A Stop at Willoughby

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James Daly: Gart Williams
Howard Smith: Mr. Misrell
Patricia Donahue: Jane Williams
Jason Wingreen: Train conductor
Mavis Neal Palmer: Helen

"A Stop at Willoughby" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling cited this as his favorite story from the first season of the series.

Contents

Synopsis

Gart Williams is an overstressed New York advertising executive who has grown exasperated with his career. His overbearing boss, Oliver Misrell, angered by the loss of a major account, lectures him about this "push-push-push" business. Unable to sleep properly at home, he drifts off for a short nap on the train during his daily commute through the November snow.

He wakes to find the train stopped and changed into an 1880s railcoach, deserted except for himself. The sun is bright outside and as he looks out the window, he discovers that the train is in Willoughby and that it's July 1888. He learns that this is a "peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure." Being jerked back awake in the real world, he asks the conductor about Willoughby, but the conductor responds that there is no such town on any rail timetable and never has been.

That night, he has one more argument with his shrewish wife, Jane. Selfish, cold and uncaring, she makes him see that he is only a money machine to her. He tells her about his dream and about Willoughby, only to have her ridicule him as being "born too late", declaring her "miserable error" in life was marrying a man "whose big dream in life is to be Huckleberry Finn."

The next week, Williams again dozes off on the train and returns to Willoughby where everything is the same as before. As he is about to get off the train carrying his briefcase, it begins to roll, returning him to the present. Williams promises himself to get off the next time he is in the village.

Experiencing a breakdown at work, he calls his wife, who abandons him in his time of need. On his way home, once again he falls asleep to find himself in Willoughby. This time, the conductor warmly beckons him to the door and Williams discards his briefcase.

Getting off the train, he is greeted by name by various of the inhabitants, who welcome him while he tells them that he's glad to be there and plans to stay and join their idyllic life.

The swinging pendulum of the station clock fades into the swinging lantern of a train engineer, standing over Williams' body. The modern-day conductor explains that Williams "shouted something about Willoughby", just before jumping off of the train and was killed instantly. "Poor fellah", the engineer mumbles, as the conductor nods in agreement. Williams's body is loaded into a hearse and as the back door closes, we see that it was sent by the Willoughby & Son Funeral Home.

Production notes

The 2000 TV movie For All Time starring Mark Harmon was based on this episode.[1]

The "Stamford" and the "Westport" stops called out by the conductor in the episode exist in real life – Metro-North Railroad stops in Fairfield county, Connecticut include Stamford, Connecticut and the Westport station serves the town of Westport, Connecticut where series creator Rod Serling once lived.[citation needed]

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