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Thursday, April 06, 2006

2.02 --- A Saucer of Loneliness

Directed by : John Hancock
Written by : David Gerrold (story by Theodore Sturgeon)
Starring : Shelley Duvall, Richard Libertini
First aired : 27th of September, 1986.

Margaret (Shelley Duvall, The Shining, Popeye), a quiet, shy, solitary waitress living with an abusive mother, suddenly has her whole life turned upside down when she encounters a flying saucer on an LA beach in broad daylight. The saucer picks her out of the crowd and, in front of the TV cameras which were accidentally there, seemingly stalks her, but after cornering her it suddenly disappears. And while everyone believes this is a matter of alien invasion, Margaret is adamant that the message was personal and private, and not to be shared.

People being people however, they don't want to get off her back easily. She tries to convince the psychiatrist that she's not crazy, her mother, embarassed by her, throws her out of the house, and people on street harass her with questions. Locked up in her hotel room, Margaret fills a bunch of bottles with handwritten notes, and throws them into the sea. When a TV reporter who also saw the saucer asks her out for a dinner, things seem to be looking up a bit, but when it turns out he's only interested in the message, she leaves, furious. In complete agony, she decides to go to the beach and drown herself.

She is saved from certain death by a stranger (Richard Libertini, Days of Heaven, Fletch), who claims to know the saucer message. What he recites to her, however, is not what the saucer said - it's what Margaret sent in the bottles. Relieved that there is someone like her out there, she shares the saucer message with him, and they leave the beach together.


Aired as the second half of the second season opening doubleheader, A Saucer of Loneliness is a fine little elegy dedicated to all the lonely people out there, designed to give them hope and patience in their quest for social acceptance. Duvall is marvellous and wholly believable in her performance, and the piece is worth watching only for her if nothing - you wind up really caring for her character and sharing her plight. Director John Hancock (previously of Kentucky Rye and The Library) aptly leads us through Margaret's despair, with one neat trick along the way - when Margaret's loneliness reaches its zenith, we are shown a shot of her surrounded by empty liquor bottles. But, she's not drinking herself to death - she is merely using them as method of delivery for her messages. Nice touch there - got me fooled.

The episode is dedicated to the loving memory of famous American sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon, who was believed to have greatly influenced much more famous writers such as Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut et al. To the mainstream audience, Sturgeon is probably known as the man who invented the Vulcan mating ritual in his original Star Trek script "Amok Time", as well as the guy who brought us the clad blue workers in A Matter of Minutes.

TZ Trivia : Nan Martin
(Margaret's mother) loves the Zone so much, she appears in it for the third time - after the original episode The Incredible World of Horace Ford, and season 1 If She Dies. The contrast of roles between If She Dies and A Saucer of Loneliness only shows her real range - in the former, she is a benevolent nun, in the latter, a brutal sadistic mother figure.

Comments on "2.02 --- A Saucer of Loneliness"


Anonymous Sorcerer Mickey said ... (10:45 PM) : 

Sturgeon's story was also made into an episode of the classic radio series, "X Minus One" and aired on January 9th, 1957. You can listen to an mp3 of it here:


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