No Time Like the Past
|"No Time Like the Past"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Justus Addiss|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||March 7, 1963|
Dana Andrews: Paul Driscoll
Mr. Serling's Opening Narration
|“||Exit one Paul Driscoll, a creature of the twentieth century. He puts to a test a complicated theorum of space-time continuum, but he goes a step further, or tries to. Shortly, he will seek out three moments of the past in a desperate attempt to alter the present, one of the odd and fanciful functions in a shadowland known as the Twilight Zone.||”|
Disgusted with 20th Century problems such as world wars, atomic weapons and radioactive poisoning, Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews) solicits the help of his colleague Harvey (Robert F. Simon) and uses a time machine, intent to remake the present by altering past events. Paul first travels to Hiroshima in August 1945 and attempts to warn a Hiroshima police captain about the atomic bomb and tries to convince him to evacuate the city. Paul’s warnings however are dismissed and he is unable to change history. Paul then travels to a Berlin hotel room to assassinate Adolf Hitler (in August 1939 immediately before the outbreak of World War II in September 1939), but his plans are interrupted when a hotel housekeeper knocks on his door and later calls two SS guards to his room, causing him to leave 1939 before assassinating Hitler. On his third journey to the past, Paul tries to change the course of Lusitania to avoid being torpedoed (by a World War I German U-boat), but is unable to do so when the ship’s captain questions his believability.
Paul accepts the hypothesis that the past cannot be changed. He then plans to return to the past, resolving not to make any changes, but rather just to live out his own life in a time free of the problems of the modern age. He uses the time machine to journey to the town of Homeville, Indiana in 1881. Upon his arrival, he realizes that President James A. Garfield will be shot the next day, but resists the temptation to try to intervene. He stays at a boarding house in town and meets Abigail Sloan (Patricia Breslin), a fellow resident and teacher at Homeville’s schoolhouse. At one of the boarding house’s dinners, Paul gets into an argument with another boarder over war and imperialism. He later reads in a history book from his own time that Homeville's schoolhouse will burn down because of a kerosene lantern ejected from a runaway wagon. Knowing that the safety of children is at stake, Paul breaks his vow not to try to change the past. But his actions to avert the incident instead inadvertently cause the fire he intended to prevent.
Afterward, Paul tells Abigail that “the past is sacred” and, despite the romantic feelings that have developed between the two, he accepts that he belongs in the 20th Century. He returns to his own time and declares that instead of continuing to fixate upon the past, he will now try to do something to positively impact the future.
Mr. Serling's Closing Narration
|“||Incident on a July afternoon, 1881. A man named Driscoll who came and went and, in the process, learned a simple lesson, perhaps best said by a poet named Lathbury, who wrote, 'Children of yesterday, heirs of tomorrow, what are you weaving? Labor and sorrow? Look to your looms again, faster and faster fly the great shuttles prepared by the master. Life's in the loom, room for it. Room.' Tonight's tale of clocks and calendars in the Twilight Zone.||”|
In the Twilight Zone radio drama series by Stacy Keach as the narrator, the first three time travel destinations perpetrated by Driscoll are inverted. He first attempts to board the Lusitania, then attempts to assassinate Hitler, and finally attempts to warn and evacuate Hiroshima. This is the reverse order of how the television broadcast version went, which had the Hiroshima investigation come first and the Lusitania boarding come last (the attempt on Hitler's life remains in the same chronological position).
- Back There -- another Twilight Zone episode about a man who tries to change history by traveling to the past.
- 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