The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 8

Time Enough at Last (20 Nov. 1959)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
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Ratings: 9.1/10 from 2,526 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 3 critic

A henpecked book lover finds himself blissfully alone with his books after a nuclear war.



(teleplay by), (based on a short story by), 1 more credit »
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Episode complete credited cast:
Jacqueline deWit ...
Helen Bemis (as Jaqueline deWit)
Lela Bliss ...


Henry Bemis loves to read. The only problem is that he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. At work, his boss has let him know in no uncertain terms that he is not to read during working hours. At home, his shrewish wife won't even let him read a newspaper, let alone a book. One day, he sneaks down to the vault in the bank's basement to read a bit and suddenly, there is a huge explosion above. He emerges to find the world destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. He does find books from the library and he sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis





Release Date:

20 November 1959 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of four times when Rod Serling used a mid-episode narration. See more »


Mr. Bemis expects to live "years and years and years" post-attack. In 1959, the effects of nuclear fallout were still under initial study and not widely understood. We see Bemis emerging from the bank vault more or less immediately after a thermonuclear blast (bomb-shelter protocol says to wait at least two weeks for the worst of the radioactivity to decay), eating packaged food that was probably irradiated, etc. So even with his glasses, Bemis would have not lived to enjoy his books for very long. See more »


Narrator: [Opening Narration] Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself - without anyone.
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Spoofed in A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

An excellent variation of the Tantalus myth
15 December 2013 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

So far one of the best episodes I've seen of the series, 'Time Enough at Last' adapts a short story about a bookworm-ish man whose hobby is frowned upon by those around him, thus making it almost impossible for him to find the time or place to read. Surviving a nuclear attack/war, he finds himself alone with all the time for that...

An excellent episode, that manages to do in mere 25-minutes what many fail in full features; being both entertaining, smart, and making you think. There are some aspects that feel silly or seem not very thought- out (how the main character survives, for example). There is little to no overacting; Burgess Meredith is excellent, managing to truly give life to his character, a timid and meek book-lover, while Vaughn Taylor and Jacqueline deWit also play their roles accordingly.

Yet, it is in the concept that this excels. I hear much theorizing about what this story really means, what it is supposed to be a metaphor or fable for... Truth is, I certainly don't know, but above all it is based on the old Tantalus myth.

In old Greek Mythology, Tantalus was punished by having to endure eternal hunger and thirst, with both water and food close to him. It was always there, illusorily at his grasp, yet he could never reach either. The 'so close, yet so far' expression, made real. 'Time Enough at Last' is a perfect illustration of this myth, and the ending in special is bound to touch you in some way.

It is a haunting piece that will keep you thinking and feeling even after it is over. One of the first masterpieces of the show.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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