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"The Obsolete Man" was the 29th and final episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in June of 1961. It starred Meredith Burgess as Romney Wordsworth, an "obsolete" librarian and Fritz Weaver as a "Chancellor" in a future totalitarian state. This would be Meredith Burgess' third appearance on The Twilight Zone, and the first time he would appear in a purely dramatic role. This review will include a full review of the plot, including spoilers.

In an unnamed totalitarian country in the distant future, librarian Wordsworth is brought up on charges of obsolescence, because as a librarian he has no use for a state that has decided that books are no longer needed. For his obsolescence, and for the crime of challenging the state, he is sentenced to euthanasia. He agrees, but asks that he be able to select the means of his death. After he does so, the chancellor comes to Wordsworth's apartment, where Wordsworth announces that he has arranged to be killed by a bomb and that the chancellor will die with him. The composed Wordsworth reads the Psalms while the Chancellor, with no religious faith to guide him, becomes more and more agitated, finally begging "in the name of God". The librarian releases him right before the bomb explodes. However, because he appealed to God in the televised execution, the chancellor is himself condemned to death.

For the second series finale of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling produced one of the most serious episodes yet. In my review for The Mind and the Matter, I wrote a summary of how The Twilight Zone has dealt with the issue of the individual and society in both serious and comedic veins, and without a single answer to the question. In this episode, the issue is taken more seriously than it has been before, and with the most explicitly political treatment. It also comes down as clearly on the side of the individual as possible. It also is the first Twilight Zone episode to have an explicitly (and even heavy handed) pro-religious message. In many other stories, Serling has made many other messages that were in favor of human creativity and belief, and against a reductionistic approach to humanity, but this is the first time that the message is phrased explicitly in terms of religious belief. I don't know if that is because Serling wanted to specifically advocate for Freedom of Religion, or whether he felt that his message in favor of the individual and against totalitarianism would most easily be understood by a wide audience in terms of religious belief.

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