Monday, August 18, 2014

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Merry Go-Round

A merry-go-round or carousel is an amusement park attraction or ride that consists of a circular platform on which rest seats (traditionally in the shape of horses or other animals) that go up and down as they spin.

The merry-go-round is a set-piece that has made frequent appearances throughout cult-television history.

Perhaps the most memorable of such carousels appears in the first season Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) episode “Walking Distance.”  There, an overworked business-man, Martin Sloan (Gig Young) travels back in time to the home town of his youth.  There he hopes to enjoy one more summer, but near the merry-go-round he sees his younger self and feels compelled to tell him a message about growing up, and enjoying life while you can.  He chases down his younger self a merry-go-round, a symbol for a life that spins around and around, but goes nowhere.

A merry-go-round also featured prominently in the Ghost Story/Circle of Fear (1972) episode titled “At the Cradle Foot.”  Here, a man (James Franciscus) is plagued by dreams that his daughter will be shot and killed on a merry-go-round.  He goes out in search of that playground in an attempt to avert his child’s grim fate.

A Get Smart episode called “The Wax Max” (1965 – 1970) set at an amusement park finds Max (Don Adams) and 99 (Barbara Feldon) being attacked by enemy agents (one dressed as Dracula..).  A shoot-out occurs on a merry-go-round.

In an episode of The Prisoner (1967 – 1968), Number Six recounts a story to several children in the Village.  It involves him hunting down and being hunted himself by a woman -- Sonia (Justine Lord) – who is “death.”  Part of the “game” takes place at an amusement park which happens to feature a carousel or merry-go-round.

A carousel also appears briefly on an island in the Bermuda triangle in “The Funhouse,” an episode of the short-lived The Fantastic Journey (1977). 

And, an episode of Thundarr the Barbarian (1980 – 1982) features a post-apocalyptic carousel as a setting in “Stalker from the Stars."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:52 AM

    I enjoyed your article about the Merry-go-round theme in Cult TV. Besides "Walking Distance", I remember The Outer Limits (1960's version) episode "Second Chance" and The Twilight Zone (1960's version) episode "In Praise of Pip". Your explanation that a merry-go-round is "a symbol for a life that spins around and around, but goes nowhere" seems to be used in just this way in all three of these episodes as they show how the character's lives are just repeating and going nowhere. All three episodes used an amusement park as a place to go so the characters could escape from their normal lives.