★★★★★ May 2, 1963 Season 4 Episode 16
If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.
This is a not just a great episode…it’s a classic one. The episode takes place in 2021. James Whitmore plays Captain William Benteen and his acting in this is top notch. The writing also is one of Rod Serling’s best scripts. Captain Benteen reminded me of a cult leader…he doesn’t make the Jim Jones jump but he is similiar. Loving, caring, power hungry, narcissistic, and dictatorial. You see all phases and you also see regret but only when it’s too late.
The people in this episode are a remnant society who left the Earth looking for an Eden, a place without war, without jeopardy, without fear. What they found was quite different. They have been here 30 years. The planet is a nightmare place of two suns, unending day and terrible meteor storms. Despair prevails among the 187 survivors of the original colony and suicide is not uncommon. Their thirty-year survival is attributable to one source: the iron leadership of Benteen, their self-appointed Captain.
If you only watch one hour long episode of the Twilight Zone…make it this one. Human nature is on full display in this episode…both the best and the worse. This is a science-fictional examination of the positive and negative uses of power.
From IMDB: The cave that the colonists use as their meeting hall was originally the underground lair of the Morlocks in The Time Machine (1960).
When the rescue ship from Earth arrives, several colonists ask about various places on Earth during a meeting between the ship’s crew and the colonists. One of the questions is about the Finger Lake District of New York. This area had a special significance to script writer Rod Serling. It is located close to his home town of Binghamton, he and his family vacationed there frequently, and Serling named his company that produced “The Twilight Zone,” Cayuga Productions, after one of the lakes. He later taught at Ithaca College for the last five years before his death.
The striking diorama backgrounds of the planet, the model and the large-scale prop of the rescue ship sent to bring the colonists home, and the uniforms of the rescue crew were all originally created for Forbidden Planet (1956). This was a recurring feature on “The Twilight Zone” which was frequently filmed at MGM Studios, and often prominently featured recycled props and set pieces from “Forbidden Planet”. The previous episode, “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” featured copies of the original blueprints of designs for Robby the Robot, created by MGM production designer Robert Kinoshita.
This show was written by Rod Serling
Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
This is William Benteen, who officiates on a disintegrating outpost in space. The people are a remnant society who left the Earth looking for a millennium, a place without war, without jeopardy, without fear, and what they found was a lonely, barren place whose only industry was survival. And this is what they’ve done for three decades: survive; until the memory of the Earth they came from has become an indistinct and shadowed recollection of another time and another place. One month ago a signal from Earth announced that a ship would be coming to pick them up and take them home. In just a moment we’ll hear more of that ship, more of that home, and what it takes out of mind and body to reach it. This is the Twilight Zone.
The colonists of Pilgrim I, Earth’s first space colony, have spent 30 years on their new home. It’s a lonely, barren place more akin to hell then Eden. Now, they’re awaiting the arrival of a ship to take them to Earth. Some colonists are at their wits’ end; another – the 9th in 6 months – commits suicide. Their leader, William Benteen, a tough drill sergeant-type, who they call Captain, does his best to keep them together. When the ship arrives, they’re given 3 days to prepare to leave. As the day of departure approaches, Benteen’s assumption that the community will stay together on Earth, is wrong; most will go their own way once on earth. Hearing this, Benteen decides they should stay. When the group decides otherwise, Benteen’s left with only one option.
Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
William Benteen, who had prerogatives: he could lead, he could direct, dictate, judge, legislate. It became a habit, then a pattern and finally a necessity. William Benteen, once a god, now a population of one.
Rod Serling … Narrator / Self – Host (uncredited)
James Whitmore … Captain William Benteen
Tim O’Connor … Colonel Sloane
James Broderick … Al
Paul Langton … George
Jo Helton … Julie
Mercedes Shirley … Joan
Russ Bender … Hank
Danny Kulick … Jo-Jo (as Daniel Kulick)
Madge Kennedy … Colonist
John Ward … Colonist
Shirley O’Hara … Colonist
Tony Benson … Colonist (as Anthony Benson)
Lew Gallo … Lt. Engle