A Quality of Mercy

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"A Quality of Mercy"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 15
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Written by Rod Serling from a story by Sam Rolfe
Production code 4809
Original air date December 29, 1961
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"
Next →
"Nothing in the Dark"
List of season 3 episodes

"A Quality of Mercy" is episode 80 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone, which originally aired on December 29, 1961. The title is taken from a notable speech in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which is quoted in Serling's closing narration at the end of the episode. It was later loosely adapted into the first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Opening narration[edit]


On August 6, 1945, a young gung-ho American soldier in World War II, Second Lieutenant Katell, newly arrived to the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II, orders his war-weary soldiers to make a near-suicidal attack on a group of sick and wounded Japanese soldiers holed up in a cave in the Philippines. Seasoned veteran Sergeant Causarano tries to talk him out of it, as he knows the men have had enough of war and that "the attack will accomplish nothing but pointless deaths on both sides". Katell refuses to listen and stands firm on his orders, intent on proving himself and earning his rank. He berates the experienced but war-weary non-commissioned officer and the rest of the platoon, demanding that they shape up. While getting ready for the attack though, Lt. Katell accidentally drops his binoculars. When he goes to retrieve them, he finds himself in Corregidor fighting in the Imperial Japanese Army as a Japanese man named Lt. Yamuri.

The year is now 1942, and he is ordered to attack a group of sick and wounded American soldiers that are holed up in a cave. Having found a new perspective, he tries in vain to dissuade the captain from the attack, arguing that the Americans inside the cave pose no threat and can simply be bypassed. The Japanese captain bluntly refuses to listen, suspecting the young man is either sick with jungle fever or worse, has lost his nerve to fight. He tells him to straighten up or stay with the wounded, but Yamuri does not back down. The captain then relieves him of command of his platoon, and moves the company forward to begin the attack anyway. His mind reeling from what he has just experienced, Katell finds himself back in 1945 again as an American soldier. His men tell him that they've just gotten word the A-bomb has been dropped. They have been ordered not to attack the cave, but instead to fall back and wait to see how Japan responds. Causarano sardonically assures him, "I wouldn't fret. I'm sure there'll be other wars, other countries, other human beings you can knock off." As the platoon withdraws, Katell says to himself, "I hope not. God, I hope not."

Closing narration[edit]


Some of the cast members became well known in later science-fiction television series. Dean Stockwell became known to science-fiction fans as Al Calavicci in the television series Quantum Leap, and for another generation, as Cavil in the remake series of Battlestar Galactica. Leonard Nimoy became known as Spock in Star Trek.


The episode would later be remade into the first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), with a modern-day approach in which the main character, Bill Connor (played by Vic Morrow), is a racist office worker who is upset after he is passed over for a promotion in favor of a Jewish man.

After going into a bigoted rant in a bar, he is then taken on a trip through time and is given similar justice of intolerance; a Jewish man during the Holocaust, an African American being lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, and a Vietnamese man being attacked by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The segment was directed by John Landis. While filming the Vietnam scene of the segment, Morrow and two young child actors were killed during a helicopter stunt. Later, Landis and the film's producers were put on trial for manslaughter and child endangerment, but were found not guilty on all counts.

While the script originally intended for Connor to be redeemed (as in the episode it was based on) by saving the two children, Morrow's death necessitated a darker ending because the available footage did not include the happy ending. However, the original ending was featured in the novelization.

Episode notes[edit]

  • This episode was filmed on a soundstage at Hal Roach Studios, instead of the usual MGM facilities.[1]
  • End titles screen features the broken binoculars through which the 'enemies' are watched.
  • This episode parallels Rod Serling's own life, having served as a paratrooper in the Philippines during World War II.


  1. ^ Zicree, Mark Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion. Bantam. p. 242. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
  • 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
  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)

External links[edit]