The Twilight Zone: The Lateness of the Hour

Tonight, Cinematico Magnifico takes a look at look at a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, The Lateness of the Hour!

Tonight we take a look at The Lateness of the Hour, the forty-fourth episode of The Twilight Zone, which features
Inger Stevens as Jana, a young woman concerned that her parents are too dependent on their seemingly perfect robot servants.

Originally airing on December 2, 1960, as part of the show’s second season, The Lateness of the Hour is only one of six episodes shot on video rather than film in a failed attempt by the studio to cut back on the show’s rather high production costs. This resulted in a fairly distinct experience compared to the bulk of the series, with these episodes sharing a grainier and nosier audio/visual quality that perhaps dates them more than others. More so, with its restrictive camera placements and limited sets, these episodes also share the appearance of a live stage play or soap opera.

Fortunately, the performances and story are engaging enough to shine through the lower production values. Inger Stevens is wholly convincing in her role as the concerned yet somewhat selfish daughter of aging parents. The performers that portray the robotic servants believable enough as creations that are not entirely human. Though character actor John Hoyt and Irene Tedrow are perhaps a little too hammy in their roles as Jana’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Loren.

And while the idea of robots that are perhaps too human is nothing new, The Lateness of the Hour is an earlier example of this story, even predating Philip K. Dick’s classic novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by about six years.

In an era where technology is so heavily relied upon for day-to-day activity, the moral and ethical questions presented by this story are every bit as relevant. The traditional twist at the end of this episode brings up even better questions about morality and ethics in the digital age, especially with the popularity of disposable technology. If Siri or Cortana were a bit more like the AI Samantha in Spike Jonze’s movie Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with the too-human, yet disembodied voice of Scarlet Johansson, would we be so willing to mistreat or replace our phones and other electronics?

So in spite of its less-than stellar appearance and a couple of arguably questionable performances, The Lateness of the Hour remains one of The Twilight Zone’s (and Rod Serling’s) most relevant works of science fiction.

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