Story by Sidney Sheldon
Teleplay by Mary Sheldon
Directed by Paul Lynch
Original Airdate - March 21, 1986
William L. Peterson - Edward Sayers
Robin Gammell - Jeffrey Potts
Frances McDormand - Amanda Strickland
Harold Ayer - Mr. Strickland
Eldon Quick - Dr. Benitz
Ellen Albertini Dow - Mrs. Hotchkiss
Shay Garner - Dr. Fall
Ray Ballard - Jeck Hennies
Clarence Brown - Wiley Whitlow



A country doctor finds out one day that people in his area are going literally stark, raving crazy.  As he tries to figure out why, by tracing the source of the madness back to its beginning, he finds out much more than he ever wanted to hear.



"Need to Know" is an odd little thriller.  It's not one of my favorites, or even one I like.  Yet, it's effectively disgusting, and because it has that effect on me I think it's done its job.  It's not a likeable story.  Sidney Sheldon wrote the original story, he of the pot-boiler novels that were made into completely silly mini-series, like "The Other Side of Midnight," and Paul Lynch directed; Lynch directed several of the new Twilight Zone segments.  The conceit of the story is that a whispered phrase is sending these people instantly bonkers, so it's a race against time for the main protagonist to get back to his fiance before someone whispers the phrase to her.

William Petersen and Frances McDormand play an engaged couple, and they are both excellent, as always.  This segment is more like "The Jeopardy Room," from the original Twilight Zone, where there is no fantasy element and it's up to the hero to save the day.  But this type of story has inherent issues.  How do you stop something like this from spreading?  The infected seem to have no more zealous ambition in life than to infect others.  Mass murder, so that the "whispers" are contained to the small town?  How do you know who to kill?  The episode never really gets round to any of that.  Our quest stops when the hero makes it back to his fiance, and we're left to assume the worst.  I'm also reminded of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," where the hero runs around the entire episode trying to find someone to believe him.

I think that's why I don't really care for this episode, though there are many others that do.  One of them emailed me in October 2012, and asked if I was ever going to get anything written about this episode, which got me working on the site again.  I much prefer more hopeful stories, though I know that not every story can be hopeful.