Rod Serling's "Walking Distance" exhibits some bittersweet moments for a man in search of his past. When Martin Sloan's parents do not recognize him, there is a sense of loss and sadness at the doorstep of the home he once knew. In the next adjacent scene, we briefly meet a young man who is admiring a brand new car, freshly minted out of Detroit. As Martin takes in the shiny visage before his very eyes, the young man states that the car is a 1934 Roadster, leaving the distinct impression that this event is taking place through an incredible regression in time. Now Martin begins to understand this inexplicable excursion beyond the rational elements he initially expected via his revisit to Homewood.
Atmosphere & Drama in a Series of Events
The next scene is one of the most atmospheric moments ever presented on "The Twilight Zone." Having left the young man with the 1934 Roadster behind, we now realize that nightfall has descended upon the neighborhood, with church bells gently ringing in the distance. Lampposts along the street radiate their distinctive glow as interior lights fill the windows of Homewood's stately houses. At this moment I am reminded of the memorable artwork of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte (1898-1967), an artist who often captured that otherworldly atmosphere just between sundown and early evening. One such masterpiece is entitled "The Empire of Light" painted between 1950 and 1954, a lovely composition delineating some of the enchantment and charm of this unique time of day, with the light of the sky acting as counterbalance to the positively mysterious glow emanating from streetlamps and interior houselights along the boulevard. One cannot perfectly distinguish whether Magritte has painted either a day scene or a night scene, yet the evocation of transient light remains fascinating and almost hypnotic in overall effect.
Rod Serling's voice-over enters this atmospheric night scene, a moment of literary and philosophical insight adding dramatic pause toward further contemplation. "A man can think a lot of thoughts and walk a lot of pavement between afternoon and night." Here we begin to grasp this integration of varied elements, in retrospect realizing both the short and long passages of distance and time, from the country gas station to the Homewood sign to the people who live in this rather special place. Serling continues as narrator, "Memory suddenly becomes reality....Martin Sloan is back in time....his resolve is to put in a claim." Full realization of all these unusual elements will take place as Martin comes face to face with a powerfully emotional event from his childhood. A chance, a time of life and a revisit will help to clarify the hazy textures of Martin's treasured youth.