Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 3 (Mr. Denton on Doomsday)

WARNING:  This review gives away the entire plot, including the ending.

Al Denton is not a sober man.  He used to be a pretty good gunslinger, but is now the town drunk.  He’ll let people bully and humiliate him if they at least buy him a drink afterwards.  What led to this kind of downfall?  Al killed a 16-year-old opponent.  He let his ability define him and it cost someone their life.  After a gun mysteriously appears beside Al, he accidentally makes two lucky, although not fatal, shots that earn him a measure of respect.  He gets a shave and starts refusing drinks.  It’s not long before a man named Pete Grant challenges Al.

This troubles Al, since he knows that most duels tend to end in death.  He doesn’t want a repeat of his last duel, but he can’t outright refuse.  Thus, he decides to skip town.  This is where Fate intervenes.  Specifically, Henry J. Fate.  Henry is a traveling salesman who happens to have just what Al needs.  This special potion would make Al the fastest draw for ten seconds.  Henry gives Al one to try now and another one for the duel, both at no cost.

When the time comes, Al notices that Pete has a similar vial.  Rather than lose the advantage, Al fires resulting in both Al and Pete shooting the other’s hand.  With both men unable to ever fire again, the duel is considered a draw.  Al tells Pete that this is actually a win for both, as they’ll never be able to kill in anger again.  Al learned this lesson late in life, but Pete is lucky to have the rest of his life ahead of him.

This was one of the Twilight Zone episodes where I felt that some of the historical context was lost on me.  I get that the moral of the story is that violence begets violence, but I felt like there was something about the story that I was missing.  This may have to do with the fact that westerns aren’t as popular as they once were, so the story seems strange me.

Then, there’s the title:  Mr. Denton on Doomsday.  Had I not seen the episode, I might have assumed it was a lecture.  However, part of the episode is about how he deals with his own personal doomsday.  It almost seems like an analogy to mutually assured destruction.  Neither man has an advantage, in that using the special potion leaves both sides unable to fight again.

It would be interesting to get some comments as to the history surrounding the episode.  If you have Netflix, it would make for an interesting watch, at least.  As you might imagine, it’s not an episode for small children.  There’s no blood, but there are a few gunfights shown.  I’d recommend some discretion for parents.

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