Yesterday, the Syfy Network hosted its annual Twilight Zone Marathon, airing episodes from Rod Serling’s classic anthology television series that was originally broadcast between 1959 and 1964.
And wouldn’t you know, there’s a hugely popular episode that stars a dog.
Originally aired on January 26, 1962, it was written by Earl Hamner Jr., best known as the creator of TV’s “The Waltons” (and the real-life inspiration for the character of John-Boy -as in “Good Night, John-Boy”). Work and dog duty wouldn’t permit me to stayglued to the TV yesterday, so I’mnot sure if thisepisode aired as part ofyesterday’s Syfy marathon. But you canwatch it on YouTubehere.
Here’s a synopsis:
Hyder Simpson lives with his wife and his hound Rip. Mrs. Simpson does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once, and Hyderrefuses tobe parted from him. Mrs. Simpson has seen some bad omens recently, and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The following morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither his wife, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see himthey seem to think that he and Rip are dead.
Walking along the road, he encounters a fence he doesn’t recognize, and decides to follow it. Presently,Hyder and hishoundcome to a gate tended by a man. Explaining that he is a gatekeeper, the man explains that Simpson can enter the Elysian Fields.
But here’s the dealbreaker: When he is told that Rip can’t enter and will be taken elsewhere (“up the road”), he declines and angrily goes on down the “Eternity Road” rather than enter the gate without his beloved best friend. Simpson states, “Any place that’s too high-falootin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”
Later, after stopping to rest, Simpson and Rip are met by a young angel whose job is to find and bring them to Heaven. Simpson tells the angel about his experience at the first gate, commenting “Son, that’d be a helluva place without Rip!”
The angel replies, “Mr. Simpson, you ain’t far wrong – that is Hell! Heaven’s up yonder apiece,” pointing up Eternity Road. When Simpson asks why the gatekeeper at the gate to Hell wouldn’t let him bring Rip inside with him, the angel explains that the reason Rip was not allowed in was because the dog would have been able to smell the brimstone and alert Simpson that something was wrong.
The angel adds, “You see Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”
The angel also tells Hyder that there will be a raccoon hunt in Heaven that night, “right after the square dance,” and assures him that his wife, who will be coming shortly, will not have any trouble with the Devil up the way.
Wikipedia points out that the story resembles a tale in the Mahabharata known as Yudhisthira’s final test. Located in the 17th parva, Yudhisthira refuses to go into heaven unless he can take his dog. Thus proving his loyalty, he passes the second of three tests for heaven and the dog transforms into Dharma, or Dharmaraja, his father, who is the Lord of Death and Justice.
So keep an eye peeled for this Twilight Zone episode during Syfy’s next TZ Marathon, or buy the entire TZ collection on DVD. And pleaseshare your thoughts in the comments!