The Obsolete Man
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|"The Obsolete Man"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
Burgess Meredith as Romney Wordsworth in The Obsolete Man
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Elliot Silverstein|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||June 2, 1961|
"The Obsolete Man" is episode 65 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on June 2, 1961 on CBS. The story was later adapted for The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas starring Jason Alexander.
|“||You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He's a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he's built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone.||”|
In a future totalitarian state, Romney Wordsworth is put on trial for being obsolete. His professed occupation as a librarian, which proves his guilt in this matter as the State has eliminated books. He believes in God, a crime punishable by death, since the State's official religion is atheism. The Chancellor finds Wordsworth guilty and sentences him to death, allowing him to choose his method of execution. He requests that he be granted a personal assassin, who will be the only one who knows the method of death, and that his execution be televised nationwide. Though televised executions are commonplace, the secretive execution is highly unorthodox; the Chancellor nonetheless grants both requests.
A television camera is installed in Wordsworth's study to broadcast his final hour live to the nation. He summons the Chancellor, who arrives at 11:16 p.m., wanting to prove the State's strength and Wordsworth's insignificance. Their discussion reveals that Wordsworth was a carpenter prior to retiring, explaining why he was not tried for obsolescence earlier in life. As they begin to be televised live, the Chancellor gloats how the State broadcast mass executions, leading Wordsworth to say "History teaches you nothing". The Chancellor contradicts this, saying that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were predecessors for the State who lost their power from not using it more greatly, specifically on "undesirables". When the Chancellor mocks Wordsworth and attempts to leave, Wordsworth reveals that his chosen method of execution is a bomb set to go off in the room at midnight. He says that the reaction to imminent execution that will interest the public is not his own but the Chancellor's, as the door is locked. He points out that, as the events are being broadcast live, the State would risk losing its status in the eyes of the people by rescuing the Chancellor. Wordsworth proceeds to read from his illegal, long-hidden copy of the Bible (in particular, Psalm 23 and Psalm 59). Wordsworth's calm acceptance of death stands in sharp contrast with the Chancellor's increasing panic.
Moments before the bomb explodes, the Chancellor begs to be let go "in the name of God". Wordsworth releases the Chancellor immediately "in the name of God". The bomb explodes and kills Wordsworth, who dies with satisfaction while holding his Bible.
Due to his shameful display in Wordsworth's room, the Chancellor is replaced by his own subaltern. The new Chancellor denounces his predecessor as a hypocrite and a traitor to the ideals of the state - and, therefore, obsolete. The former Chancellor screams that he is not obsolete, but is enveloped and overwhelmed by loyal members of the state...who rip him to pieces.
|“||The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions, but convinces nobody. When it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all. Any state, any entity, any ideology which fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man...that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under "M" for "Mankind" - in The Twilight Zone.||”|
(text in bold scripted but not used)
- Burgess Meredith as Romney Wordsworth
- Fritz Weaver as The Chancellor
- Josip Elic as The Subaltern
- Harry Fleer
- Harold Innocent as Man in Crowd
- Jane Romeyn
- 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
- Peak, Alexander S. (2006). "The Obsolete Man." LewRockwell.com.