Today, May 6th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate a five star TZ classic, 1960's "A Stop at Willoughby."
James Daly, father of Tyne and Tim, stars as stressed-out Manhattan advertising executive Gart Williams. Gart is cut from the same cloth as Rod Serling’s Martin Sloan in "Walking Distance": Both men are ready to call in their chips. Whether it's because of his boss (Howard Smith) constantly telling him to "push, push, push" or his never-satisfied wife (Patricia Donahue) complaining about his lack of ambition, Gart's ready to jump off a building. His only solace takes place on the train back to Connecticut each evening, where he has a chance to catch his breath.
However, things start to get strange when his modern train and conductor suddenly morphs into a vintage train and conductor, stopping at an impossibly tranquil 1880s town called Willoughby.
Calls the elderly conductor, "Willoughby, Willoughby." And for a brief moment, Gart has a vision of a better place. However, Willoughby's sun, parasols, bare feet, fishing poles and gazebo are soon replaced by the wintry scene out his train window, as chilly as ever.
Speaking for a bunch of fans, I truly believe we're all looking for a Willoughby – a simpler time, a simpler place – as was Serling.
Howard Smith, the grating boss, would return as an angel boss in "Cavender is Coming." Jason Wingreen, who played the modern conductor, returns as a fleeing neighbor in "The Midnight Sun." Robert Parrish deserves huge kudos for directing this episode.
So let's raise a glass of cool 1880s summer lemonade to Gart Williams and the beauty of Willoughby, a prime tourist destination in The Twilight Zone.