Thursday, January 17, 2013


Is it any surprise that this is my favorite episode so far?

Twilight Zone + Westerns = TV Gold

Here is the Twilight Zone near its best. As an audience, we're dragged through a full range of emotions, all of them earned.

Al Denton, when introduced, is pathetic. We witness as Denton will suffer any humiliation for a drop of drink. And those of us who have had any experience with addictions know that this moment is true. A silly song is a small price to pay for a moment's peace.

But, it's only ever a moment.

When Fate steps in, Mr. Denton stands up tall and strong once more. We learn how and why he was ever brought so low. And, again, we sympathize. And it feels good as Denton cleans up, gaining strength as he confesses his woes.

I'll stop walking through the plot.

What was amazing to me is how happy this all ends. Fate, often so callous and cruel, here hangs around simply to give a helping hand to two troubled souls.

"Mr. Henry Fate, dealer in utensils and pots and pans, linaments and potions. A fanciful little man in a black frock coat who can help a man climbing out of a pit—or another man from falling into one. Because, you see, Fate can work that the Twilight Zone."

Even more amazing is that Serling gets away with this title, Mr. Denton on Doomsday. There is no mention of any Doomsday during the episode. There is no end of the world scenario at all. It's much more personal than that. This is Mr. Denton on Mr. Denton's Doomsday. The end of an entire world and way of life for one man. In a sense, Denton had been living out a "Doomslife," a slow torment of a life in which not-feeling and not-acting were preferable to anything else. When the "final" Doomsday comes that Fate arranges for Mr. Denton, well, Al Denton sees things through to the other side. After Doomsday? New Life.

Final thought. Dan Duryea was no stranger to western films. I've seen him in two great westerns (Night Passage, Winchester '73; and I've seen him in a small role in Lang's so-so noir Ministry of Fear). As far as I know, he always played supporting roles. Only in the Twilight Zone could he take center stage. (EDIT: It only took me a minute to look it up after posting this. Duryea did indeed have a star role in at least one western, Al Jennings of Oklahoma, in which he plays Al Jennings of Oklahoma! Now, I'm really wanting to see that movie!).

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