The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
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Five Characters in Search of an Exit 

An army major awakens in a small room with no idea of who he is or how he got there. He finds four other people in the same room, and they all begin to question how they each arrived there, and more importantly, how to escape.



(teleplay by), (based on a short story by) | 1 more credit »

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Episode complete credited cast:
The Ballerina
The Major (as Bill Windom)
The Clown
Kelton Garwood ...
The Tramp
Clark Allen ...
The Bagpiper
Carol Hill ...
Mona Houghton ...
Little Girl


It all starts when an army major wakes up in a small cylindrical room with no way out. The walls are too high to climb and they're too hard to puncture. Trapped inside with him is a clown, a bagpiper, a ballerina, and a hobo. They have all woken up inside there and have no idea where they are, what they're doing there, how long they've been there or even who they are or how long they'll be there. They apparently are unable to feel anything, and every now and then a loud clanging sound makes them all fall down. All of them have tried various ways of finding an exit, unsuccessfully. The army major especially is determined to escape. He tries all sorts of ways to find an exit, but he cannot find one. Even when he hits the walls with his sword, it shatters. The major suggests that they are in Hell, so there IS no way out. Eventually the five characters decide that the only way out is to make a human tower. But then when the ballerina nearly reaches the top, the clanging sound goes again ... Written by almightyone

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

22 December 1961 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" combines those of the play by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello: "Six Characters in Search of an Author," and the play by French writer Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit. See more »


After they fall from the attempted escape, the ballerina lies with her leg straightened, but in the following shot, is kneeling and facing another way. See more »


The Major: Who are we?
The Ballerina: None of us knows Major. We don't know who we are, we don't know where we are. Each of us woke up one moment and here we were in the darkness.
The Major: How can that happen?
The Ballerina: That's the question we asked ourselves Major, a question with no answer. We're nameless things with no memory, no knowledge of what went before. No understanding of what is now, no knowledge of what will be.
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Remade as Fox Mystery Theater: Child's Play (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Dull and not particularly entertaining
9 September 2007 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

The Twilight Zone has achieved a certain mythology about it--much like Star Trek. That's because there are many devoted lovers of the show that no matter what think every episode was a winner. They are the ones who score each individual show a 10 and cannot objectively evaluate the show. Because of this, a while back I reviewed all the original Star Trek episodes (the good and the bad) because the overall ratings and reviews were just too positive. Now, it's time to do the same for The Twilight Zone.

Now I was very surprised when I saw reviews for this bland episode that described it as being "among the best" and gave it scores of 10. If this is the case, then why is it that everyone I know who has seen this episode hates it as much as I do? It's possible that me and my family and friends are all cranks but it's also possible this is yet another case of rabid fans rabidly inflating the rating on an average or below average episode.

The episode itself stars William Windom and others as various archetypes--a soldier, a dancer, etc. They are all stuck in a cylindrical room with no escape and only at the end do you realize the "shocking truth"--which isn't at all shocking and is in fact majorly lame. No, this is a badly written and unengaging episode. Yes, there were plenty of episodes of the series that deserved a 10, but few as undeserving as this one due to a shallow script and an unappealing resolution.

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