I’ve long been a fan of the Twilight Zone, though I own none of it on DVD. I especially like any episodes that have to do with story characters, dolls, puppets, ventriloquist’s dummies, mannequins, robots, computers and other inanimate objects becoming alive. [Of course I do!] I also like stories where the protagonists discover that they are dreaming or that they are being mind-controlled or that they are inanimate objects. [Of course I do!] The Twilight Zone provides hours of entertainment on these themes, and I haven’t seen all the episodes in these two categories, though I have vague goals at some point of compiling a list of them.
The iconic Twilight Zone doll is, of course, Talky Tina. She appears in The Living Doll, a one-hour episode from 1963, as the murderous antagonist to anxiety-ridden father Erich [played by Telly Savalas]. The insecure and tempestuous Erich has a hangup about his and his wife’s infertility, which prompted them to adopt daughter Christie. He channels his hostility toward his wife and daughter into Talky Tina, who obligingly reflects his hatred right back at him. Erich and Talky Tina try to destroy each other, but Erich dies when he trips over Talky Tina, who gets the last word [literally].
The Living Doll represents the Twilight Zone at its best: a creepy, compelling character study with all the tight plotting and drama of the best short stories. I especially love the ambiguity of Talky Tina. Sure, she says, "My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you," so we’re supposed to think that Erich dies due to the doll. But it’s also possible that Erich kills himself out of his inability to actually love his family, in that his rage at his wife and daughter obsesses him when conveniently encapsulated in the form of the doll. His increasing absorption with killing the doll estranges him from his family and, ultimately, proves his undoing.
Alternatively, Talky Tina may be Christie’s defender. Christie loves Talky Tina, who also loves her ["My name is Talky Tina, and I love you!"]. They’re devoted to each other. Christie, at whom Erich yells, "I’m not your daddy!", knows on some level that her father despises and rejects her — so much so, in fact, that he initially suspects Christie of messing with his head by making Talky Tina say murderous things. I’m sure that Christie fears her father’s verbal abuse and perhaps even fears that he will kill her in the gruesome ways he tries to kill her doll. It’s possible that Christie activates Talky Tina with her positive love for the doll and her negative fear of her dad so that she can neutralize the threat of Erich and finally, for once in her life, be safe.
Or hell — maybe it’s just an evil doll.
Ever since I heard that Bif Bang Pow did a limited edition Talky Tina doll, I’ve kind of wanted one. I suppose that technically she’s a "prop replica," but I say she’s a doll — and a pretty cool one at that. BBP accurately replicates her in terms of size, sculpt and outfit. She’s also entirely in greyscale, just as she appears to viewers in the original episode, which makes her extra unnerving. She has much of the articulation of the original, and she has wind-ups in her back that make her talk! [What would a Talky Tina doll be without a talking function?] Overall she looks partly cute and partly uncanny — her level of cuteness depending on how much you can stomach the stylized look of 18-inch child playline dolls, her uncanniness highlighted by her lack of color. But it’s her talking function that rockets her into the upper echelons of awesomeness because then you can no longer deny that you are in the presence of one of the original pop-culture killer dolls.
Talky Tinas appear regularly on Ebay for between $150.00 and $200.00. Oh the temptation…