"The Old Man in the Cave" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

" This episode is set in a post-apocalyptic 1974, ten years after a nuclear holocaust in the United States. The episode is a cautionary tale about humanity's greed and the danger of questioning one's faith."[1]

Episode Details

Opening Narration

"What you're looking at is a legacy that man left to himself. A decade previous he pushed his buttons and, a nightmarish moment later, woke up to find that he had set the clock back a thousand years. His engines, his medicines, his science were buried in a mass tomb, covered over by the biggest gravedigger of them all — a bomb. And this is the Earth ten years later, a fragment of what was once a whole, a remnant of what was once a race. The year is 1974, and this is the Twilight Zone."

Episode Summary

In a sparsely populated town set ten years after a nuclear war, the townspeople have discovered a supply of canned food but are waiting for Mr. Goldsmith to return from the cave to get the message from "the old man" to tell them whether it is contaminated with radiation. Some of them want to take their chances and eat the food, but they refrain from doing so after seeing the disastrous harvest yielded when they did so with their choice of land rather than taking the old man's advice about which areas were contaminated. When Mr. Goldsmith, the town's leader, returns, he informs them that the old man has declared the food contaminated and that it should be destroyed. When a group of soldiers enter the town, they try to dispel the townspeople's strange beliefs about the man in the cave. It is ultimately revealed that in reality they have been listening to a computer the whole time (no explanation is given, however, as to who, why or how the computer was placed there, or what had been powering it all this time). In a fit of rage at being deceived, the town destroys the computer and eat the canned goods it claimed were contaminated. However, as Mr. Goldsmith had insisted, the "old man" was correct; without an authority figure to tell them which foods are safe, the entire town (including the soldiers) dies — except for the lone survivor, Mr. Goldsmith.

Closing Narration

"Mr. Goldsmith, survivor, an eye witness to man's imperfection, an observer of the very human trait of greed and a chronicler of the last chapter — the one reading 'suicide'. Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been the Twilight Zone."

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next on The Twilight Zone, the distinguished Sir Cedric Hardwicke lends us his considerable talent along with the very accomplished Miss Constance Ford. They appear in what can most aptly be described as one of the shockers in our schedule. The play is called "Uncle Simon". And this, we submit, is a relative you've never met before. It's a story with a final curtain I doubt anyone can predict. Next on Twilight Zone, "Uncle Simon".


In the post-apocalyptic world presented in the episode, humanity has destroyed itself, but does so again through "greed, desire and faithlessness". It is thus a warning not to ignore faith, which often serves an important purpose in society. The events in the episode show that myths and beliefs are often based on fact or necessity, as is the case with the "old man" who, despite being a computer, was ultimately keeping his "followers" alive. According to Valerie Barr of Hofstra University, it also "turns the usual notion of overreliance on technology on its head" by suggesting an interdependence with machines when it is revealed that a man-made computer has been keeping the townspeople alive. A suggested learning plan accompanying this episode for the Sci Fi Channel's participation in Cable in the Classroom provides a platform for exploring ideas about war, faith, and the question of whether humans control computers or vice-versa.

Notes and Annotations

Film critic Andrew Sarris noted in his review of "Time Enough at Last" that, at the time The Twilight Zone was produced, depicting an atom bomb explosion or its aftermath on network television would likely have been prohibited if it had been "couched in a more realistic format". Hence, in both this episode and "The Shelter", Serling makes a point of noting that the story is intended to be fictional, particularly given both are set in the United States.

Technical Information



Production Companies


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

Errors and Goofs

Memorable Quotes

Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series

See Also

Notes and References


  1. CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #? "?/?"; UPC: ?, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)


External Links

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