Rod Serling's closing remarks from "The Obsolete Man"



Tremendous Share. In the Twilight Zone


America’s George Orwell. He would have found lots of material to work with in today’s political climate.
You know you’re doing a good job when the government puts you on a list.


Absolutely love that episode.

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I’ll just remind you that the guy in the episode was convicted for being a librarian and believing in God, and the episode was more pro-faith than pro-reason.

Also, this is, in fact, opening AND closing narration.


I like the one with a very young Dennis Hopper as a frustrated young neo-Nazi loser who is tutored by Hitler’s ghost. Watching him yell to an all white audience “We are the minority!” certainly seems current. There is no way on god’s green earth this could be made today because too many conservatives would complain they were being mocked.

Opening narration
“ Portrait of a bush-league Führer named Peter Vollmer, a sparse little man who feeds off his self-delusions and finds himself perpetually hungry for want of greatness in his diet. And like some goose-stepping predecessors, he searches for something to explain his hunger, and to rationalize why a world passes him by without saluting. That something he looks for and finds is in a sewer. In his own twisted and distorted lexicon he calls it faith, strength, truth. But in just a moment, Peter Vollmer will ply his trade on another kind of corner, a strange intersection in a shadowland called the Twilight Zone. ”

Closing narration
“ Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare - Chicago; Los Angeles; Miami, Florida; Vincennes, Indiana; Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there’s hate, where there’s prejudice, where there’s bigotry. He’s alive. He’s alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He’s alive because through these things we keep him alive.


We’ve had warning after warning, in every media known, all the way back to Julius Caesar. But do we listen? We sure do love us some alpha gorilla.


I’d have followed Dennis Hopper to the end of the world… and that’s where he’d probably have taken us… but what a party it would have been.


Ours is a civilization built by and for psychopaths.


It makes one wonder how much more traction Christians would have now if they didn’t have to pass so many ideological tests in order to be a “real” Christian, and if movement Christians weren’t so transparently pushing for religious totalitarianism.

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[quote=“Chentzilla, post:5, topic:39674”]
I’ll just remind you that the guy in the episode was convicted for being a librarian and believing in God, and the episode was more pro-faith than pro-reason.[/quote]

While I agree I feel there’s also room for broader interpretation. For one thing it seems me that Wordsworth’s real crime is refusal to conform. In this particular totalitarian state a Christian is a non-conformist, but it could just as easily be an atheist in a Christian state. Such a plot wouldn’t fly at the time (and maybe wouldn’t even now, at least not on mainstream TV).

What fascinates me, though, is that, in spite of his professed faith, Wordsworth psychologically tortures the Chancellor, and only releases him after his belief in God is revealed under duress. But is the Chancellor’s belief genuine, or is it of the “no atheists in a foxhole” variety? Also Wordsworth seems intent, up until the last moment, on killing the Chancellor. Murder would seem to be contrary to the Christian faith, at least as I understand it. And, on that point, does Wordsworth know that the Chancellor will also face execution for being “obsolete”?

For such a seemingly meek character Wordsworth seems pretty coldly calculating.


The totalitarian state in the episode is clearly based in part on the Soviet Union of the era, which did indeed curtail religious freedoms of its citizens, and where, among citizenry, maintaining religious traditions and pratices was seen as a somewhat radical counter-cultural choice (this, of course, has no relation to the imagined ‘persecution’ American Christians love to fantasize that they are the victims of in the contemporary US).


Serling was part of a generation of guys that saw combat in WW2 and came back staunch liberals. This included Lenny Bruce, Norman Mailer, J.D. Salinger and most of the giants of science fiction. Conservatives are conspicuously absent.


And that’s why I love the episode. It really isn’t all it seems.
Like a lot of Twilight Zones, it stands up to several viewings.

Wordsworth states, “You cannot erase God with an edict,” and I, an atheist, agree. People simply do or do not believe in a God, and that should be their choice.

Wordsworth also says that it’s because owning his Bible is a crime punishable by death that it’s his only possession with any value to him. He says that as a librarian, in a room full of books that are are outlawed. So, I have always had a problem with that line.

The chancellor is the one who proposes that although Hitler and Stalin were predecessors, they erred in not going far enough. According to him, too many undesirables were left around. (Old people who clutch at the past, the maimed, and the deformed.)

On this thread discussing 1900’s children arriving unattended to Ellis Island, I provided a link to the U.S. Immigration Act of 1907. That Act disallowed immigration to the for the following:

Sec. 2. That the following classes of aliens shall be Excluded
excluded from admission into the United States : All " “**”* "
idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane idiots, in-
persons, and persons who have been insane within five ^^°^’ ^ ‘^’ ’
years previous; persons who have had two or more at-
tacks of insanity at any time previously ; paupers ; per- gQ^^"^’^’’!)’ p^’^
sons likely to become a public charge ; " professional become’ a ^pub°
beggars; persons afflicted with tuberculosis or with a ‘’^jjjg|afedS
loathsome or dangerous contagious disease ; ^ persons not
comprehended within any of the foregoing excluded p^^g^icany’’ de-
classes who are found to be and are certified by the^ective;
examining surgeon as being mentally or physically de-
fective, such mental or physical defect being of a nature
which may affect the ability of such alien to earn a
living}" persons who have been convicted of or admit Criminals;
having committed a felony or other crime or misde-
meanor involving moral turpitude; polygamists, or per- Poiygamists;
sons who admit their belief in the practice of polygamy,
anarchists, or persons who believe in or advocate the Anarchists;
overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the
United States, or of all government, or of all forms of
law, or the assassination of public officials; prostitutes, ^^^fo^t '
or women or girls coming into the United States for the
purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral pur-
pose; persons who procure or attempt to bring in pros-

As an epileptic, I would have been disallowed entry to my home country had I tried to emigrate here in the early 1900s. I’m all kinds of undesirable.


Exactly. Could it be possible that an organization which tortured and killed thousands of “heretics”, which recommends cruelty towards children and often practices rape of children and which has historically colluded with power elites, monarchies and bloodthirsty governments, is not exactly Christian?

Could it be possible that the values of such an organization are not truly aligned with the Christ’s teaching itself?

Is it possible that its “sacred books” written-by-committee generations after the “real events” took place, do not reflect the teaching 100% accurately?


Such a quaint and antiquated piece of fiction. Modern fascists have gotten wise to this whole thing and now pretend to be the victims of oppression and in turn try to silence anyone that disagrees by accusing them of being communists and corrode liberties by a perpetual war on drugs and terrorism.

Such a shame we don’t have a more modern twilight zone.

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Indeed. That’s what makes this episode so fascinating. Wordsworth is condemned at least in part for being a Christian, but he seems much more aligned with the burners of heretics rather than the Biblical teachings of Christ. His tactics aren’t really any different from those of the State which condemns him.

I would certainly not call it quaint or antiquated, its relevance diminished sure, but only by obscurity, the underpinnings of totalitarianism are the same no matter what the expression.

The worst part of course is that there was a Twilight Zone, the people who watched it as kids/young men and women are still alive, many of them in power building a fascist state across the decades.
I’ll say it again, to claim this is antiquated, to say that a new TV show should come along to set you free is weird.

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