The Obsolete Man

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"The Obsolete Man"
The Twilight Zone episode
Burgess Meredith The Twilight Zone 1961.JPG
Burgess Meredith as Romney Wordsworth in The Obsolete Man
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 29
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Written by Rod Serling
Featured music Stock
Production code 173-3661
Original air date June 2, 1961
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"
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List of season 2 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"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'.

Opening narration[edit]


In a future totalitarian state, Romney Wordsworth is put on trial for being obsolete. His professed occupation as a librarian is a crime punishable by death as the State has eliminated books. He believes in God, also a capital crime, as 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 method 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. Their discussion reveals that Wordsworth was a carpenter prior to retiring, explaining why he was not tried for obsolescence earlier in life. Wordsworth reveals that his chosen method of execution is a bomb set to go off in the room at midnight. He says that the death 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. The bomb explodes and kills Wordsworth alone.

Due to his shameful display in Wordsworth's room, the Chancellor is replaced by his own subaltern and found guilty of being obsolete. The former Chancellor screams that he is not obsolete, but is enveloped and overwhelmed by the crowd.

Closing narration[edit]

(text in bold scripted but not used)



  • 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."

External links[edit]