Welcome back to my “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” marathon! Time travel isn’t a new concept, even for the 50’s/60’s when AHP was produced. Back then, shows like the Twilight Zone and Doctor Who played with the concept, with Doctor Who fully embracing it. Today’s episode presents a form of time travel that might not actually BE real time travel. This is “The Doubtful Doctor.”
While visiting his doctor, Ralph Jones recounts having an argument with his wife after a stressful day. He later somehow finds himself over two years in the past. The doctor brushes off the story, assuring him that he may have imagined the whole thing due to stress or a blackout. But Ralph swears it really happened. Is Ralph imagining things, or did he actually experience time travel?
This episode starred veteran actor Dick York, most famous for his role as the first Darrin on “Bewitched.” He played the part of Ralph well, showing the right amount of irritation and stress without getting too mean at first and then confusion when the time travel aspect comes in. The only thing that didn’t mesh with me was his quick acceptance that he was in the past, though he quickly becomes less accepting of it as the episode progresses.
The episode itself was like a weird mix between your standard time travel plot with a dash of “It’s a Wonderful Life” thrown in. Near the beginning, Ralph’s stress escalates to the point of him grumbling about being married and having a child, both things he eventually misses during his time travel experience. He lives a bit of a double life, able to remember his future but experiencing a past where nothing is going the way it’s supposed to. This is especially true with regards to his wife, Lucille, who seems like an entirely different person and has no recollection of their eventual life together.
Lucille was a pretty good character in her own right, but this was definitely Ralph’s story. The story recollection narrative is back, but unlike in “None Are So Blind,” I find it less intrusive since Ralph was at least likable. The only time I found myself wanting to punch him was his insistence to Lucille that they had to be together, though eventually it became tolerable as he (and I) realized this timeline was not the same as his. Just like with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Ralph snaps back to reality and learns to appreciate what he has no matter how bad his days may get.
If I have one major complaint about this story, it’s with the ending. For one thing, we don’t get much out of the doctor himself, making the title seem a bit superfluous. For another, the ending lacked punch to me and left off on a kinda cliched and ambiguous note. Of course, ambiguity isn’t a bad thing in stories, but here it felt like the story just kinda ended abruptly. It left me feeling a little unsatisfied, though I did enjoy everything leading up to it.
Overall, “The Doubtful Doctor” was a decent episode. Dick York was a great actor back in the day, and this role seemed to fit him like a glove. If you’re a fan of the man or like seeing time travel plots explored, give this one a shot.