The Purple Testament

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"The Purple Testament"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 19
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Written by Rod Serling
Featured music Lucien Moraweck, conducted by Lud Gluskin
Production code 173-3619
Original air date February 12, 1960
Guest actors

William Reynolds: Lt. Fitzgerald
Dick York: Captain Phil Riker
Barney Phillips: Captain E.L. Gunther
Warren Oates: Jeep Driver
Paul Mazursky: Orderly
Ron Masak: Harmonica Man
William Phipps: Sergeant
S. John Launer: Colonel
Marc Cavell: Freeman

Episode chronology
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"The Last Flight"
Next →
"Elegy"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"The Purple Testament" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It's "the story of a man who can forecast death."[1]

Plot[edit]

William Fitzgerald ("Fitz"), a lieutenant serving in World War II, suddenly gains the mysterious ability to discover who is about to die via a strange flash of light across the person's face. After correctly predicting several deaths, he tells his friend Captain Riker what he is able to see, but the Captain does not know whether to believe him. Riker consults with a doctor, Captain Gunther, who thinks it may be fatigue and suggests that the lieutenant should take a leave of rest. Fitzgerald goes to a hospital to see one of his men, Smitty, who is supposed to pull through. But he sees the strange light across the soldier's face and knows his fate.

Later, his prediction has come true, and he makes a scene in the hospital in front of Captain Gunther. Back at their tent, Fitz reveals to Riker he has seen the light on his face. Though he tells Fitz to forget it and get ready for battle, Riker sets out some of his personal possessions — a few photographs and his wedding ring — before he goes into combat. In the camp, the men argue about the rumors of the lieutenant's predictions, but Riker tells all the soldiers there that there are no "mind readers" in the camp. Fitz, seeing the men's faces and realizing he could cause mutiny (and that none of them are fated to die), agrees with the captain.

In the ensuing battle, all return except for Riker, who is killed by a sniper. Captain Gunther brings news to Fitzgerald that he is being sent back to division headquarters for some much needed rest, but as the lieutenant gathers his gear, he sees the light flash across his own face in a mirror. A jeep driver comes to pick up Fitzgerald for the ride to HQ, and Fitzgerald sees the light also flash across the driver's face. Fitzgerald becomes distant, as if resigned to fate.

The Sergeant sends the two off, telling the driver to be careful as they go; they have not completely checked the area for land mines on the road ahead. As the soldiers are gathered around the camp at dusk, the sound of an explosion is heard in the distance.

Production notes[edit]

Dean Stockwell was originally cast in the lead role, but was unable to appear. He would later star in the similarly themed episode "A Quality of Mercy".

The concept of seeing a light on the face of those who are about to die was readdressed in "Into the Light", an episode of the 2002 revival series.

This is one of several episodes from Season One with its opening title sequence plastered over with the opening for Season Two. This was done during the Summer of 1961 as to help the season one shows fit in with the new look the show had taken during the following season.

Rod Serling quotes the Shakespearean source of the episode title in his closing narration: "He is come to open the purple testament of bleeding war." He claims it's a quote from Richard III, but in reality it comes from Richard II.[2]

Broadcast date controversy[edit]

On the same day as the screening of the episode, director Richard Bare and star William Reynolds, then filming the TV series The Islanders, were in a plane crash, with one person on board the plane being killed in the crash. Reynolds claimed Rod Serling pulled the episode from its scheduled screening date, out of concern for the families of Reynolds and Bare.[3] In his 1982 book The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree also makes this same claim. However, Zicree evidently failed to research the date of the plane crash, as he lists an initial broadcast date for "The Purple Testament" of February 12, 1960, the very date of the crash.

In his exhaustively researched 2008 book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, Martin Grams concludes that the episode did indeed air as originally scheduled on February 12, 1960, despite Reynolds' statements. Though there is still some controversy surrounding this point, to date no-one has offered proof that the episode did not air on that date in any US market.

References[edit]

  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]