Story by Lan O'Kun
Teleplay by Paul Lynch
Original Airdate - October 18, 1986
George Wendt - Barney Schlesinger
Bernadette Birkett - Katie Schlesinger
Tom Finnegan - Steve
Jeffrey Tambor - Milton
Victoria Bass - Lucille
Dinah Lenney - Francine
Jon Menick - Butler



Barney Schlesinger is an inventor, and not a good one. Everything he invents is a failure. His wife thinks he's a failure, yet she still loves him in a brokendown way. Barney's workroom is in the basement of their house, and when his wife orders him to clean it out, he finds a door hidden behind a wall. It opens on a cobweb-filled corridor that leads to a vast Victorian mansion, and when Barney steps into it, he's transformed into a rich Victorian gentleman who is a genius. It's incredible, but his inventions in the late 1800's are huge successes. Will Barney go back to his failures, or stay in the past as a rich genius with many female admirers?



This hour episode of the new Twilight Zone was not one of the best. First we had "The After Hours," which was lackluster, and then there was "Lost and Found," which I can find no reason for them to have included because it's just not interesting. The third segment of this hour is the best, which isn't saying much. "The World Next Door" was a short story by Lan O'Kun, and the teleplay was adapted by Richard Lynch, and apparently directed by him as well.

Geroge Wendt plays Barney, the man who is inept in our time but a genius in Victorian times. He's a man born way too late, and while in our time Wendt fits the part. He's funny and apologetic, and married to a woman who daily expects to be disappointed by him, and is never wrong. He flounders, though, when he's required to be a Victorian gentleman. He's just not believable at it. Wendt's real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett, plays his wife in our time, and his admirer in the Victorian scenes, and she's good in both roles. Jeffrey Tambor has a miniscule role as Barney's partner in the past…it's not much more than a cameo.

This is just not a very interesting segment, either. The set design is brilliant, but that has never been an issue on the NTZ series. The sets are always marvelous. What's missing is a spark of intelligence in the scripts and a connection with the stories, for me at least. All three of them are just blah. But, they are still better than virtually anything from the third season, so I shouldn't complain.

The writer's name, Lan O'Kun, sounded familiar to me for some reason as I started writing this review. After looking him up in the IMDB, I found that he was responsible for the adaptation of Charles Tazewell's 1946 story, "The Littlest Angel," a frankly detestable piece of TV history. It was a 1969 TV movie that would have made even the Victorians, who loved maudlin, heavily pious themes in their literature, shriek in torment. You can imagine what it did to the viewers in 1969, when it aired. It's apparently out on DVD, though I can't imagine why.

I don't know that I ever read the book, but I doubt it. Books for kids written after 1960 were still fairly scarce in town during the a960's, and unfortunately a lot of older books from prior generations were plentiful. Books like "The Little Prince," "Beautiful Joe," "Treasure Island," "Huckleberry Finn," (definitely not a young child's book if you ask me), and others were on the shelves of our libraries. These books were maudlin to an extent I would now call uncomfortable, and not suited to the new freedom of the 60's. I remember being bored by "Treasure Island," horrified by "Beautiful Joe," and bemused by "The Little Prince." I could never figure out what was actually going on in "The Little Prince;" something about babies being switched, I think. However, I was always a fan of "Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass." That is a child's book that has never seemed dated; it's still fresh 150 years after it was written.

It wasn't until the later 1960's that good kids books started showing up at our libraries, such as the Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander (based on Welsh legends, they were a much tamer version of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and a must-read), "A Wrinkle in Time," "The Phantom Tollbooth," "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," and many others. I remember loving all of Phyllis Whitney's kids mysteries, and going on to her adult romantic mysteries while I was still a pre-teen. Suffice to say that I wasn't a kid who liked lugubrious religious stories. Mysteries, scifi, horror, ghosts - that was what I gravitated to, so "The Littlest Angel" was not my style.

I remember watching "The Littlest Angel" when it first aired, and I also remember how much I loathed it at age 13. This was the kind of religious garbage that the networks thought everyone would love, but it was outdated by the time the 1950's got going and didn't belong outside the 1940's. Once again, I can point to a story that was fresh and relevant and exactly suited to the time, and was shown in 1969. CBS had a Saturday morning children's anthology series in the late 60's, that aired "J. T." right around the same time that year. "J. T." was about a young boy living in a tenement in New York City, who was semi-neglected because his mother worked hard to provide food and shelter for hiim. He found a stray cat and nursed it back to health, and the one thing he wanted for Christmas was that cat. I won't spoil the story, but it's a good one; if you can, find a copy of it because it's still a wonderful experience to watch. "J. T." made such an impression on me that I remember it word for word today. Luckily CBS started showing these children's stories again in the early 80's, and I was able to tape it for my own children. It was fresh, alive, and real; nothing like "The Littlest Angel." Since Lan O'Kun only adapted the story, I'll let him off the hook for this one; he's only an accomplice.

While reading his IMDB entry I found out O'Kun was also responsible for the adapation of an odd little 45 minute short film that used to show on cable in its early days in 1982, called "The Juggler of Notre Dame." It's based on the original story by Anatole France, written in 1892, which was itself based on a well-known medieval legend. This short film had very little dialogue in it, but it was much lighter in tone than "The Littlest Angel," and is worth a look. I think I even have this on tape somewhere around the house, but haven't seen it in years. The things you can connect these days with all the resources out on the Internet is amazing. From the new Twilight Zone to an ancient medieval legend in ten minutes.