"The Purple Testament" is the nineteenth episode of the The Twilight Zone.

From the CBS Video Library cover:

"It's 1945 in the Philippines. As members of the war-weary U.S. infantry prepare for another confrontation with the Japanese, Lieutenant Fitzgerald lives in a private war-time hell of his very own. When he looks into the faces of his men prior to a battle, he sees a peculiar light on the faces of those who are about to die."[1]

Episode Details

Opening Narration

"Infantry platoon, U.S. Army, Phillipine Islands, 1945. These are the faces of the young men who fight, as if some omniscient painter had mixed a tube of oils that were at one time earth brown, dust gray, blood red, beard black, and fear - yellow white, and these men were the models. For this is the province of combat, and these are the faces of war."

Episode Summary

William Fitzgerald ("Fitz"), a lieutenant serving in World War II, suddenly gains the mysterious ability to discover who is about to die via a strange flash of light across the person's face. After correctly predicting several deaths, he tells his friend Captain Riker what he is able to see, but the Captain does not know whether to believe him or not. Riker consults with a doctor, Captain Gunther, who thinks it may be fatigue and suggests that the lieutenant should take a leave of rest. Fitzgerald goes to a hospital to see one of his men, Smitty, who is supposed to pull through. But he sees the strange light across the soldier's face and knows his fate. Later, his prediction has come true, and he makes a scene in the hospital in front of Captain Gunther. Back at their tent, Fitz reveals to Riker he has seen the light on his face. Though he tells Fitz to forget it and get ready for battle, the Captain sets out some of his personal possessions — a few photographs and his wedding ring — before he goes into combat. In the camp, the men argue about the rumors of the lieutenant's predictions, but Riker tells all the soldiers there that there are no "mind readers" in the camp. Fitz, seeing the men's faces and realizing he could cause mutiny (and that none of them are fated to die), agrees with the captain. In the ensuing battle, all return except for Riker, who is killed by a sniper. Captain Gunther brings news to Fitzgerald that he is being sent back to division headquarters for some much needed rest, but as the lieutenant gathers his gear, he sees the light flash across his own face in a mirror. A jeep driver comes to pick up Fitzgerald for the ride to HQ, and Fitzgerald sees the light also flash across the driver's face. Fitzgerald becomes distant, as if resigned to fate. The Sergeant sends the two off, telling the driver to be careful as they go; they have not completely checked the area for land mines on the road ahead. As the soldiers are gathered around the camp at dusk, the sound of an explosion is heard in the distance.

Closing Narration

"From William Shakespeare, Richard the Third, a small excerpt. The line reads, 'He has come to open the purple testament of bleeding war.' And for Lieutenant William Fitzgerald, A Company, First Platoon, the testament is closed. Lieutenant Fitzgerald has found the Twilight Zone."

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next week on The Twilight Zone, we offer you the unbelievable along with an explanation. Three men visit a strange new world with people, cars, houses, the works, but something's wrong in the scene, something very abnormal amidst the normal. You'll see what I mean when, next week, we bring you "Elegy" by Charles Beaumont. It stars Cecil Kellaway. Thank you and good night.

Background Information


  • Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
  • Dick York as Captain Phil Riker
  • Wiliam Reynolds as Lieutenant Fitzgerald
  • William Phipps as Sergeant
  • Barney Phillips as Captain E.L. Gunther
  • S. John Launer as Lieutenant Colonel
  • Michael Vandever as Smitty
  • Paul Mazursky as Orderly
  • Marc Cavell as Freeman
  • Warren Oates as Jeep Driver
  • Ron Masak as Harmonica Man
  • Robert McCord as Man Walking In Lobby; uncredited


  • Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
  • Buck Houghton (producer)
  • George T. Clemens (director of photography)
  • Bill Mosher (film editor)
  • Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
  • George W. Davis (art director)
  • William Ferrari (art director)
  • Rudy Butler (set decorator)
  • Henry Grace (set decorator)
  • Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
  • Edward O. Denault (assistant director; credited: Edward Denault)
  • Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
  • Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
  • Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)

Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1960) (USA) (TV) (original airing)


  • United Productions of America (UPA) (animated title)


  • This episode takes place in the Philippines in January 1945.
  • Dean Stockwell was originally cast in the lead role, but was unable to appear. He would later star in the similarly themed episode "A Quality of Mercy".
  • The concept of seeing a light on the face of those who are about to die was readdressed in "Into the Light", an episode of the 2002 revival series.
  • This is one of several episodes from Season One with its opening title sequence plastered over with the opening for Season Two. This was done during the Summer of 1961 as to help the season one shows fit in with the new look the show had taken during the following season.
  • The title is from a quote from William Shakespeare's play Richard The Second, act 3, scene 3. (It is NOT from Richard The Third as the Rod Serling narration claims.) "He is come to open the purple testament of bleeding war."
  • The house in which Fitzgerald confronts Gunther and Riker is a redress of the set used in "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine."

Cast Connections

  • Riker (Dick York) says "None of us is a mind-reader." York later starred in A Penny for Your Thoughts in which his character gained telepathy.

Broadcast Date Controversy

On the same day as the screening of the episode, director Richard Bare and star William Reynolds, then filming the TV series The Islanders, were in a plane crash, with one person on board the plane being killed in the crash. Reynolds claimed Rod Serling pulled the episode from its scheduled screening date, out of concern for the families of Reynolds and Bare. In his 1982 book The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree also makes this same claim. However, Zicree evidently failed to research the date of the plane crash, as he lists an initial broadcast date for "The Purple Testament" of February 12, 1960, the very date of the crash. In his exhaustively researched 2008 book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, Martin Grams concludes that the episode did indeed air as originally scheduled on February 12, 1960, despite Reynolds' statements. Though there is still some controversy surrounding this point, to date no-one has offered proof that the episode did not air on that date in any US market.

Notes and References

  1. CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0310 "Walking Distance/Nightmare at 20,000 Feet/The Midnight Sun/The Purple Testament" ; UPC: 000310060008, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)

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