Original Story by David Bennett Carren
Directed by John Hancock
Original Airdate - October 25, 1985
Tony Lo Bianco - Paul Marano
Nan Martin - First Nun
Andrea Barber - Cathy Marano
Jenny Lewis - Sarah
John Cowans - Dr. Brice
Donna-Jean Lansing - Nun
Adele Miller - Nurse



A little girl about ten years old is cooking "french toad" for her father, on his birthday. She gives him a wallet she made for him, and inside is a picture of the two, with her mother. We find out that the mother is dead. He hugs the girl and thanks her, and it's clear that they love each other. While driving her to school, a boy rides his bike out in front of the car, and there is an accident. The man is okay but the girl is in a coma, and the doctor's say there's no chance she'll come out of it. The man is heartbroken, since she's all he has.

While leaving the hospital, he sees a Catholic orphanage across the street, where they're holding a church rummage sale. And he sees a little girl on top of the orphanage roof! The man runs over to the nun who is in charge of the sale, and tells her. They both look again, but there is no one there. The man thinks he's going crazy from his grief, and he looks around him at the things on sale. He's right by a large object that's covered in black plastic. The nun explains that the orphanage is moving to a new location and they're having a moving sale, trying to get rid of things they don't need. The man thanks her and moves away. He glances back, and sees the same little girl, dressed in a long white nightgown with her long red hair shining in the sun, sitting on a swing. She points to the black-swathed object, and then back at the man. He looks at it, then back at the swing. The girl is gone. He goes back to the nun and asks her what the object is. She takes off the black covering, saying it's an antique, and he sees it's a huge old-fashioned child's bed in the shape of a baby's cradle. The man asks how much it is, and hands the nun a wad of bills. She's surprised, but takes them.

He takes the bed home and sets it up in his daughter's bedroom, exactly why he doesn't know. That night, the little girl with red hair appears in his house, walking down the hall and waking him from his sleep. He knows he's wither seeing a ghost or is having a hallucination, since he's been under so much stress, but isn't really afraid. She asks him to tuck her into her bed, and then looks up as if she hears something. She says the nuns will be angry if she's caught out of bed, so he takes her hand, with some trepidation, and then walks with her to the bedroom. He tucks her into the old bed, and she asks for Toby. He doesn't know who Toby is, and she pleads for him to get Toby. He looks away, and when he looks back the bed is empty.

The next day he goes to the new orphanage, and talks to the nun. He asks her about Toby, and she's shocked that he knows about him. She rummages through some boxes and finds Toby, who turns out to be a teddy bear. She tells him that the little girl who owned Toby died many years ago of tuberculosis, at the orphanage, and she keeps the bear as a sentimental treasure, since she loved the little girl. The man tells her of the little girl's visit to his house in the night, and that he has to take Toby back with him. She reluctantly lets him take Toby after he tells her of the ghost's visit.

He stops by the hospital and checks his daughter out, taking her home with him, though she's still in a coma. He tucks her into the old bed, and holds Toby in his arms. He sits by the bed, watching her, but falls asleep sometime in the night, and Toby falls out of his hand as he sleeps. When he wakes up the next morning, his little girl is awake and she knows him. It's as if she recovered completely. He's happy, but is not sure what to make of her asking for Toby. He gives her the bear, and she smiles happily. How could she have known about Toby?



"If She Dies" has a sweet premise...that the dead can come back to help the living. As someone who finds the idea of ghosts helping the living intriguing, this episode is one I would love to put toward the top of my favorites list. Something about it holds me back from doing that, however, because it's just slightly off; the sum of its parts doesn't add up. I'll list my concerns about the episode.

Tony Lo Bianco is just not convincing as the father. He's upset, but just not heartbroken enough to sell his performance. He is especially ineffective when trying to portray confusion and terror; he ends up looking at the girl ghost as if she's come in to ask for a glass of water. There is no wonder or fear in his expression. Nan Martin is a wonderful actress who can play comedy or tragedy, but she's rather stiff and formal in this. Andrea Barber is cute but barely there as a presence. She spends most of the time in a coma, so her impact on the story is negligible.

The one person who is rather good in "If She Dies" is Jenny Lewis, who plays the young girl ghost. She does have a ghostly presence that hovers over the episode, from the moment she appears on the orphanage rooftop. Unfortunately, her performance cannot help the integrity of the story. The story just doesn't jell, and the acting isn't good enough to cover up some of the listlessness of the story.

I may be prejudiced in my view of this story, because I've seen this topic, a child who comes back from the grave to try and help the living, done successfully, and done better, one year before the New Twilight Zone aired. Granada Television produced an eight-part series based on classic ghost stories called "Shades of Darkness," which was broadcast on PBS "Mystery!" in 1984. Some of my favorite stories were adapted for this, such as Edith Wharton's "The Lady's Maid's Bell," and "Afterward." A completely unknown story by C. H. B. Kitchin called "The Maze" was also adapted for "Shades of Darkness," and it's one of the best ghost stories I've ever seen; eerie, sweet and compelling, with Francesca Annis in the lead role. One story adapted I had not ever read, by May Sinclair, was "The Intercessor." The story deals with mythic themes of family dysfunctions, betrayals, power, control, and shame, and the television adaptation tackled all that in one hour. It truly had some of the scariest scenes I've ever watched, on TV or in films. The protagonist in "The Intercessor" was a small girl ghost, who couldn't help being scary but was trying to assist her family.

I wonder if the writer of "If She Dies" was familiar with Sinclair's story, or had seen the version on Mystery!. It seems so to me, because one of the scenes in the NTZ episode closely paralled what had happened in the Mystery! adaptation. It's that, or it's coincidence. I still enjoy "If She Dies," but I can't put in higher up on my favorites list because of the issues I'm noted.

On a side note, the "Shades of Darkness" series is out on DVD and available online at Amazon. If you enjoy ghost stories, you must buy this set. It is classic, it is priceless, and it literally has the best ghost story adaptations I've ever seen, and I've spent my life tracking down every ghost story and its adapation I could.