Story by Bryce Maritano
Teleplay by George R. R. Martin
Directed by Jim McBride
Original Airdate - September 27, 1986
Jeff Yagher - Gary Pitkin
Lisa Jane Persky - Sandra, Gary's Agent
Red West - Mr. Harris
Paul Eiding - Sam Phillips
Banks Harper - Marion Kaisker
Brian Hatton - Bill
Mitch Carter - Scotty
Cynthia Sanders - Waitress
Nancy Throckmorton - Barmaid



Exit one Gary Pitkin, singer, impersonator, and restless subject of a dead king, named Elvis Aaron Presley. A frustrated young man, born 25 years too late, he was about to find his own place to dwell, down at the end of Lonely Street, in a neighborhood called . . . the Twilight Zone.

Gary Pitkin, an Elvis impersonator, is serious about his job. He's in it for the music, but even his agent, Sandra, doesn't take him seriously. She actually met Elvis at a Las Vegas concert when she was 18 and Elvis was close to his death; he picked her out of a crowd and talked to her for hours. About his paranoia, and how he was sure someone was after him, in his dreams.

Sandra has booked Gary into a Las Vegas hotel lounge, but Gary doesn't want to go anywhere near Las Vegas. It killed Elvis. He quits and gets in his car, but where he's going isn't clear. On the road, Gary's car is hit by a drunk driver, and it turns over. When Gary wakes up, he's okay but the car is totaled. He starts walking, carrying his guitar, and is offered a ride in an old pickup. But the driver looks just like Elvis! Gary gets in, and picks up a paper off the floor. The date is July 2, 1954. Gary realizes that he's gone back in time and ended up with the real Elvis.

Elvis takes Gary to the electrician's company where he works, and the boss yells at him for taking a hitchhiker. But, he'll let it go this time, seeing as how it's his brother. Elvis looks at Gary and says, "I don't have a brother," and Gary just smiles. Gary tells Elvis that he can help him. And Elvis becomes convinced that Gary is his dead twin brother, Jesse. The next day, Gary meets Elvis at the electrician's office, where he's going to help him get ready for his audition with Sam Phillips. Elvis sings a slow song, but Gary tells him he's the king of rock and roll, and he has to grab them. Gary sings "That's All Right, Mama," and Elvis says he's not going to sing a trashy song. They argue, and Gary calls Elvis a "dumb son of a bitch." Elvis turns on him for calling his mama that name, and says that "You ain't my brother, and you ain't no friend of mine." Now they get into a real fistfight, and during the scuffle Elvis is accidentally killed. Gary buries Elvis secretly, and during the process he decides to take Elvis' place and live Elvis' life just as he remembers it. He changes clothes with the dead Elvis.

The next day Gary goes into Sam Phillip's place and cuts the record that launched Elvis on the rock and roll scene. Cut to Sandra's meeting with Elvis when she was 18, which we now know was not quite so random as she thought. Gary-as-Elvis tells her the whole story, and she thinks he's crazy but she adores him just the same. He gives her a scarf, and she runs out. We see Gary, living the life that he made for the dead Elvis, getting ready to put on the white Vegas jumpsuit of death. Gary knows the end is near for Elvis, but he's still determined to live Elvis' life as he remembers it, even though he'll die young, just like the real Elvis did.

A round of hollow applause for Gary Pitkin, who tried to pay a blood debt in sequins and B movies, and discovered to his sorrow that sometimes you're called back for one encore too many.

Sound of Elvis singing, "Are You Lonesome Tonight" as picture fades.



As the first episode of the second season, "The Once and Future King" is a solid entry in the series and promised us good things to come. Based on a story by Bryce Maritano (I've been unable to find that it was ever in print), it features a neat kind of time-travel concept. What might happen if an artist who idolizes Elvis manages to go back in time and attempt to guide Elvis through the pitfalls of celebrity that claimed his life so early? Everyone has played this "what if" game; I think it's a trait of being human, to want to correct a mistake that you or someone else has made. But Gary Pitkin is trying to make someone else's life go as he remembers it, not change his own, and the subject won't follow his guidance.

Jeff Yagher bears as much resemblance to Elvis as you can hope for in an actor, and his performance is key to the success of the episode. He plays Gary as a goofy kind of saviour, yet plays Elvis as a serious, insecure kid. He does a good job with Elvis' voice, too. Lisa Jane Persky has a sincere quality as the Agent, and her level-headedness in the face of Gary's lofty ideals is refreshing.

The one nice surprise of the episode is seeing Red West. Red worked as a bodyguard for Elvis, and was one of his oldest friends. Having such a close link to the legend gives the story weight. And Red's always been an interesting actor who is fun to watch.

The period 50's atmosphere is handled well, though it obviously looks like California in some scenes that were supposed to be in Memphis. The comment that Red West makes upon meeting Gary and seeing a picture of Chuck Berry on his T-shirt, "Is that a Negro on your undershirt?" isn't very PC but I suppose in 1954 it was not uncommon, and it takes courage for a TV series in 1986 to use it.

This story could have benefited from being expanded to an hour, because it has a rushed feel to it during the scenes between Gary and Elvis. I would have liked to see more of the interplay between the two characters. Still, this is a well-written teleplay and a great way to start off the second season.