TFTD Marathon: “Ursa Minor”

17-ursa-minor

Welcome back to my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon! At some point, we’ve all had a favorite stuffed animal. The classic one is and has always been a teddy bear. But for every bear that’s considered cute and cuddly, there are many that look a bit off and sometimes just plain creepy. Could something be lurking behind those button eyes? Today’s tale looks at a girl and her bear in “Ursa Minor.”

Richard and Joan buy their daughter, Susie, an adorable teddy bear for her birthday. But over time, strange occurrences start happening and Susie blames them all on Teddy. Joan suspects that Susie is just trying to cover for her mistakes, and Richard isn’t helping the situation by his laid-back attitude. Is it all just a fantasy like Joan believes, or is Susie telling the truth about Teddy?

If you’ve ever seen or heard of the “Twilight Zone” episode called “Living Doll”, then you can basically figure out how this story will go beat by beat, just with a different toy. Considering I enjoyed that episode, this felt like a weaker rendition. I feel like the only way you couldn’t make comparisons is if you’ve never seen the episode, but honestly, this story’s been told before and arguably better. I don’t think it’s terrible, but it’s definitely predictable and mediocre at best.

The characters aren’t anything to write home about. Joan spends a lot of the episode freaking out at her husband and child over the whole Teddy thing, and it got on my nerves after a while. Richard is the type of guy who often wakes up hungover, and when the situation appears to be that his child is covering up her lies, he pretty much stays out of it. He even goes so far as to mock his wife by saying Susie’s lie, “Teddy did it,” to blow her off. As for Susie, well, I get annoyed easily by child actors. While I don’t feel she’s the worst I’ve seen, her high-pitched voice got grating very quickly, especially during the ending. I also found a particular bit of music or sound effect in this one distracting, as it’s like a high-pitched whine. I think it was supposed to indicate a suspenseful moment, but it just annoyed me instead.

The twist here ties into a strange scene earlier in the episode. Joan speaks with Professor Stillman, an expert on magic and myths who believes the bear is essentially cursed. There’s more to this discussion, but for the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal it. What I WILL say is that this ending is arguably one of the bleakest I’ve seen in any anthology show. I think it was deliberately trying to make the audience imagine the worst fate possible for the characters, and in that regard I’d say it succeeded.

I really wanted to like “Ursa Minor,” but it reminded me all too well of “Living Doll” and made me want to watch that instead. The plot is incredibly predictable, save for maybe the twist, and the characters aren’t interesting and not well-acted. It disappoints me to say this, but there are far better stories out there involving creepy toys. This one doesn’t really do anything new.

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