The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 3 – The Shelter

This story opens up in the home of Dr. Bill Stockton where his family and neighbors are celebrating his birthday with a cake and some speeches in his honor.  But as they are celebrating, a television announcement tells them to tune into the radio and listen to CONELRAD to hear a bulletin on an emergency situation.  The bulletin tells them that the Distant Early Warning radar has detected incoming objects that may be a missile attack.

The neighbors leave and run home.  Dr. Stockton, and his wife Grace and young son Paul start collecting supplies and fill water bottles before heading into their bomb shelter.  Just before they locked themselves in their neighbor Jerry Harlowe shows up and begs Dr. Stockton to let Jerry and his family share the bomb shelter.  Stockton explains that he can’t because the shelter only has the capacity to provide air for three people.  After a heated exchange Stockton locks the shelter door with Harlowe still outside.

Now the rest of the neighbors who were at the party show up and start panicking and come up with a plan to smash in the shelter door.  But then they start fighting about who gets to be in the shelter.  There are even the obligatory racist and anti-immigrant sentiments from one man against his Hispanic neighbor.

Just as they finish bashing in the door, they hear the CONELRAD announcing that the incoming objects aren’t missiles but a satellite and there is no danger.  The rampaging mob collapses in relief and shame.  They all start apologizing to Stockton and each other for their insane behavior.  When someone says that the bombs didn’t destroy them after all, Dr. Stockton says that maybe they’ve destroyed themselves.

So Serling reveals his liberal bona fides for all to see.  He manages to make a bomb shelter an Un-American abomination and reveals all of our neighbors and families to be racists and hypocrites.  Charming.

I’ll grant that anxiety over impending thermonuclear war might not have us acting like saints but painting us as Nazis is a cheap shot.  F.

7 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 3 – The Shelter

  • March 21, 2019 at 9:37 pm
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    If the doctor is smart, he’ll keep a shotgun and several boxes of shells in his shelter from now on.

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    • March 22, 2019 at 7:27 am
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      Yeah, and harden the door of his little hiding hole. Those guys bashed it in, in record time.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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    This is one of my least favorite episodes. I used to get it mixed up with “The monsters are coming on Maple St”. It had the same premise: “Scared people do stupid things.” But while Monsters was well done, this one is ham handed.

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    • March 22, 2019 at 6:50 pm
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      This was during the depth of the Berlin Crisis and he’s slapping his own side around. Sorry that doesn’t fly.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 2:18 pm
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    Sorry – forgot to sign. That was Chemist.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 6:49 pm
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    One of the most prevalent messages of “TZ” is that you are your own worst enemy. That if a bomb were about to drop at this very moment the bomb would probably not be what killed you first. No, the perp would likely be you or someone else. Serling, week after week, asked people to look in the mirror to behold the source of their problems. Yet, Serling was not all cynic. Just as he thought you were the greatest threat to your own well-being he also thought you were your greatest asset in a crisis. Take Joey Crown in “A Passage for Trumpet”: who has the final say in whether Joey gets a new lease on life? Why Joey Crown of course. Serling was all about empowering his audience. He didn’t want them making excuses for themselves — like blaming everything on a neighbor. Or a foreigner. He wanted the buck to stop with them. And through that responsibility he wanted them to realize they could change the world for the better.

    Salvation or destruction, Serling felt, came from within.

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    • March 22, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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      Too defeatist for my liking. But to each his own.

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