Twilight Zone – The Obsolete Man

★★★★★  June 2, 1961 Season 2 Episode 29

If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.

This episode is a cautionary tale of a totalitarian state of the near future. This one ranks as one of the best of the series. The government in The Obsolete Man determines if you are necessary or as the title states…obsolete.  The plot was running theme with Serling who wrote about the fascist governments of World War II that he encountered while in the war…and the suppression of the inherent rights of a human being.

.It has two main characters. Romney Wordsworth, a Christian librarian played by Burgess Meredith. The second is the Chancellor, played by Fritz Weaver. Both of them play off each other with sharp, powerful dialogue. Wordsworth is the victim in this but slowly turns the tables on the Chancellor until him, not the state, is in charge of the situation although it comes at a great cost. Casting again hit a homerun with this episode.

A five star classic and a grand finale to the 2nd season. This episode is not only a classic…but an important one to watch and learn…and should not to be forgotten

After the classic Meredith episode Time Enough at Last…books were again Meredith’s character main focal point.

This show was written by Rod Serling

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

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 futuristic totalitarian world, meek and mild-mannered librarian Romney Wordsworth finds himself on trial for being obsolete. This future society has decided on everything people need to know. There is no God and there are no books. Society doesn’t need librarians. Romney makes an impassioned plea about his rights and free will but the judge in the case, the Chancellor, will have nothing of it. The jury finds Romney obsolete and orders him to be executed. As he can choose the method of his death, Romney’s plans include a little surprise for the Chancellor.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. 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.


Rod Serling…Narrator
Burgess Meredith…Romney Wordsworth
Fritz Weaver…Chancellor
Josip Elic…the Subaltern
Harry Fleer…Guard
Harold Innocent…Man in Crowd

My Life in the Shadow of The Twilight Zone: TZ Promo: “The Obsolete Man”  (6/02/1961)


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

22 thoughts on “Twilight Zone – The Obsolete Man”

  1. Definitely a 5 star classic – I was immediately reminded of dystopian classics like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 with the whole book angle. And what a perfect character name! Wordsworth. Even though he was meek and mild he was the strongest character. And I loved the turn around on the chancellor. As Christian says still timely even now. I think this would be in my top 5 so far

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I agree totally. I wish I could give more of the plot away. Someone could write for days on this one. I read other reviews that complained about the unrealistic off the bat strictness without explaining… you can only do what you can do in 30 minutes.

      I agree about 1984. Thanks Paul.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes agree that the speech of the chancellor veered a bit towards over the top but like you said they had to set the scene and the tone quickly since they just had 30 minutes. I commend Serling for putting subject matter like this on prime time TV back then

        Liked by 1 person

      1. watched it last night. Very good. double twist SPOILER FOR THOSE NOT SEEN IT YET : didn’t see the death by explosion coming, but was quite surprised when he let the Chancelor go… of course leading to the final plot twist. Well done. Somewhere in there was a line about logic being the enemy of the state. How appropriate for these times.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think they wanted to show he was human and didn’t want to act like the state…and he had mercy and understanding…something they lacked.


  2. I really love how they set up the room, all stark, with that giant podium the head honcho speaks from, with the scribe sitting in front and below it, the long table between the accused and the “judge,” the mob off to the side in the shadows. Great use of light and shadow in it. I also love how it shows what the book reader’s room looks like in comparison. It’s a quality episode and the message is clear. When I think of what’s been going on lately and how long ago this episode was aired, I have to shake my head. Will we ever learn? I wonder…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No…we will NEVER learn…not as a whole anyway. I loved how he turned the tables on the chancellor…not really on him but the government as a whole.

      Liked by 1 person

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