Episode #118 - On Thursday We Leave For Home

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Episode #118 - On Thursday We Leave For Home

Post  BoG on Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:26 pm

Air Date: 5/2/63  Arrow  written by Rod Serling  Arrow  Directed by Buzz Kulik


Rod Serling's 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...
James Whitmore as Benteen is what makes this a superior episode and my favorite of the 4th season. Whitmore is mesmerizing - first as the in-charge captain and shepherd of his despairing flock, then the nervous insecure man losing control and, finally, as the delusional madman, lost for those precious few moments... he makes this one truly unforgettable. The rest of the cast is also above par, notably James Broderick as one of the castaways and Tim O'Connor as the captain of the spaceship which finally arrives to rescue the group.
The backstory is that this group set out from Earth in 1991 to colonize a planet in the outer reaches of settled space. As depicted, life on this desert planet can be very bleak; suicides are not that uncommon among the group. Benteen has become, over the past 30 years, the glue that holds most of the stranded travelers together. He's developed a code of speech and a special routine for them all, almost forcing them all to survive day-to-day; most important, he retains a bit of hope for them all - that tiny bit of hope that a rescue ship will arrive.
And, the ship does arrive. Others familiar with the episode have made comparisons to Forbidden Planet (1956). The arrived ship and crew are very similar to those in that famous sf film, almost as if it's the same space fleet and the same sf universe. The planet itself is similar to Altair-IV in FP; however, the planet in this episode does have the two suns, which contribute to the intense, perpetual heat. So, if not the same planet, it still seems like it's the same future, perhaps a decade or two before the events of FP.

All this is interesting, but it's the personal story of Benteen that dominates the episode. The conclusion is shattering, as in many of the best TZ episodes, and delineates the essential self-destruction that seems inherrent in our species, despite all the honorable traits of perseverance and innovation. BoG's Score: 9 out of 10
By turns despairing, poetic, grim, fascinating and lyrical... this is the ultimate one-hour Twilight Zone episode.
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