Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 19 (The Purple Testament)

Sometimes, a character is given a gift to show that it can also be a curse.  What if a character was given something he knew to be a curse to begin with?  Lt. Fitzgerald is serving in World War II in the Philippines.  At the start of the episode, Fitzgerald is horrified that he can predict who in his company will die next.

The episode begins with him claiming to have foreseen four deaths.  Is he going crazy?  His superior officer, Capt. Phil Riker, consults the doctor, but there’s nothing that would indicate any mental problems.  Still, be sees an eerie light for a soldier in a bed; the soldier dies moments later.

When Riker says that he’ll go out on a mission, Fitzgerald begs him not to.  Fitzgerald has seen the light on Riker’s face, meaning Riker won’t be coming back; he doesn’t see the light on anyone else’s face.  When everyone comes back, there’s only one casualty.  The last death that Fitzgerald predicts is his own.  When he’s given orders to report back t headquarters, he doesn’t even resist.  He picks his stuff and leaves.

It’s not easy being Fitzgerald.  We do see the light on the faces of people destined to die, so we’re led to believe that he really does have this ability.  However, we don’t actually see many of the deaths.  The first four occur before the start of the episode.  Riker dies off screen, as does Fitzgerald.

It’s not explained how or why Fitzgerald can predict the deaths.  He simply can.  It’s possible that it was imagined, as he only really called two deaths that he could have prevented.  Maybe he just happened to be right twice.  Then again, would it matter?

It’s also not explained how long he’s had this ability.  He doesn’t explicitly state that the four men Fitzgerald told Riker about were his first four or how he knew that the light meant death.  It could have been an actual ability brought on by being surrounded by death.  He did call several deaths.

Either way, he really did need to get out of there.  Staying with that ability would have put an unfair burden on Fitzgerald, assuming he could actually do anything about it.  He doesn’t know how people will die.  It could be a bullet or a shaving accident.  He could have the condemned stay behind only to see them die another way.  It’s understandable that the episode didn’t go down this path.  The point is that war is hell.

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