Before there was Chucky, there was “The Doll.” Rod Serling’s terrifying Night Gallery story is reviewed here.

The Doll ****

Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by Algernon Blackwood
Directed by Rudi Dorn

John Williams as Colonel Masters
Shani Wallis as Miss Danton
Henry Silva as Pandit Chola
Jewel Blanch as Monica
Than Wyenn as Indian Messenger

The story is set around the turn of the twentieth century, during the British era of colonialism. It begins with Colonel Masters (John Williams, excellent as always portraying a classic stiff-upper-lip British gent) returning home after some time away. He is greeted by his housekeeper, Miss Danton (Shani Wallis) who asks how long he’ll be home to which he replies “that will depend on the whims of the general staff at the colonial office.”

His young niece Monica also lives here and she greets her uncle and excitedly tells him that she has a new doll, which she has with her. When Col. Masters’ eyes glance downward to the doll, his expression changes to one of shock and fear.  When we see the doll, the viewer’s face may do the same, even before hearing the doll’s back story.

It’s a little girl doll, but it looks not a bit innocent. It looks terrifying, all black around the eyes as if a lunatic had applied eye-liner and applied false eye lashes, deep red lips and skin that looks like blood vessels are showing, topped by an unruly mop of dingy blonde hair.

The colonel suggests replacing the doll, dismisses Monica and asks to speak with Miss Danton privately where he starts off by asking her why she allowed such a grimy, unpleasant doll to become Monica’s. She replies that she thought it was sent by him as it arrived from India where he had just been posted. He asks if she has “reason to doubt the harmlessness of Monica’s doll.” Relieved to be allowed to speak what she had been keeping inside, she blurts out that it’s “unwholesome. There’s something terribly evil about it” and realizes how ridiculous it sounds to speak aloud what she has been thinking.

She relates that Monica has the doll with her at all times. The colonel informs Miss Danton that he didn’t send it. He says they’ll have to get it away from Monica “but mention nothing of our intentions in the doll’s presence.” Miss Danton is incredulous at that last part. He explains that the doll was a “gift” to him.

A new doll is purchased for and given to Monica but shortly after its arrival, Monica tells her uncle that she has to give back the new doll because the old doll told her that she hates the new arrival. Monica suspects the evil doll (let’s just call it that) is jealous. The colonel wants her to give it another go with the new doll. Later that night, Monica is crying in her room and her uncle and Miss Danton rush to her and between sobs, Monica says the “hateful thing” tore the new doll apart as we see its severed remains.

Later, a man arrives (Henry Silva) to see the colonel. He says he is the brother of a man recently executed in India. The colonel explains that this man led a series of raids against British outposts and he was tried and executed for these acts. The man explains that he is a “shudra,” a believer in magic. He says he is the one who sent the doll and says it will come back “until it has fulfilled its mission.” It can’t be destroyed until it has done its work. “The doll has teeth and there is no medicine on earth to save you” he warns the colonel as he leaves.

The colonel picks up a hot poker from the fireplace and heads up the stairs. We get a big scare as the next shot shows that the doll is waiting, sitting at the top of the stairs. We then hear the colonel scream and we hear the sound of tiny feet running away. Miss Danvers comes and he tells her he was bitten by the doll and asks her to fetch the doll, which she does and he throws it into the fire. “Now it’s destructible. It’s done its job” he says with a measure of relief and resignation.

He knows he will die soon and he struggles to complete his final act. He instructs Miss Danton to get a sealed envelope from his dresser addressed to an Indian man. “See that it’s delivered to him immediately and tell him the thing has happened. He’ll know what to do,” he says. He explains that he has substantial life insurance and tells her to “look after Monica, take her where there are children to play with. Buy her things. A new doll for starters.”

Next we see an Indian man come to the apartment of another Indian man. The messenger carries a box about 18 inches long and tells the man inside that it’s a gift from the late colonel. “You gave him a gift. He reciprocates,” he says, and leaves.

The man in the apartment opens the box, drops it and looks ashen. In the final shot, we see that inside is a doll that looks like the colonel. Its eyes open and it smiles. Eeeeeeek! A great, scary ending and one that the original writer of “Child’s Play” must have seen.

This is one of finest, scariest stories ever to appear on Night Gallery and it is one of my top recommendations for the entire series. See this one if you want to be creeped out!