Story by Charles Beaumont
Teleplay by James Crocker
Directed by Paul Lynch
Original Airdate - April 4, 1986
Peter Coyote - Adam Grant
Janet Eilber - Erin Jacobs
Deborah May - Carol Ritchie
Raymond Bieri - Flash
William Schallert - Father Grant
William Smith - Guard
Earl Billings - Jimmy
George O. Petrie - Judge
Guy Boyd - Mark Ritchie
Hank Garrett - Warden
Ella Raino Edwards - Foreman
Gilbart De La Pena - Munoz



A man has the same dream over and over, where he's convicted of a crime and sentenced to death. Different people from his life have different roles in each dream, except for his father who always plays the priest who reads him his last rites.



"Shadow Play" is based on the original story by Charles Beaumont, from the original Twilight Zone series. I think this newer version is better than the original, which starred Dennis Weaver. Weaver was good, but I've never been a fan of the actual episode. Here, the new Twilight Zone used Peter Coyote as Adam Grant, the man who dreams he's being sentenced to death over and over, and he's much more effective than Weaver was, while the production is far more successful than the original. Everything in this episode clicks; casting, pacing, writing, direction, set design, everything. I rate it fairly high on my list of favorites.

Coyote is a competent, laid-back actor, and here that style works. He's in a dream that he can't get out of, and he indeed seems as if he's unable to do anything other than shake his head in wonder as the death sentence is pronounced time and after time. His body looks as if he's ready to flee at any moment, but can't, a familiar dream consequence. Coyote is extremely effective when he's musing on exactly why he keeps dreaming that he's going to die, and as he recites things people will say by rote, exactly as if he's heard them a million times.

William Schallert plays Adam's father, and he's a well-known character actor from the past six decades who is also from one of the original TZ episodes, "Mr. Bevis."
Janet Eilber, Guy Boyd, and Carol Ritchie are Adam's lawyer, the District Attorney who hates Adam, and the DA's wife, respectively, in the first iteration of Adam's dream. In the next iteration, they play different roles. All three are great in their roles, no matter who they play. Carol Ritchie is particularly vicious as the DA's wife, who wants Grant dead no matter what.

Raymond Bieri, a great character actor, is one of the other men on death row who taunts Adam as he sits in his cell, wondering why he can't get out of this dream. Earl Billings plays another death row inmate who resonates with fear while listening to Adam explain what's going on.

William Smith, a favorite of mine from the 60's TV western "Laredo," and dozens of other shows, is the prison guard who tries to strongarm Adam. Smith has had a career about as long as Schallert's. Their presence in this episode gives it an extra dimension that TV shows today can't match.

This hour of the new Twilight Zone is a good one, and the next segment, "Grace Note," while a bit sentimental is just as good as "Shadow Play." What it showed was that just as the series got going and established a working rythym that was improving everything they did, the rug was being yanked out from under it. We can only wonder what great teleplays this series would have produced if it had been allowed to continue.