The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

Over the course of The Eye-Dancers, the four main characters undergo many dangerous, even life-threatening, situations.  They experience parallel universes, recurring nightmares that seem all-too-real, and the prospect of being permanently marooned in a strange, alien world.  Obviously, they have their work cut out for them.

However, perhaps the most significant obstacle they must face in their quest to solve the mystery and return home is . . . themselves.  They often resort to in-fighting, bickering, and the threat of violence looms, especially between Joe Marma and Marc Kuslanski.  Joe is the impulsive one, a natural leader, but quick to anger, and always eager to use his fists to resolve a conflict.  Marc is highly rational, logical to the core, a science wiz who continually tries to use quantum theory to solve their problems.  Needless to say, the two rarely see eye to eye.

This theme of turning on a friend, a neighbor, in times of adversity is explored in one of the truly classic episodes of The Twilight Zone— “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” –which originally aired exactly 53 years ago–in March 1960.  Like many of the better Twilight Zone episodes, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is timeless, and it holds up very well today, half a century later.

The story opens peacefully enough, with an idyllic street scene . . .

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In the opening narration, Rod Serling says in a voice-over:

“Maple Street, U.S.A.  Late summer.  A tree-lined little world of front-porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor.  At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 p.m. on Maple Street” . . .

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“This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon,” Serling continues.  “Maple Street, in the last calm and reflective moment before the monsters came.”

In the wake of the flashing light and roar from the sky, the residents discover that the power has gone out, the phone lines are down.  Even the radio reception is shot.  They are, in effect, thrown back into the “Dark Ages,” as one of them says, all the trappings of their (and our) modern society gone in an instant.

The neighbors congregate in the street, discussing the situation.

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One of them, Steve Brand, suggests maybe the disturbance was caused by a meteor.  After all, what other explanation can there be?  Another neighbor, Pete Van Horn, decides to walk over to the next block and see if they’ve lost power over there, as well.

After Pete leaves, Steve and another resident decide they should drive downtown.  Maybe the town clerk’s office knows what’s going on.  But then a young boy, Tommy, tells them not to leave.

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They don’t want you to,” Tommy warns.  Steve asks him who “they” are.

“”Whatever was in the thing that came over,” the boy says.  He goes on to say it’s the same in every alien-invasion story he’s ever read.  The aliens send along advance scouts to earth–maybe a father, mother, and two kids.  They look like humans, but they aren’t.  They’re  sent ahead to prepare for the mass landing.

The neighbors all stand by.  Many of them look around, suddenly suspicious of the others.  A woman blows it off, asking how they could listen to a boy spout off from some comic book plot, and actually take it seriously.  Their nerves are frayed, that’s all, she says.  The last few minutes have been weird.

They get weirder when Steve Brand tries to start his car.  It won’t start.  Tommy again says the aliens don’t want him to leave.

Steve then quips, “Well, I guess what we need to do is run a check of the neighborhood and find out which ones of us are really human.”  Some of the others smile at this, but their faces are tight, tense.  It is clear that darker emotions are roiling just beneath the surface.

At this point, another neighbor, Les Goodman, comes outside and tries to start his car.  It, too, won’t start.  But when he gets out, the car starts on its own.  This causes a few of the other residents of Maple Street to question why his car started, and by itself no less.  And then a woman tells the congregation of neighbors that sometimes, late at night, she sees Les Goodman walk outside and look up at the sky, “as if he were waiting for something.  As if . . . he were looking for something.”

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Les is flabbergasted.  “You all know me,” he says to his friends and neighbors.  “We’ve lived here for five years. . . . We aren’t any different from you, any different at all!”  But it’s no use.  They no longer trust him.

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Later, as night has fallen and Maple Street is still without power, the neighbors continue to watch Les.  Their suspicions aroused, they whisper about him.  “He always was an oddball,” one man explains to his wife.

But then they begin to argue among themselves.  Someone mentions that Steve Brand has a radio set his wife sometimes talks about.  But no one has ever seen it.  “Who do you talk to on that radio, Steve?” they want to know.

For the bulk of the episode, Steve has tried to be the voice of reason amid the ever-growing paranoia of the group.  Here, he erupts, “Let’s get it all out.  Let’s pick out every idiosyncrasy of every man, woman, and child on this whole street! . . . You’re all standing out here, all set to crucify somebody.  You’re all set to find a scapegoat!  You’re all desperate to point some kind of a finger at a neighbor!”

If his words have any effect on the group, they are lost by a figure approaching out of the darkness.  “It’s the monster!  It’s the monster!” the boy, Tommy, shouts.  One of the residents runs to his house, then rushes back with a shotgun.

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He shoots the approaching figure, and he falls to the street.  The throng runs up to him, and they discover that they’ve shot Pete Van Horn, the neighbor who had gone to check on the next block, to see if they had lost power, too.

More bickering ensues, more blame . . .

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And then, all hell breaks loose.  Lights flicker on in one house, and then another, and another.  Someone’s car starts on its own, then another car does the same thing.  Mass hysteria reigns, as neighbor turns against neighbor.  Stones are picked up, hurled.  Guns are retrieved from wall mounts, and fired.  Screams pierce the night . . .

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Now the camera pans up, and we see Maple Street from above, the neighbors running around madly, fighting, killing . . .

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. . . until we see two aliens high above the street–and we realize:  the boy was right.  It wasn’t a meteor.  Aliens have landed.  But not in the way he had thought.

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As they watch the Maple Street residents lose all control the aliens discuss the situation.

“Understand the procedure now?” one of them says.  “Just stop a few of their machines . . . throw them into darkness for a few hours and then sit back and watch the pattern. . . .  They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find–and it’s themselves.”

It’s true, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is a bit contrived, and the neighbors break into chaos and hysteria fairly quickly.  But the episode’s power and impact are not diminished by this.  It is a landmark Twilight Zone, and generally regarded as one of the series’ best.

Rod Serling concludes the episode with this voice-over:

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout.  There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices–to be found only in the minds of men.  For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy.  And a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own–for the children, and the children yet unborn.  And the pity of it is–that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone.”

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lolarugula
    Mar 05, 2013 @ 21:04:24

    We are our own greatest enemy. Great post!

    Reply

  2. indytony
    Mar 05, 2013 @ 23:13:36

    The Twilight Zone is classic TV.

    Great stuff!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 06, 2013 @ 13:07:41

      Thanks! And you’re right about The Twilight Zone. I don’t think any other show ever topped it for imagination, creativity, and the ability to reach an audience by exploring our fears in depth.

      Reply

  3. maryamchahine
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 14:32:03

    I enjoyed reading this post and its reflections on human nature. I like how make connections between your own stories and the stories out there in television and movies. Great post!

    Reply

  4. bettysbrownies
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 15:24:37

    Great post, Mike. TZ was always great in episodes like this–“The Shelter” is another one along these lines, as is “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”, for the same subject in a far lighter key.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 06, 2013 @ 16:44:30

      Wow! You are as much a fan of The Twilight Zone as I am!:) You name a couple of outstanding episodes, and you’re right–they both deal with this same theme. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” is one of my very favorites!

      Reply

  5. Marlene Herself
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 16:45:16

    Stopping by to thank you for reading and following my blog. I’ve always believed that sience fiction is just one generation away from science fact. I’ll stop by again and read more. Thanks.

    Reply

  6. Christy Birmingham
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 19:48:04

    Thank-you for explaining the episode. The end part about words being stronger than weapons really hit my heart xx

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 06, 2013 @ 20:41:53

      Yes, when they got it right, The Twilight Zone opening and closing narrations were great, and had a lot of impact. And Rod Serling had a perfect voice for the role of narrator! Thanks so much for your comments. I always enjoy hearing from you!

      Reply

  7. seeker
    Mar 10, 2013 @ 02:46:07

    This reminds me of a true story The Crucible. Sad it’s true even in this so called new world. Good imagination, Mike.

    Reply

  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    Mar 10, 2013 @ 22:29:09

    This is engaging reading – love the quote at the end, especially. But I loved the pictures – obviously! So funny those wide eyes of terror, in the old days. Great acting, really.

    Enjoyed this one, Mike 🙂

    Reply

  9. laurie27wsmith
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 11:18:22

    Loved the twilight Zone.

    Reply

  10. grbxxenormyn
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 18:32:30

    The Twilight Zone has always been one of my favorite programs.
    I do not know how true this is, but I had read once that CBS wanted Orson Welles to do the narrations to the show.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 13, 2013 @ 20:03:49

      Yes, I believe that is in fact true, but I don’t remember why it didn’t work out. Rod Serling definitely wasn’t the first choice to be narrator. Hard to imagine TZ now, without his narrations . . .

      Reply

  11. jakora williams
    May 13, 2014 @ 17:45:43

    I Really enjoyed It !

    Reply

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