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"Steel" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.
"Sports item, circa 1974: Battling Maxo, B2, heavyweight, accompanied by his manager and handler, arrives in Maynard, Kansas, for a scheduled six-round bout. Battling Maxo is a robot, or, to be exact, an android, definition: 'an automaton resembling a human being.' Only these automatons have been permitted in the ring since prizefighting was legally abolished in 1968. This is the story of that scheduled six-round bout, more specifically the story of two men shortly to face that remorseless truth: that no law can be passed which will abolish cruelty or desperate need - nor, for that matter, blind animal courage. Location for the facing of said truth: a small, smoke-filled arena just this side of the Twilight Zone."
In a future where boxing between human fighters has been criminalized, the sport is dominated by fighting robots. Former boxer Steel Kelly (played by Lee Marvin) manages a B2-model robot called "Battling Maxo". Maxo is an older model that is no longer in demand. Kelly and his partner, Pole, have used the last of their money to get to the fight venue. They are being given this chance because one of the scheduled fighters was damaged in transport. Kelly has to assure the fight promoter that Maxo will be able to fight. After the fight promoter leaves, Kelly and Pole argue about Maxo's fitness. Kelly feels that Maxo should be able to go through with the fight despite its age and condition. Pole tests Maxo's functions, and an arm spring fails. They do not have the parts or the money to fix him. Kelly decides that he will disguise himself as Maxo in order to collect the money necessary for repairs. Despite a valiant effort, he is unable to damage the B7 robot he is fighting, even when he lands an unblocked punch directly in the back of its head. He is nearly killed but manages to last a little under three minutes. The crowd jeers and boos at Maxo's performance, not knowing that it is a human doing the fighting. Afterwards, the fight promoter will only give them half the prize money because of "Maxo's" poor performance; Kelly dares not protest, or the promoter will recognize him as "Maxo" and renege entirely. Kelly, bruised but stubborn as ever, tells Pole that they will use the money to get the parts to fix Maxo.
"Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
On The Twilight Zone next comes more exciting work from the typewriter of Richard Matheson. Our show is called "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". William Shatner and Christine White share performing honors in an aircraft, but it's the kind of flight none of us have ever experienced and, I might add, I hope none of us ever will. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", next time out on The Twilight Zone.
- Cayuga Productions
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (in association with)
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
Home media release
- Inspired the film "Real Steel".
- I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot, a 2004 episode of The Simpsons was inspired by this episode
- This was the first episode sponsored by Procter & Gamble (alternating sponsorship with American Tobacco), who usually "pitched" Crest toothpaste, Lilt Home Permanent, and Prell shampoo, among their other products. Serling was not required to endorse any of P&G's products at the end of their episodes.
- Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series