This Day in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the birth of actor James Daly ('A Stop at Willoughby')

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Oct 23, 2017

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that followed, from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era and beyond.

This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia. Whether it's a key performer's birth or death, the date an episode debuted or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.

Today, October 23, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of actor James Daly (1918-1978), who starred in the renowned episode "A Stop at Willoughby."

This is one of my Top 5 episodes because it addresses one of the fundamental problems of daily modern life – when existence becomes too stressful, where do we go? For Gart Williams, another stressed-to-the-max advertising executive whose boss' credo is "Push Push Push," that place is a mythical 19th-century burg called Willoughby. Seen through the sunlit window of his commuter train, it's a wonderful place with kids walking by with fishing rods, a band playing in the park, women with parasols, and nobody on their damn cell phones (sorry, I threw that one in).

Manhattan advertising executive Gart Williams (James Daly, right) is having one of those awful, stressful days under the stern gaze of his impossible to please boss in "A Stop at Willoughby." 

Everybody has their own version of Willoughby – a place they'd always rather be, and as Rod Serling admitted throughout his career, his was his hometown of Binghamton, New York. This was his second nostalgic trip in the first season, after "Walking Distance." Gart Williams and Martin Sloan (Gig Young) from the latter episode are kindred spirits.

So today let us raise a tall glass of cider to that place where you go when you want to get away from it all. It might be Willoughby, it might be Cancun, but wherever it is, I hope it keeps you out of The Twilight Zone.

For stressed-out Manhattan advertising executive Gart Williams (James Daly, left), his wintry train to Westport takes a detour into The Twiilght Zone in "A Stop at Willoughby."