Dr. Jane Waterleigh wakes to find herself in an obese body, having just given birth to her fourth baby, and is called "Mother Orchis" and "Mother 417" by an all-female medical staff. The ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Alfred Hitchcock - Host
Dr. Jane Waterleigh
Doctor Perrigan
Max Wilding
The Chief Nurse
The 3rd Doctor
Mother Daisy
Diane Sayer ...
Mother Hazel
Dee J. Thompson ...
The 1st Doctor
Alice Backes ...
The 2nd Doctor
The Amazon
Ivy Bethune ...
Jennifer Gan ...
The 1st Worker (as Ginny Gan)
Stacy King ...
The Female Worker


Dr. Jane Waterleigh wakes to find herself in an obese body, having just given birth to her fourth baby, and is called "Mother Orchis" and "Mother 417" by an all-female medical staff. The other Mothers, all of whom are corpulent and much larger than their helpers, the Servitors, tell Jane that there are no men, their only responsibility is to give birth, and Mothers neither read nor write. Jane, however, remembers her past life as a physician and wife, so two policewomen try to arrest her for "reactionism." The Doctors refuse to surrender her, and send her to sick bay, then to Laura, the historian. Laura explains that all of the men died decades ago, when a Dr. Perrigan developed a virus to control the rat population, but the strain mutated, killing all male humans, but sparing females, who were immune. Now only women survive, and they are sorted at birth into four classes--Doctors, Mothers, Servitors, and Workers--and raised in learning centers. When Laura tells Jane that she will now... Written by Lewis Amack

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Release Date:

28 December 1964 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title comes from a verse in the Holy Bible. Proverbs 6:6 "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways..." See more »


Dr. Jane Waterleigh: Suppose that in ridding society of a pest it has gotten along with for centuries, you also destroyed society.
Dr. Perrigan: Sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water, hmm?
Dr. Jane Waterleigh: Or the operation was successful, but the patient died.
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User Reviews

Dystopian Fantasy with a Wicked Edge
10 September 2010 | by (nashville, tn) – See all my reviews

Having volunteered as a test subject for a mind-altering drug, Dr. Jane Waterleigh (Barbara Barrie) is plunged into what she at first believes is an incredibly detailed hallucination.

She awakens to find herself in the grotesquely bloated body of "Mother Orchis", a woman bred and raised solely for her ability to bring to term multiple births of implanted embryos. Unable to even walk unassisted, tended and massaged by squads of diminutive and strangely sexless women, her dimwitted, pampered and obscenely overfed sisters are at first puzzled, then repulsed by the change that's come over Orchis: her crazy claims that she's a doctor, that she can read and write, and especially her disturbing questions about strange creatures called "men".

In a brilliantly choreographed series of revelations, Oscar Millard's meticulously faithful adaptation of John Wyndham's short story constructs a world where a deadly and still virulent plague has killed off all the males down to the youngest infant, while the other half of our species managed (just barely) to survive and go on to build a superficially similar but in the end radically different civilization.

Unfortunately it's a ruthlessly totalitarian society modeled on a plan that -- although hideously alien to Dr. Waterleigh -- at least has the advantages of being very old and very successful, as the Historian (Gladys Cooper) reminds her. (If you know your Old Testament proverbs, the title is a major clue.)

Although this might seem at first like some kind of anti-feminist diatribe, Wyndham is making a rather profound and humbling observation about precisely how unnecessary the male gender might be, in a civilization with sufficiently advanced biotechnology. The story is about extreme adaptation under the threat of impending extinction -- and the price that might be paid for survival.

Barbara Barrie gives a riveting performance, bringing strength, passion and eloquent humanity to her role, as she slowly becomes convinced of the truth of her horrific vision. The final twist -- surely as grim a denouement as ever graced an episode of this series -- may have been the Hitch's trademark, but here it's taken straight from Wyndham's original story.

For its thought-provoking plot, faultless direction and superb acting by Ms. Barrie, I'd already be inclined to rate this with "The Jar" as the cream of the crop for the hour-long series. But this episode also contains one of my favorite Bernard Herrmann TV scores, reminiscent of some of his music for the "Twilight Zone" series and "Farenheit 451" with its use of strings and vibraphone to lend a cool emotional texture to the piece that's both futuristic and unsettling.

As you've probably guessed by now, I highly recommend this superb and very atypical entry in the Alfred Hitchcock Hour series.

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