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"The Obsolete Man" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

From the CBS Video Library cover:

"Librarian Romney Wordsworth is judged obsolete and sentenced to death by a Chancellor of a fascist State of the future that has banned all books and religion. He is granted three requests: that only his assassin know the method of his death, that he die at midnight the next day, and that he have a live TV audience. Forty-five minutes before he is to die, Wordsworth invites the Chancellor to his room. But he has more on his mind than a deathbed chat—he's determined to put both their ideologies to the test, and demonstrate just which man really is this world, and in the Twilight Zone."

Episode Details

Opening Narration

"You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He's a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he is built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in the Twilight Zone. "

Episode Summary

In a totalitarian society, Romney Wordsworth is condemned to death for the crime of being a librarian, and he is subjected to the harangues of the state's Chancellor and his lectures about Wordsworth's obsolescence (he is also rebuked over his belief in God, whom the state declares does not exist). Wordsworth, however, makes one final request - that he be allowed to choose his method of execution and that it be televised live to the society. A television camera is installed in Wordsworth's study to broadcast his final hours and execution live to the nation. He summons the Chancellor, who arrives at exactly 11:16 p.m. After some discussion, Wordsworth reveals to the Chancellor that his chosen method of execution is by a bomb set to go off in his room at midnight. He explains that the reaction to imminent execution that will interest the public is not his own but the Chancellor's, as the door is locked and there is no one outside to help the Chancellor escape. He intends to show the nation how a spiritual man faces death, and proceeds to read from his illegal, long-hidden copy of the Bible (in particular, Psalm 23). He also points out that, as the events are being broadcast live, the State would risk losing its status in the eyes of the people by trying to rescue the Chancellor. As the time draws to a close, Wordsworth's calm acceptance of death stands in sharp contrast with the Chancellor's increasing panic. Moments before the bomb explodes, the Chancellor desperately begs to be let go "in the name of God". Wordsworth says that "in the name of God" he will release the Chancellor immediately, which he does. The Chancellor bursts out of the room and down the stairs just as the bomb explodes and kills Wordsworth, who in his last seconds of life, stands tall and has a facial expression of peace and satisfaction. In the final scene, the Chancellor returns to the courtroom to discover that his own subaltern has replaced him and that he himself is now obsolete: "You have disgraced the State. You have proven yourself a coward. You have, therefore, no function." Immediately convicted, the former Chancellor screams as the crowd in the courtroom apprehends him. He continues to plead with the court, insisting that he is in fact not obsolete and wishes only to serve the State, but is dragged away.

Closing Narration

"The Chancellor - the late Chancellor - was only partly correct. He was obsolete, but so was the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under 'M' for mankind in the Twilight Zone."

Preview for Next Week's Story

I'm about to show you a picture of something that isn't what it looks like.[The picture is the street of an empty town.] Pleasant little town? It isn't this at all, it's a nightmare. It's a chilling frightening journey of one man into a mystifying unknown. You're invitied to join that man on a most experience. Next week Earl Holliman asks, and you'll ask with him, "Where Is Everybody?"


Totalitarianism, literature, government, religion


Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)

Home media release

This episode is included on the Image Entertainment Vol. 13 DVD along with "Judgment Night", "The Purple Testament" and "A Quality of Mercy".


  • Often thought of as one of the finest episodes.
  • Both the Chancellor and Romney Wordsworth's actors appeared in more than one other episode.
  • According to the Star Trek wiki, an unnamed actor in this episode also played Bobby in several episodes of Star Trek. For an unusual reason, Rod Serling, the creator, appeared in the closing narration. This would happen again in the season three episode, "The Fugitive."

Memorable Quotes

External Links

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at The Obsolete Man. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with A Fifth Dimension: The Twilight Zone Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.