TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

The Twilight Zone: Once Upon a Time

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ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

TV episode 

YEAR:

1961 

WRITER(S):

Richard Matheson Rod Serling (creator) 

OWN COPY?

No 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

from imdb.com Author: Tom Carroll from United States This episode of Twilight Zone combines a silent section (1890) with melodramatic acting and sight gags, an homage to the early Buster Keaton films. Lots of slapstick: Buster falling on a bulkhead door, falling in a puddle, running around pants-less. Silly scientist's invention of a Time Helmet, reminiscent of a Flash Gordon idea of what the future would be. Cheap prices, like $1.95 for ladies hats, or 17 cents a pound for beef seem outrageously high to Buster. Even the world of 1890 is too much for Buster/Mulligan. How shocking when he is mistakenly transported to the "modern" world of 1960! Buster was trying to go backwards! The "scientist" of that time wants to return to a calmer world, the 1890 that he has studied and admired. They go back together, and Buster/Mulligan is now happy and the "scientist" regrets not having electronic equipment, modern beds or an electric blanket. So Buster sends him back with the crazy helmet. This Twilight Zone doesn't have a heavy message. Since Buster Keaton died in 1966, it is one of his last efforts. That's enough. One other cute thing--longtime underutilized Maytag Man Jesse White is a repairman who fixes the Time Helmet--foreshadowing his washing machine career.  

ERA/YEAR:

Present day when produced 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

Present day 1961. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
time helmet 
DESCRIPTION:
The time helmet is a helmet that allows the wearer to travel through time. The wearer can only spend 30 minutes in the new time. It is mobile, and works for the wearer and anyone touching the wearer. It is a helmet adorned with lots of gadetry and what appear to be sparklers, complete with a chin strap. It is a tool - it breaks in 1961 but is easily repaired. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
time travel. 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
it works well - it breaks for a little, but is easily repaired. 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
Professor Rollo is a white scientist in 1890, age unknown, maybe 30s or 40s. He is the town scientist.  
MAJOR GOAL(S):
to travel through time, explore, entertain curiosity. 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
Mulligan uses the time helmet. He is 60s, white, male and the janitor for the scientist. Played by Buster Keaton, there is a lot of physical comedy in the role. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Spatial presence 
DESCRIPTION:
The presence experience is disconcerting for Mulligan. Transported from 1890 to 1961, he is shocked at cars, TV, and noisiness. It is confusing and astounding. 
USER AWARENESS:
yes. 
VALENCE:
unpleasant. he wants to return to 1890. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
distorted memory and social judgments - he thinks the TV is a man in a window. confusion, surprise, anger, and irratation. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
After a conflict, Mulligan returns to 1890. A scientist from 1961 also returns to 1890. Mulligan is relieved and happy to be in 1890 and at first the scientist is as well - however, he quickly misses the technology of 1961 in his lab and chooses to return to the advanced knowledge of 1961. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
 
CODER NAME:
Amanda Scheiner 
CODER E-MAIL:
amandags@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
3/23/2007 

 


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