I of Newton
|"I of Newton"|
|The Twilight Zone (1985 series) episode|
Scene from "I of Newton"
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Kenneth Gilbert|
|Written by||Joe Haldeman|
|Original air date||December 13, 1985|
A professor named Sam, trying to figure out a difficult math problem, angrily yells out, "I'd sell my soul to get this thing right!" The Devil (or a devil) instantly appears. This Devil announces that Sam's math problem "was the phonetic equivalent of a demonic invocation", and intends to steal his soul, which would be sold to bidders from other worlds.
There is a catch, though. Sam is allowed to ask three questions in regard to the Devil's powers, and then pose either a question or a task; if the Devil cannot answer said question or perform said task, Sam's soul is spared. Sam asks, "Really?", which the Devil counts as a question.
Sam's next question is more carefully planned. He asks if there are any physical limitations to the Devil's powers; the demon gleefully replies in the negative, claiming that he is able to travel faster than the speed of light or make two electrons occupy the same quantum state.
The third question forms a corollary to the second. Sam queries if there is any place from which the Devil cannot find his way back. The Devil, with malicious joy, informs Sam that he can move through galaxies in a microsecond, and even go to places that do not exist, such as "Berlin if the Nazis had won the war", or Rome had Alexander the Great "lived to a ripe old age".
The Devil, confident of his victory, demands that Sam pose his final question or task. Sam, armed with his new knowledge, calmly provides the impossible task:
Defeated, the Devil screams and melts away, leaving only his sunglasses. Sam picks them up and throws them away, turning back to his problem with a rueful smile on his face, noting out loud, "Well, that guy wasn't any help at all."
Throughout the episode, the words on the Devil's orange shirt change. The five different shirts read:
- HELL IS A SUMMER FESTIVAL
- HELL IS A CITY MUCH LIKE NEWARK
- OVER 2,000,000,000 SERVED
- GEHENNA: MORE THAN A PLACE, A WAY OF LIFE
- LET'S DO DAMNATION
|“||Another of our continuing tips on what to do if the Devil shows up on your doorstep. A public service announcement from the Twilight Zone.||”|
The teleplay was based on a 1970 short story by Joe Haldeman which first appeared in Fantastic Stories magazine. In the original short story, the exclamation that is tacked onto a string of math gibberish to summon the demon is "no, goddammit", possibly censored for television. The demon plans not to sell Sam's soul but to eat it, proclaiming "Unfortunately the loss of your soul will drop your intelligence to that of a vegetable—I am also a vegetarian". When the demon has been banished, Sam ends up playing with the Fermat's Theorem disproof fragment the demon left behind and thinking about summoning the demon and tricking him again. The final sentence is an Aesop-style after-the-fact "moral of the story" about swearing and suggested that if there was a devil, there must also be a god ..."watching his language".
A boom mic is briefly visible at the top of the screen in the scene where the devil is telling Sam about selling his soul to the big chains.