Tales of Tomorrow – The Little Black Bag (05/30/52)

ttlittleblackbag1Tonight’s episode is once again sponsored by Masland Carpet Mills, makers of fine fishing- and smoking- wear.  The announcer pitches the company as special because it closes the mills for one day each year so the employees can go fishing.

Dr. Fulbright walks in the door from a tough day of doctoring perhaps even engaged in the archaic practice of house-calls.  Unfortunately, his call to his own house is met by his shrewish wife Angie. She immediately pumps him for how much money he earned today.  Actually, it turns out that he hasn’t been doing much doctoring lately.  He made a mistake and it destroyed his confidence.  His wife assure him, “You’re still a doctor — you’re still supposed to earn a living!”  Yeah, and the healing stuff too.

He slinks out vowing to get some money for his bitchy wife.  He ends up at a pawn shop to hock his medical bag.  The pawnbroker with a heart of gold (a real one, in addition to the ones in the jewelry display) doesn’t want to take the doctor’s bag, but he gives him $25.  He then offers to make it $20 and throw in an old medical bag that he had laying around.  Fulbright looks inside and finds some unusual instruments.

ttlittleblackbag3Fulbright goes home and hands his wife the $20.  She is about as appreciative as you would expect and asks him if he robbed a bank.  A neighbor frantically knocks at the door carrying her child.  Within seconds he diagnoses the girl with hemorrhagic encephalitis.  Having no alternative, Fulbright opens the new bag.  He sees now that there is a warning label that the instruments must be used ethically or the violator will be subject to the full penalty of the law.  Checking a handy enclosed symptom matrix, he finds a new-fangled syringe pre-loaded with an elixir for the girl.

He injects the girl and she is cured instantly.  Fulbright sees his new black bag as an opportunity to cure the afflicted.  His old white bag sees it as an opportunity to make a “million bucks.”  Using a magnifying glass, Fulbright sees the patent was applied for on ttlittleblackbag407/18/50 — that’s 2450! [1] 

Two years later, Fulbright is a successful practicing doctor.  He is giving the girl he cured a routine check-up. The fact that the 10 year old girl hasn’t grown an inch or changed her pig-tail hairstyle in in 2 years doesn’t seem to bother him. However, it bothers Angie that they still can’t afford to pay him.  She pushes Fulbright to make as much money as he can as fast as he can, but he feels bound ethically, and by the warning on the bag, to do good.

A woman comes in with a paralyzed arm and Fulbright is able to restore movement.  He tells his wife to bill the woman $50, but she thinks that is absurdly cheap.  Fulbright tells her that after much consideration, he wants to reveal his little black bag to the world. Angie threatens to tell the police how he had once killed a patient by showing up drunk to operate.

When he says that he mailed a letter the day before, she stabs him in the back with a scalpel.  Her plan to take the bag and make the millions herself is foiled when the warning on the label is carried out.  She sees that the bag is now full of straw.  We get a great close-up of her as people bang on the door.


  • [1] When Fulbright speaks the date, he mistakenly gives the day as the 15th.
  • Based on the same short story as the Night Gallery segment by the same name.
  • The neighbor went on to be the Duke Brothers’ maid in Trading Places 32 years later.
  • From the short story: Dogged biometricians had pointed out with irrefutable logic that mental sub-normals were outbreeding the mental normals and super-normals, and that the process was occurring on an exponential curve. 

Amen, brother.

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