The Mortal Coil, Part 1
Whit has been working long hours on a new program for the Imagination Station, and Connie is curious about what the program is. This time, Whit tells her it is an adventure that explores life after death.
Connie is taken back by this, but is also eager to try it. She does, and the program seems to fizzle out on her. Then Whit gets in the Station to experience the program. While it's running, Eugene enters the Bible Room, just in time to hear Whit cry out! Eugene shuts down the Station. Whit steps out, very shaken.
Later, Tom visits Whit at home and speaks with Whit about the death program. For Christians, Tom says, death is a door to eternal life with God, but it's supposed to be a locked door until God opens it. Whit knows Tom is right, but the explorer in him outweighs Tom's good sense. Whit goes back into the Station. Only this time, something goes terribly wrong, and Whit winds up in a coma!
After putting Whit in the hospital, Tom and Eugene go back to Whit's End. There, Tom tries out the program for a fraction of a second. It's also too much for him, and he orders Eugene to destroy it immediately! But after Tom goes back to Whit in the hospital, Eugene hops into the Station, with disastrous results.
Meanwhile, on the doctor's advice, Tom talks to Whit, hoping that the stimulation might "bring him back." Tom tells Whit that he had no business messing around with life after death, only God should be the one to say when and how people are to die. But even as Tom speaks, Whit's heartbeat slows down and stops completely. A distraught Tom shouts for help.
- This plot section is too short and should be expanded. »
- Why was Whit so adamant about retrying the death program?
- Why was Tom so insistent that Eugene destroy it?
- Why was the program so frightening to Eugene?
- What do you think heaven will be like?
- PARENTAL WARNING: This episode about life after death may prove to be too intense for listeners under the age of 10.
- This first part of The Mortal Coil, was originally written to be put aside in case Hal Smith (Whit) died. Instead, they liked the story so much that they decided to finish it. (The Complete Guide to AIO) This episode originally would have been the end of Whit if it came to that. They finished the episode, and Whit is still on the show to this day.
- Hal Smith's wife, Louise, died weeks before the recording of this episode. Hal Smith still went on to record it even though it might have been sensitive to his situation.
- This episode flashes back to #49: “Thank You, God”, #93: “Rescue from Manatugo Point”, and #19: “Recollections”, a line later said in #464: “The Triangle, Part 1”, as well as other parts of Whit's life that have not been made into AIO episodes
- This episode received a lot of negative mail when it originally aired. As it ends with Whit flat-lining at the hospital, a lot of people were left wondering for the next week whether he was alive. It also aired near Thanksgiving, so many families were traveling and missed part 2, making the wait even longer for distressed kids.
- This was the first episode in which Whit himself uses the Imagination Station (rather ironic since Whit is the one who built the machine), and also the only time that Tom used it until Christmas Around the World, Part 1.
- The AIO team thought that since they had a massive cliffhanger they would add a little hint at the end. When Chuck Bolte nearing the end of his wrap-up, he said: "We'll see you next time, when Whit's special adventure continues." How could it continue if Whit was dead?
QuotesConnie Kendall: Just push the button when you're ready, Whit.
John Whittaker: Thanks, Connie.
Tom Riley: No, I am serious. You're messing around with somethin' you don't have no business with.
John Whittaker: It's only the Imagination Station.
Tom Riley: I don't care what it is. You said the whole thing seemed realer than real. And that's what makes it so dangerous. Look, you know that Jesus took the sting out of death. Death is our doorway to God. But it's not something we should want or try to create! It's a locked door until God and God alone opens it for us!
Tom Riley: Is this your impression of a mad scientist? Tampering with things that are none of your business? You know what happens to them in the late show and the movies. If the monster doesn't get 'em, the mobs do!
John Whittaker: Let's see if this thing works.
Tom Riley: <banging on the door> Eugene!
Eugene Meltsner: What? Mr. Riley? I-It's only been a few seconds!
Tom Riley: Let me out! Let me out!
Eugene Meltsner: Mr. Riley—
Tom Riley: That's enough, Eugene! I get it now!
Eugene Meltsner: But—what happened?!
Tom Riley: I want you to erase that program, Eugene, understand? Erase it, now!
Eugene Meltsner: But Mr. Whittaker won't want me—
Tom Riley: Don't argue, Eugene! It's too dangerous to keep! Just erase it, erase it! I have to get back to the hospital!
Tom Riley: Whit? I don't know whether you can hear me or not...maybe some of what I'm sayin' will echo through. See, I tried your program in the Imagination Station, and I think I have it figured out. I think I understand what happened to ya. You did a good job on your death program, Whit—too good a job, in fact. You made a program that gives just a taste of what life after death is for a Christian. The reunion with loved ones...the warmth, the beauty of goin' to be with God...I don't know how you did it, but...you did! You made it...beautiful. And attractive. But that's the problem, Whit. Now...now you correct me if I'm wrong, but I figure you made it look so good that you wanna be there—that you wanna give up on livin'. Well, Whit, I have to tell you that you're wrong! You're wrong! I mean—I can't second-guess God, but it's like I told you before—death is the passageway to be with our Lord. It's not a door we should pass through unless God says it's time to go—that's the glory and the mystery of it! As believers, we may long for heaven, but we must remain here as servants until the Master calls us! So Whit...I figure the Imagination Station gave you a glimpse of somethin' you shouldn't have seen yet. So I'm askin' you to come back. D'ya hear me, Whit? I'm askin' you to come back! I think—I think you should come back to us! Please...please, Whit. Come back.