I have watched enough Twilight Zone to know what I am getting with a story, and also enough Twilight Zone to know I am probably wrong. "Valley of the Shadow", the third episode of the fourth season of The Twilight Zone, starts off in familiar territory. The opening scene and the opening narration establish that we are visiting a small town, cut off from the modern world. The Twilight Zone's ambiguous relationship with nostalgia and small town America have been a prominent theme, and I expected to see something somewhat like A Stop at Willoughby.
Reporter Philip Redfield takes a wrong turn on his way to Albuquerque, and finds himself in the small town of "Peaceful Valley", when his dog runs after a cat. A small girl points a device at his dog, and his dog disappears. The girl's father, played by a young James Doohan, quickly "finds" the dog, but the reporter's instincts are piqued. I was expecting an episode about the tension between Space Age America's relationship with its past, and was instead getting an episode where a small town has futuristic technology. The hour long format allows the show to zig zag more: are we watching an ethical drama, a star-crossed romance, or slapstick? At various times, I thought it would take a turn to one of these, but it kept an uneven approach. But on the Twilight Zone, being in-between is quite literally the name of the game.
At the end of the episode I am not quite sure what I learned. More than anything, it reminded me of one of many of the Star Trek episodes where they debate The Prime Directive. Is this a cautionary tale about utopias? A statement about the corruptibility of human nature? A fable about how much there is around us that is hidden from us? It can be read many ways, but it continues to develop themes put forward in other Twilight Zone episodes.