A chillingly prophetic Twighlight Zone Episode from the late fifties. Predicting independent education and religion will be obsolete someday. Need I say more?
Tags: Obsolete Religion Christianity Education Library Books Learning Bible Teaching Twilight Zone Big Brother
Added: 3 years ago
In a future totalitarian state, Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) is a man put on trial for the crime of being "obsolete". His occupation as a librarian is a crime punishable by death, as the State has eliminated literacy. He also believes in God, also punishable by death, as the State has declared that there is no God. He is prosecuted by the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver), who announces in front of the assembled court that Wordsworth, in not being an asset to the State, shall be liquidated.
After being convicted, Wordsworth is allowed to choose his method of execution. He cryptically requests that he be granted a personal assassin to whom he may privately disclose his preferred method of execution. He also requests that his execution be televised. Both requests are granted by the court.
A camera is installed in Wordsworth's study to broadcast his final hours and execution live to the nation. He summons the Chancellor, who shows up at exactly 11:16 p.m. After some discussion, Wordsworth reveals to the unsuspecting Chancellor that he has locked the door, and that his chosen method of execution is by an explosive hidden in the room that is set to go off at midnight. He intends to show the nation how a spiritual man faces death, and proceeds to read Psalm 23 and the beginning of Psalm 53, among others, from his illegal copy of the Bible. He also points out that, as the events are being broadcast live, the State will risk losing its status in the eyes of the people by trying to rescue the Chancellor. As the time draws to a close, Wordsworth's calm acceptance of death stands in sharp contrast with the Chancellor's increasing panic.
Moments before the bomb explodes, the Chancellor, in a desperate plea, finally begs the old man to let him go, "in the name of God." Wordsworth remarks that "in the name of God" he will let him out, and immediately releases the Chancellor.
The Chancellor bursts out of the room and down the stairs just as the bomb explodes and kills Wordsworth.
In the final scene, he returns to the courtroom to discover that a new Chancellor has been appointed to replace him and he is accused of obsolescence: "You are a coward; the state has no use for a coward!" Immediately convicted, the crowd in the courtroom physically assaults him and carries him off.
In his closing narrative, Rod Serling says the Chancellor was wrong about one thing: any state capable of judging its own citizens obsolete is itself obsolete.
"Twilight Zone" (Season 2, Episode 29) - "Obsolete"
The Obsolete Man
Written by Rod Serling
Setting: A large board with a long table and humongous podium. On the side of the room are many government officials robotically and sequentially next to each other. At each end of the table is a microphone with one end having seat with a State secretary. Above the secretary, is a podium with the State Chancellor Standing at top with a grip of files and his own microphone as well.
Secretary: Wordsworth, Romney, Obsolescence. (Turning to Chancellor) He's waiting, Chancellor.
Chancellor: Order him in.
Secretary: Wordsworth, Romney, Obsolescence.
(A feeble man walks through two large doors. Behind him are other people awaiting their fate in a waiting room. As the two doors close, he is led by a guard to his microphone. His eyes have a look of confusion, awe, and fear as he looks around the word. The Narrator's voice comes over the scene.)
The Narrator: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. (Camera pans to Narrator)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 advancements, 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.(Camera switches to the convicted man) 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.
Chancellor:Wordsworth, Romney, Field Investigation Finding Obsolescence. Do you know why you're here Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: Yes sir...
Chancellor: I'd ask you to speak up a little if you will, Mr.Wordsworth.
Wordsworth: Yes, sir, I know why I'm here....
Chancellor: You've been under investigation, Mr.Wordsworth for the mandatory period of 1 year and 11 months, you are found to be obsolete. The purpose of this hearing to make a finding in the matter and make a sentence accordingly. Do you understand that?
Wordsworth: I understand that.
Chancellor: Your occupation Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: A librarian, sir....
(Crowd jeers confusingly)
Chancellor: (Puzzled and angrily).....A what!?
Wordsworth: A librarian, sir...
Chancellor: (To Secretary) Has this man had counsel?
Secretary: Yes,sir, he has.
Chancellor: Has he been given orientation?
(As this goes on, Wordsworth steps back into the darkness, as if knowing his fate)
Chancellor: Mr.Wordsworth, I've been told you've been given couns(notices he's out of the light)...STEP BACK INTO THE LIGHT, MR.WORDSWORTH!
(Wordsworth steps back into the light)
Chancellor: I'm told you've been given Counsel,Mr. Wordsworth. but I'm still not sure, in my own mind, you understand the nature of this hearing. The field investigators in your sector have classified you as obsolete, this finding carries with it serious implications. Do you understand that, Mr.Wordsworth?
Chancellor:I'd ask you again, your occupation Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: I AM a librarian, that IS my occupation, that is my PROFESSION. If you people choose to call that obsolete...
Secretary: Request clarification of the term...
Chancellor: Yes...Mr.Wordsworth, the term "You people," you make reference to The State?
Wordsworth: I make reference to The State.
Chancellor: And you persist in declaring your occupation as being that of a librarian. Is that correct?
Wordsworth: Yes, sir, that's correct.
Chancellor: A librarian. Having to do...with books.
Wordsworth:(Proudly) Yes sir...books!
Chancellor: Since there are no more books, Mr.Wordsworth, there are no more libraries, and ,of course, as it follows , there is very little call for the services of a librarian. Case in point: A minister. A minister would tell us that his function is that of preaching the word of God. And since it follows that since The State has proven that there is no God, that would make the function of a minister quite academic as well....
Wordsworth: There IS a God!!
(Crowd jeers in shock. The chancellor looks angry)
Chancellor: You are in error, Wordsworth. There is NO GOD! (To the crowd) The STATE HAS PROVEN THAT THERE IS NO GOD!!
Wordworth: You cannot erase God, with an edict!
(Crowd is even more in shock at Wordsworth)
Chancellor:You are obsolete, Mr.Wordsworth!
Wordsworth: A lie, no man is obsolete!
Chancellor: You have no function, Mr.Wordsworth. You're an anachronism, like a ghost from another time....
Wordsworth: I am nothing more than a reminder to you that you cannot destroy truth by burning pages!
Chancellor: You're a bug,Mr.Wordsworth. A crawling insect. An ugly, misformed, little creature, that has no purpose here, no meaning!
Wordsworth: I am a human being...
Chancellor: You're a librarian, Mr.Wordsworth. You're a dealer in books and two-cent finds and pamphlets and closed stacks and the musty insides of a language factory that spews out meaningless words on an assembly line. WORDS, Mr.WORDSworth. That have no substance, no dimension, like air, like the wind. Like a vacuum, that you make believe have an existence, by scribbling index numbers on little cards.
Wordsworth: I don't care. I tell you: I don't care. I'm a human being, I exist....and if I speak one thought aloud, that thought lives, even after I'm shoveled into my grave.
Chancellor: Delusions, Mr.Wordsworth, DELUSIONS!! That you inject into your veins with printer's ink, the narcotics you call literature: The Bible, poetry, essays, all kinds, all of it are opiate to make you think you have a strength, when you have no strength at all!!! You are nothing, but spindly limbs and a dream, and The State has no use for your kind!!!! (Calming down) You waste our time, Mr.Wordsworth, and you're not worth the waste. Instruct him!
Secretary: Romney Wordsworth, step back to await the finding of this board...
Wordsworth: Yes, sir...
(Wordsworth steps out of the light once again.Three state officials walk forward)
Chancellor: Ladies and Gentlemen, how do you find?
Secretary: Romney Wordsworth, Step forward.
(Wordsworth steps forward)
Secretary: The board finds you obsolete.
Chancellor: Your rights are as followed, Mr.Wordsworth, you are to be liquidated within a period of 48 hours, but you have a option as to method and precise time. There are several prescribed methods, Mr.Wordsworth: pills, gas, electrocution...and it can be done immediately, or an hour from now, or any specific time you request.
Wordsworth: (Pauses and smiles with glee and inspiration) I am a very rich man...
Wordsworth: Oh, I merely said that I am a very rich man, I have such a luxury of choices.....that I choose the following: to be given an assassin to whom I shall tell the method of my execution...
Secretary: (To Chancellor) This is unheard of!
Chancellor: Mr.Wordsworth,we don't understand the nature of the request...
Wordsworth: Simply, that you are to assign me my assassin, but only he and I are to know the way that I am to die.
Chancellor: That would be acceptable Mr. Wordsworth, provided that you are eliminated within the 48 hour period.
Wordsworth: Oh, yes...and one final request... I should like to die...with an audience.
Chancellor: Ahhh, Mr.Wordsworth(looking gleefully) that can be arranged indeed. It is not unusual that we televise executions, it has an educative effect on the population.
Wordsworth: I have no doubt...
Chancellor: Now as to the time of the liquidation, Mr.Wordsworth?
Chancellor: And the place?
Wordsworth: In my room...
Chancellor: Agreed, Mr.Wordsworth. We will choose your liquidator and send him over to you. He will be duty bound not to divulge the method you have decided upon. That will be all Mr.Wordsworth. You may leave and return to your room.
(The Doors open back up as Wordsworth walks out.)
Secretary: *whisper* An odd one and with very bizarre requests...
Chancellor: Bizarre, yes, but to our advantage. We will show the people how this...obsolete man...this librarian...dies...
END ACT ONE