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The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last

Henry Bemis has one passion in life, reading. An H-bomb attack leaves Henry as the last man on Earth with all the time now to fulfill his obsession, until fate intervenes.

Episode Info

Episode number: 1x8
Production Number: 173-3614
Airdate: Friday November 20th, 1959

Director: John Brahm
Writer: Rod Serling
Story: Lynn Venable


Guest Stars
Burgess MeredithBurgess Meredith
As Henry Bemis
Vaughn TaylorVaughn Taylor
As Mr. Carsville
Jacqueline DeWit (1)Jacqueline DeWit (1)
As Helen Bemis
Lela BlissLela Bliss
As Mrs. Chester
Main Cast
Rod SerlingRod Serling
As Narrator/Host


Bank teller Henry Bemis is obsessed with reading. He sneaks into the vault at lunchtime to read a book and is knocked unconscious by a sudden shock wave. When he awakens he discovers a nuclear was has destroyed the Earth. He decides to commit suicide until he stumbles onto a library. This is a paradise to him, and begins to organize the books to read for years to come. Just as he settles down to read he slips and falls, as his glassed slip off and smash on the ground, leaving him in a blurry world...

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Episode Notes
This episode is based on the short story "Time Enough at Last" by Lynn Venable. This story was first published in January, 1953.

This episode was listed as #25 on TV Guide/TV Land's "100 Most Memorable TV Moments."

The steps on which Henry Bemis collects a pile of books, is the same site used in the 1960 movie The Time Machine. The steps would also return in Episode 28, "A Nice Place To Visit," directed by John Brahm, the same director of "Time Enough At Last."

This was the first of many Twilight Zone Episodes that deal with nuclear war.

Episode Quotes
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.

Mr. Carsville: Now, Mr. Bemis, I shall come to the point of this interview. I shall arrive via the following route, which is namely what constitutes an efficient member of this organization. A bank teller who knows his job and performs it. I.e., a man who functions within an organization. You, Mr. Bemis, do not function within the organization! You are neither an efficient bank teller nor a proficient employee! You, Mr. Bemis, are a reader!
Henry Bemis: A reader?
Mr. Carsville: A reader!! A reader of books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers! I see you constantly going downstairs into the vault during your lunch hour. An ultimatum, Mr. Bemis! You will henceforth devote your time to you job and forget reading or you'll find yourself outdoors on a park bench reading from morning til night for want of having a job. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
Henry Bemis: Oh, that's perfectly clear, sir, it's just that …
Mr. Carsville: Just that what, Bemis? Make it quick and get back to your cage!
Henry : It's just that my wife won't let me read at home. See, when I get home at night and try to pick up a newspaper, she yanks it out of my hand. And then after dinner, if I try to find a magazine, she hides them. Well, I got so desperate that I found myself trying to read the labels on the condiment bottles on the table. Now she won't even let me use the ketchup.
Mr. Carsville: Your wife is an amazingly bright woman. I remember last November you spent the better part of the days reading campaign buttons on customer's lapels. You will recall, Bemis, the young lady who took considerable exception to this and tried to hit you with her umbrella.
Henry Bemis: Yes, I remember that. It's just that I never got a chance to tell her that I was only looking to see...who she voted for.
Mr. Carsville: Good day, Bemis.

Helen Bemis: (calling him) Henrrrrry!!!
Henry Bemis: Yes, dear, I'm in the living room …
Helen Bemis: (abruptly) You want more coffee or don't you?
Henry Bemis: No, thank you, dear.
Helen Bemis: Well then why don't you tell me that? And don't sneak off into the living room to bury yourself in newsprint. I think we've been over this quite enough, Henry. I won't tolerate a husband of mine sacrificing the art of conversation. Alright, what's so funny?
Henry Bemis: No, no, dear, it was just that you said, 'a husband of mine.' Well, how many husbands have you got? You've only got me!
Helen Bemis: I would appreciate that not being rubbed in! We're playing cards tonight. I want you to change your shirt. We're going over to the Phillips house!
Henry Bemis: Oh dear.
Helen Bemis: Alright, Henry. Anything to say?
Henry Bemis: No, dear. Nothing to say. What time are we due there?
Helen Bemis: In about 15 minutes.
Henry Bemis: I'll be ready on time.
Helen Bemis: See that you are!

(Henry quickly gets into decent shirt and jacket; Helen waits for him behind door, suspecting he's sneaked a book into the pocket to read at the Phillips')
Helen Bemis: Henry?
Henry Bemis: Yes, my dear?
Helen Bemis: What have you got, Henry?
Henry Bemis: Got?
Helen Bemis: Got!
Henry Bemis: Nothing, my dear. (she pulls a book out of his jacket pocket)
Helen Bemis: What's this?
Henry Bemis: That?
Helen Bemis: This!
Henry Bemis: Isn't that odd? Now how did that get here?!
Helen Bemis: Would you like to read me some?
Henry Bemis: Read you some? Do you mean read to you out loud, from the book?
Helen Bemis: Do you want to?
Henry Bemis: Oh, I would love to! You know, there are some lovely things in here. There are one or two things from T.S. Eliot and Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg. (Opens it and sees black X's covering each page) Helen! Who did this, Helen?
Helen Bemis: Who do you think did it, Henry? You should thank me really. A grown man who reads silly ridiculous nonsensical doggerel!
Henry Bemis: This isn't doggerel! There's some very beautiful things here!
Helen Bemis: Because I'm married to a fool! I say it's doggerel. I also say it's a waste of time. (She unceremoniously rips pages out of the book)
Henry Bemis: Helen! Helen! Don't do that, Helen! Please don't do that. Why, Helen? Why do you do these things?
Helen Bemis: Because I'm married to a fool!

Henry Bemis: Collected works of Dickens! Collected works of George Bernard Shaw! Poems by Browning, Shelley, and Keats! Books! Books! All the books I'll need! All the books, all the books I'll ever want!! Shelley, Shakespeare, Shaw, ohhh! All the books I want.
Henry Bemis: This year and the next year and the year after and the year after that and the year after that. And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there's time now. There's all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time... there's time enough at last.
(a rumble knocks him down abruptly and the glasses fall off his nose, smashing on the cement)
That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed. That's not fair, that's not fair …

Closing Narration
The best laid plans of mice and men and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone.

Cultural References
The lead character alludes to Robert Frost - a writer who wrote famous poems and books.

The quote: "The best laid plans of mice and men" (as well as the book Of Mice and Men) is taken from the poem "To a Mouse."

Episode References
The scene where the character's glasses break has been used many times on such shows as: The Simpsons, Family Guy , Jimmy Neutron - Boy Genius, Futurama, and The Drew Carey Show.

Other Episode Crew

CreatorRod Serling
Executive ProducerRod Serling
ProducerBuck Houghton
EditorBill Mosher
CastingMillie Gusse
MusicLeith Stevens
Set DesignerHenry Grace
Set DecoratorRudy Butler
Director of PhotographyGeorge T. Clemens
Art DirectorWilliam Ferrari  |  George W. Davis
Production ManagerRalph Nelson
Sound EditorFranklin Milton  |  Jean Valentino
Main Title ThemeMarius Constant
Sound Effects EditorVan Allen James
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