl Lost is one of my favorites.
I recently watched the Twilight Zone: The Movie AND Poltergeist for the Month of Terror. Clearly, I made some connections. Love that damn show.

Adam Ross said...

Thom -- I'm with you, I would have just emptied half the junk in my storage unit into the portal. Let someone else deal with it.

buglady said...

I always wondered what inspired the Homer 3-D segment from The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VI, and now I know. I love Twilight Zone, and watched many of them in syndication on TV, but somehow missed that episode. Sounds like a must see!