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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

2.09 --- The World Next Door

Directed by : Paul Lynch
Written by : Lan O'Kun
Starring : George Wendt, Bernadette Birkett
First aired : 18th of October, 1986.

Barney Schlesinger (George Wendt, Cheers), a likable fellow who has inventor's aspiration, is going through a barren patch of his life at the moment. His wife Katie (Bernadette Birkett) is losing her patience with his hobby which she thinks it's useless, and on top of it he's been having weird dreams about being someone else in another world.

One rainy night, Barney returns home only to find out Katie will take none of his sloppiness no more. She sends him down to his basement workshop, and threatens him with couch unless he cleans it all up. While working, Barney hears distant laughter from beyond the walls and thinks he's losing it. But, after accidentally triggering an earlier "invention" and blowing a hole in the wall, he finds a sealed door which leads to...

...another dimension, in which he is Barney Schlesinger - famous early 20th century inventor ! Climbing up the stairs, Barney is flabbergasted to see a luxurious reception given for his guests, in honour of his latest invention - new type of fuel which will optimize the usage of cars and will make them run whole 60 miles per hour. Barney celebrates the occasion with a shot of vintage wine and a dance with his partner Milton, enjoying the evening throughout.

After the party finishes, he is interrupted by someone knocking on the front door. It turns out it's a damsel in distress - a lady whose carriage broke so she's forced to look for shelter in this horrible weather. Barney is amazed to recognize his wife Katie (or, her parallel universe alter ego), and immediately takes her in. They share a drink, and when it's time to say goodbye, Barney sneaks behind the basement door to retrieve a mechanical orchid he designed in his "previous" life. Getting there, he sees the "other" Barney making peace with modern day Katie - seemingly, two Barneys just exchanged places, and are very happy with their new lives. Back in the early 20th century, Katie is very pleased with her mechanical orchid...and Barney feels his real life has just began.


The World Next Door is another white collar escapist fantasy, not unlike some earlier TZ episodes (ie. A Stop at Willoughby), and is hence relegated to the "been there, done that" pile of Zone material which just keeps stacking higher in this second season. It would be wholly unfair to call this a bad episode though, as George Wendt is positively charming in his double role of Barney Schlesinger - the dance sequence with Jeffrey Tambor (remember him from Dead Woman's Shoes ?) is a hoot, and so is his coming to terms he has a butler (Jeeves...? Morgan...? Henry...?). Worth seeing once, but that's about it.

Worth noting I'm just freely estimating that the other Barney lives in early 20th century. The news snippet about cars running up to 60mph made me think that. I might be, obviously, very wrong.

Where everybody knows your trivia : oddly enough, Bernadette Birkett is also a Cheers cast member - it's just she never appears in it ! Birkett's role is limited to Norm's often-mentioned-but-never-shown wife Vera, who cameos a couple of times as a voice on the other side of the telephone. Neat touch from the Zone producers thus, who paired Norm and Vera in flesh on the small screen.

Comments on "2.09 --- The World Next Door"


Blogger Jody said ... (2:26 PM) : 

It wasn't the early 20th Century. The parallel world occupied the same time, but it just had a different level of technological development (as well as social mores.)

Or at least that's my take on it...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:32 PM) : 

It's not odd that Bernadette Birkett was with George Wendt in both Cheers and the Twilight Zone.... They have been married to each other since 1978.


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