"The Midnight Sun" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone usually thought of as one of the finest.
From the CBS Video Library cover: "It's nearly midnight in New York City. Yet the sun blazes brightly in the sky...on this, the hottest day in history. Something has gone tragically wrong. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun...and destruction.
Most people have already left for cooler climates. But Norma and her neighbor Mrs. Bronson remain in their apartment building trying to cope with irregular electricity, ever-increasing heat, and creeping insanity. Soon Mrs. Bronson becomes delirious. As the temperature rises, Norma's paintings actually melt and run down the canvas. Norma screams and collapses. She'll awaken to discover that her worst nightmare is yet to come."
The opening narration of this episode starts with Serling saying the word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to say.
"The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is 'doomed,' because the people you've just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man's little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries—they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight it's high noon, the hottest day in history, and you're about to spend it in the Twilight Zone."
The Earth has begun moving away from its usual orbit and is gradually falling in its rotation towards the sun. A prolific artist, Norma, and her landlady, Mrs. Bronson, are the last people in their apartment building. Everyone else has either moved north where it is cooler or perished from the extremely high temperatures. Norma and Mrs. Bronson try to keep each other company as they see life as they know it slowly drain away. They watch in terror as their water supply is turned on for merely an hour a day, and their electricity is being greatly conserved. Food and water are growing to be extremely scarce. As mentioned by a radio reporter, all citizens are to remain indoors and be prepared for a looter rampage. The radio reporter also states that you can "cook eggs on your sidewalk and cook soup in the oceans".
As the temperature grows hotter and hotter, the two women perspire more. Mrs. Bronson's mind cannot handle the psychological pressures any longer, and she wishes Norma would paint a picture of a topic other than that of a burning city. Footsteps are heard from outside the apartment door. Norma asks her landlady if she locked the doors of the apartment complex. Mrs. Bronson is uncertain if she did. They hear a knock on the door, and Mrs. Bronson starts to answer it as Norma screams for her to not open the door under any circumstances. Norma threatens the mysterious man with a gun, but he breaks his way into the apartment and drinks their supply of water nonetheless. After several moments, he begs for their forgiveness and claims that he is an honest man and would never hurt them, and that he was driven to looting due to the heat. He goes on to describe the recent death of his wife due to complications of childbirth, as well of the death of their newborn child.
Feeling that her latest painting might cheer her friend, Norma displays a beautiful oil of a waterfall cascading over a lush pond. Mrs. Bronson, unable to cope with the literally unbearable conditions of the raging sun, deliriously claims that she can feel the coolness and delightfully splashes the imaginary water before she collapses to the floor and dies. The thermometer surges past 120°F, and eventually shatters. As her oil paintings melt, Norma screams and turns to ash.
The scene cuts to the apartment at night. In the inconceivably frigid darkness outside, the weather is anything but hot. The same thermometer reads -10°F, and there is a blizzard outside. Norma is bedridden with a high fever, and is accompanied by Mrs. Bronson and a doctor. She was only dreaming that the Earth was moving closer to the sun. In reality, the Earth is moving away from the sun and will eventually freeze over. Norma tells Mrs. Bronson about her nightmare, adding, "Isn't it wonderful to have darkness, and coolness?
Mrs. Bronson replies with a sense of dread in her voice, "Yes, my dear, it's...wonderful."
"The poles of fear, the extremes of how the Earth might conceivably be doomed. Minor exercise in the care and feeding of a nightmare, respectfully submitted by all the thermometer-watchers - in The Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week, we move back into time, back to 1863. A distinguished actor, Mr. Gary Merrill, plays the role of a Confederate scout who goes off on a patrol and winds up smack-dab in the center of The Twilight Zone. Our story is an adaptation of a strange tale by Manly Wade Wellman called "The Still Valley". This one is for Civil War buffs and the students of the occult. I hope you're around to take a look at it.
Home media release
Graphic Novel adaptation
In 2008, The Midnight Sun was adapted in a graphic novel of the same name. It was written by Mark Kneece and Rod Sterling and illustrated by Anthony Spay.