“Consider Her Ways”, TAHH, Season Three: Ep.11 - Robert Stevens (1964)

“Consider Her Ways” (1964) was an episode (Season 3,Episode 11) of the popular TV anthology series The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-65).  It was directed by Robert Stevens and scripted by Oscar Millard, based on a story by John Wyndham.  Wyndham was a famous British science fiction writer, his most notable work being The Day of the Triffids.  The musical score was provided by Bernard Herrmann. 

In this story a woman wakes up in a hospital maternity ward and discovers she has been transported to a dystopian nightmare.  She, like other patients in the ward, has an enormously bloated body and is treated as a human cow – permanently assigned to continually giving birth to human babies, none of whom she is given a chance to mother.  In this regimented world, there are no men, only women, who are divided up into strict classes, like an ant colony.  The woman (played by Barbara Barrie) is called “Mother Orchid” and is not allowed to read and write – that activity is restricted to another class. But Mother Orchid knows that her real name is Dr. Jane Waterleigh and that she was a successful doctor in our ordinary world.

When Waterleigh proves to be uncooperative, she is threatened by the authorities and eventually introduced to an elderly historian, Laura (Gladys Cooper), to explain things to her.  Laura tells her that several generations ago all the males on Earth were killed by the mutation of a virus developed by a Doctor Perrigan that had been intended to kill rats.  Women were naturally immune to the virus and had learned to survive by the development of “test tube baby” technology.  Laura assures her that their “modern” world is much better than the old days when women were dominated by brutish males.

The medical staff then try to administer a mind-altering drug to Mother Orchis, but she resists and becomes hysterical.  When she comes to, she is back in the real world and is Dr. Waterleigh again.  She is reminded that she had volunteered to take a hallucinatory drug, which had induced her dystopian nightmare.

But Waterleigh soon learns of a Doctor Perrigan (Robert H. Harris) who is currently working to develop a viral strain to kill rats.  She realizes that she has to thwart Perrigan’s world-destroying activities, and she tries to convince him to abandon his work in this area.  When Perrigan refuses to desist, Waterleigh feels she has to take desperate measures.  She pulls out a gun and kills Perrigan and then burns up his laboratory.

When Waterleigh is arrested, she is not remorseful; she did it to save the world.  When a colleague counters that you cannot alter an already-existing future, Waterleigh responds by invoking a multiverse hypothesis.  She claims that at every moment the world is branching into a near-infinite number of parallel future states.  Each of those state will similarly branch into a vast number of states a moment later.  There are innumerable trajectories through this parallel state-space, and “we” just happen to be on one of them.  By committing her act, she claims, she has assured that “our” particular path through the state-space will not land us in a state where all the males have been exterminated.     

An interesting argument, but of course with Hitchcock there is always likely to be a twist at the end of the tale.  And this episode is no exception.  You will have to watch it yourself to see what that twist is.

This is a well-made and thought-provoking tale that was well-suited to be an episode of the contemporary The Twilight Zone (1959-64).

No comments: