The Lateness of the Hour
Jana – Inger Stevens
Dr. Loren – John Hoyt
Mrs. Loren – Irene Tedrow
Robert – Tom Palmer
Nelda – Mary Gregory
Suzanne – Valley Keene
Gretchen – Doris Karnes
Jensen – Jason Johnson
Narrator – Rod Serling
It was a dark and stormy night. It’s the outside of a mansion in stormy weather. A young woman is looking moodily out of the window at the rain. Behind her we hear…moaning? Ok, since this is television I know there can’t be any sexy times going on but it sounds like there is. The young lady is carrying around a huge freaking book. It’s apparently a picture album. Jana asks her father and mother when certain pictures were taken. The mom, who’s getting a neck rub from a maid. I’m guessing that was the source of the moaning. Still pretty creepy, though.
Jana asks when a picture was taken. Mrs. Loren remarks that Nelda looks particularly lovely in that picture. Nelda tells her thank you. Mrs. Loren says that it was just after Dr. Loren retired and Nelda is holding lovely yellow roses and Nelda doesn’t look any older. Jana looks either bored or irritated and wanders off. Dr. Loren tells Jana that Nelda can put it away for her but Jana replies that she’d like to do it herself. Which makes sense, she’s only three steps away from the desk. Her mom moans away as Nelda massages her shoulders. Jana stops to warm her hands at the fire. Mrs. Loren remarks that Jana shouldn’t be cold, it’s a perfect 72 degrees in the house.
Jana goes into a snark-fest about how the temperature is optimum.The fireplace is designed for perfect heat. The chairs for maximum comfort.The windows for the most efficient light and ventilation. The ceilings are designed for the best acoustical sound. Everything built to perfection for the perfect life. Gee, how terrible. I can see why she’s so annoyed. Jana is looking pretty annoyed at the moaning and groaning her mother is doing over the shoulder rub. Can’t say I blame her on that one. It sounds…icky. Especially when she says it helps her appetite. Appetite for what one may wonder. Mrs. Loren remarks that it’s time for dinner, 6:00 P.M. exactly.
Jana gets a little spazzy about this and asks why don’t they eat a little earlier, a little later, or why don’t they just go out to eat? Dr. Loren wants to know why on earth they would go out to eat at a restaurant. She says that it would be a change at least. He says oh, yes. It would be a change. They’d walk through the rain, get soaking wet, eat nasty food off of unwashed plates and it would be a toss-up on whether they would die from pneumonia or ptomaine poisoning. I think you’re overstating it just a tad, dude. Jana looks disappointed.
Mrs. Loren tells Nelda to keep the shoulder rub going a little longer. Jana yells at her not to make Nelda do that any longer. Mrs. Loren wants to know what Jana’s problem is and Jana says that he’d like to go outside and hear the beautiful sound of rain rather than her moaning. Can’t say I blame her there. Dr. Loren says her name sharply. Jana tells him to yell at her, it would be delightful to hear that he’s got a mind, lungs and a voice. She says they’re atrophying in there from stagnation while Nelda the Maid, Robert the Butler, Gretchen the Cook and Jensen the Handyman take care of their every need. Dr. Loren asks Nelda to leave them, please. He waits while Nelda walks out. Jana, looking quite a bit psychotic, calls Nelda’s name. Nelda doesn’t stop so Jana clicks after her in her heels. She calls Nelda’s name again. Nelda stops and says “Yes, Miss Jana?”
Jana asks if Nelda agrees with her. All of the other servants come out to watch which seems to throw Jana for a minute. Jana walks over to the staircase to make her grand announcement but then stops again when her father comes out. He tells her not to stop on his account, they have no secrets. If they have no secrets then why did he bother excusing Nelda? She disagrees, saying that all they have is secrets. They shut themselves off from the world. Turning their backs on it only to be served by “soundless, fleshless” things. She accuses them of turning her father and mother into helpless blobs of jelly. I don’t know about the mom but the dad looks pretty trim. As she passes one of the maids the maid remarks that Miss Jana sounds jealous. So Jana reacts how any reasonable person would act. She throws the maid down the stairs.
It doesn’t seem to bother the maid any. She pops up and grins at Jana. Her father points out that Jana was correct. He built them to perfection so they are quite indestructible. She says it’s like living with ghosts. He points out that to be a ghost a person must have lived. These ‘people’ never lived. It’s a very clunky exposition to let us know that these servants aren’t ‘real’ people. Her father walks off and the servants disperse.
The residence of Dr. William Loren which is, in reality, a menagerie for machines. We’re about to discover that sometimes the product of man’s talent and genius can walk amongst us, untouched by the normal ravages of time. These are Dr. Loren’s robots built to function as well as artistic perfection. But, in a moment, Dr, William Loren, wife and daughter will discover that perfection is relative. That even robots have to be paid for. And very shortly we’ll be shown exactly what is the bill.
We open on a really pretty golden clock on a table. Jana is standing beside it. I guess if you’re an annoyed, restless young thing you never, ever sit down. Robert the Butler brings in a tray of pipes and Jana, with her back to them, mouths what they’re saying. Her mother is quietly sipping sherry. I get why Jana would be bored but c’mon! Her mom and dad are elderly. Assuming they’ve (or at least he’s) worked his butt off to afford the house and the creation of the ro-bit servants don’t they deserve a break? I can see why she may be restless but, since I hate to go out unless absolutely necessary, it looks pretty good to me.
Mrs. Loren starts moaning so I’m guessing Nelda’s doing the neck rub. All right. I will give her that. That would be annoying. If you’re going to be so noisy and icky about it do it privately woman! Or, hell, as big as that house is why does Jana hang out in the library? I’m sure she has a room, somewhere. Robert gives Dr. Loren the pipe and Jana again mimics them. Robert gives her a glare. I’m not sure if it’s because he knows what she’s doing and it annoys him or other reasons. Or jealousy. Which raises interesting questions since two of those imply very human emotions.
Dr. Loren starts to call Robert back to light his pipe but Jana is ahead of him and tells Robert not to bother. She’ll light it. Does he seriously forget to have Robert light his pipe every single night? You’d think Robert would just stay there to light it. Dr. Loren asks Jana if she wants to talk about it now. She asks what he wants to talk about. He says that he’d think that would be obvious. He and her mother are surprised to suddenly find that Jana is inexplicably unhappy. He says she’s being rebellious and wants to know if she thinks that pleases them? She says she doesn’t know.
He says that he explained long ago why he did what he did. Why he retired from the world and built the ro-bits. Except he consistently calls them people. Jana says that what they’ve done to themselves is ‘an atrocity’ (you might want to look that word up, sweetie) but they’ve done something worse to her. They’ve turned her into a freak. Well, I know quite a few people who would trade their daily worries for being what she calls a ‘freak’. Jana goes on to say that they’ve turned her into an unsocial, unworldly, insulated freak. I think she just described me.
Her father comes to hold her shoulders. He says he’s protected her from disease and insulation in the 20th century is no crime. He tells her that she’s never had to look into the face of war, or poverty or prejudice. He tells her that what she thinks of as a prison can also be seen as sanctuary. She says that it’s not safety and security in a hothouse or a mausoleum. She compares it to being a vegetable and is yelling that strictly at her mother. She says they’re becoming vegetables and they’re turning her into one.
As Jana is ranting, Nelda is bringing in a tray with a couple of glasses of water and what looks like her parent’s medication. Jana calls Nelda’s name and Nelda stops. Jana grabs the second glass of water from the tray, pours it on the floor and then smashes it. Congratulations. You’re as rebellious as a two year old. Jensen the handyman comes along quickly to clean it up. Like, really quickly. Almost as though he were waiting just off-screen. Hmmm. She tells her father that time is running out. That instead of controlling the robots he’s being controlled by them. She says they’re reaching a point where they won’t be able to exist without them.
Jana begs her father to get rid of them. Dismantle them. And she looks utterly psychotic. He tells her that they’re not just machines. they’re precise, intricate. They’re not just arms and legs that move but they’re creatures with minds and wills. Memories, even. He’s given each of them their own memory tracks. Each one can recount everything that’s happened to them from their “childhoods”. He tells her that she’s not just asking him to destroy machines but that which has life. She disagrees. Jana says they’re nothing but highly complicated toys. That the house is nothing more than a giant playroom. The mother says that Jana is acting like a willful child. Jana yells back that she’s acting like a woman who wants something more than to be massaged 5 times a day or having pipes filled and refilled. She insists that her father get rid of all of them. He says that is quite impossible.
Jana throws down her ultimatum. Either they go or she does. Her mother says no, she can’t leave. What would happen to Jana out there in the world. Who would look after her? What would she do? Jana isn’t having any of that. She says she’d be with people who lived and worked and died properly, the way God intended. She says she wants her freedom but her father says that isn’t possible. But she’s seen Braveheart too many times and yells “Freedom!” before running out of the room. As she runs by the servants the one she took the glass from says that was most rude of her. The other servants chide her for being rude to her parents. Jana yells at them that they’re nothing but jokes who only have sad cliches and homilies. Her father says she’s making it hard to be patient with her. She sarcastically apologizes. She knows how accustomed to perfection he is. She hates to ruffle his little perfect pool but he’s forgotten something. They’re immortal but he’s not. All of the servants turn to look at the man and his wife.
Upstairs Jana looks like she’s packing. Her father comes up and sees her clothes laid out. He asks her if she really wants to leave them. She says that she’s made her position quite clear. She wants fresh air in, she wants the world. He says she wants to do this by making him destroy his life’s work. He asks why she can’t see that they’re doing it for her just as much as for themselves. He says he loves her more than words can say. She says she knows that but looks confused and doesn’t really hug him back. He begs her to stay. She says, “No!” and runs to her buddy, the window, and hugs it. Looking very sad he says that he’ll do what she wants. He promises. He says he’ll do it right away. She doesn’t even say thank you before he walks out. She only looks a bit triumphant and says, “Suzanne, Gretchen, Nelda, Rest in Peace.” It’s kind of weird that she seems to have the most issue with the female servants.
Her father walks down the stairs and fiddles with a little gizmo in his pocket. It’s apparently a call button because the servants soon gather around. He tells Robert to take the servants downstairs to his workroom and wait for him there. Robert is worried that their services have been unsatisfactory. Dr. Loren just repeats what he told them, to go downstairs and wait for him. They all protest that they’ve done the best and are excellent in their services. He seems to start to waver but then tells them to stop and do what he says. Robert holds the door open for the other servants, giving Dr, Loren a look that’s a mix between a sad face and a glare. Jana comes down in time to watch them go downstairs, followed by her father. She looks so damn smug and happy that I’m surprised she doesn’t go down to get off on watching him shut them down.
Dr. Loren re-enters the library wearing an apron and tells his wife that it’s all over. They’re alone in the house now. Just them and their daughter. His wife says she’s become so accustomed to them and that it will be hard at first won’t it. He says yes, a little but they’ll manage. Jana comes running downstairs and checks everywhere for the servants. When she doesn’t see any she ecstatically runs in and flings herself on her mother, saying how they’ll live normal lives now. They’ll give parties, take trips and make friends and she’ll get herself a young man. Um, so who’s going to be doing all of the cooking and cleaning and stuff for the parties? Because I have a feeling that Jana’s going to get pretty tired of that after a bit. Or she could make her elderly mother do it. Or maybe she has no objection to hiring living servants. Just the robotic kind. And she wants kids right away. So, all of this, just because you’re horny?
Jana finally notices that they’re not as excited about grandchildren as they should be. she wants to know what’s wrong. Her mother says that it’s what Jana said about grandchildren. Her father tries to pass it off as it being natural for parents to think of their children as children and when they suddenly grow up it’s hard to accept. Jana’s not buying it, though. She can tell something’s wrong. For some reason she says that something’s not right and runs to the window. Again. Now I’m wondering if the window is actually talking to her. Jana freaks out and grabs the photograph book. She says there are no pictures of her. Jana’s mother points out several pictures of Jana but she says there are no pictures of herself as a little girl. The father looks very sad and kind of sinks into a chair. Mrs. Loren sits down as well.
It starts to sink in and at first Jana says it can’t be true. She’s finally figured out that she’s a ro-bit as well. Her father tries to convince her that she’s really their daughter saying that she knows she is, she has all of her childhood memories. She tells them to tell her what she is. he says it doesn’t matter. They were childless. They had nothing to leave behind them of their hearts or their love. So they got her. She breaks in, looking disgusted and angry, saying “You made me” (who made who? sorry) “You built me”. I do think it’s a little odd. why didn’t they adopt a child instead of building one? She says she was manufactured just like the others. The Butler manufactured to be a Butler, the Daughter manufactured to be a Daughter. She yells “You built a Daughter!” and rushes out of the room. Dr. Loren says it doesn’t matter how she got there or what she is. She’s their daughter. She says that she can’t be their daughter if she’s a thing. She screams that she’s a machine and starts slamming her arm on the banister yelling that she feels no pain. They are trying to make her stop. Then she does stop and says, “No love. I can’t even feel love.” Which could be why she looked confused when her father hugged her. Although, how did she not notice these things before. Going by their pictures and what they say she’s been in creation for at least a year or two. She never once didn’t think it odd that she felt no emotion? Which doesn’t make sense as she can obviously feel other emotions such as disgust and hatred. Also, did she never so much as stub a toe?
After realizing that she can’t feel love she starts to cry. Which, again, makes no sense. She can feel every other emotion but love? Mrs. Loren asks her husband what they can do. She says that everything has changed and Jana will never be the same. Then she asks again what they will do? He looks at Jana sobbing on the steps (and weirdly caressing a railing) and starts to head for his workroom. She says no, not that. I’m assuming she means “No disassemble!” He says no. He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t bear not having her around. He couldn’t stand that.
It’s either raining again or this is the longest storm ever (and the longest day). Mrs. Loren is moaning away in the background so I’m guessing the servants are back. Dr. Loren is reading a book peacefully. Mrs. Loren is getting her neck rub from Nelda and looks to be enjoying it. A lot. I can’t even begin to describe how freaking creepy this woman is. Especially now. And…Dun dunn! Jana is now Nelda! You could have at least made her the ro-bit that doesn’t rub you. Ew. That’s just creepy.
Let this be the post-script. Should you be worn out by the rigors of competing in a very competitive world, if you’re distraught at having to share your existence with the noises and neuroses of the 20th century, if you crave serenity but want it full-time with no strings attached, get yourself a workroom in the basement. And then drop a note to Dr. and Mrs. William Loren.They’re a childless couple who have made comfort a life’s work. and maybe there are a few do-it-yourself pamphlets still available in The Twilight Zone.
This episode has always slightly irritated me. I do understand that she would get bored and want to go out but there are just so many contradictions to it. The servant robots seem to feel concern, jealousy, and other emotions. Throughout the episode Jana herself displays a variety of emotions but love is beyond her reach? I’m also not really sure why she can’t go out. I understand that she can’t have children but (presuming she’s got the, um, lady bits) I don’t see why she couldn’t have a husband. Her father is a doctor so if it was a question of a doctor finding out the truth he could just insist she see him. That could be why the female servants seem to annoy her more. Maybe it really was jealousy that the servants seemed more depended upon than herself? Also, considering the fact that she is a ro-bit (and he can obviously switch around brains and personalities how hard would it be to just wipe her ‘memory track’ of her lately learned information? As far as she goes she certainly does seem like a child. She’s bratty and has a very Veruca Salt personality so it’s hard to feel much sympathy for her. I guess her supposed ‘lack of affection’ for her parents might explain her extraordinary affection for the window…
If Jana seems a bit familiar she also plays Nan Adams, a young lady stalked by Death in Twilight Zone: The Hitch-Hiker.
Mrs. Loren also appears on Twilight Zone: Walking Distance as Mrs. Sloane.