Twilight Zone S4 – No Time Like the Past (03/07/63)

tznotime01Well, its obvious we’re watching another Serling script.  The opening four minutes of the episode consists of two men barely moving, and giving speeches rather than conversing. There are are, however, some cool sets.

After adjusting a few settings, talkative Harvey sends his long-winded friend Paul Driscoll back in time.  Driscoll’s first stop is 1945 Hiroshima where he — the only Caucasian in WWII Japan — has somehow managed to get a meeting with a high-ranking official after just 6 hours.  Sadly, he has demonstrated a Marty McFlyian grasp of timelines.  Rather than giving himself enough time to make a real difference, he now has only a few minutes to convince the official that Hiroshima is about to have the big burrito dropped on it.  Sadly, Driscoll’s warnings are not heeded and Hiroshima is indeed bombed, saving 200,000 allied lives that would have been lost in a land invasion.  Wait, I’m not seeing the problem here.

tznotime04Next, Driscoll is transported to 1939 WWII Germany, although apparently a bizarro-world where the Nazi flag spins in the opposite direction.  We are treated to some fabulous footage of noted bad-egg, Adolph Hitler. Driscoll unpacks a rifle and points it at Der Fuhrer ranting on a balcony. He expertly assembles the rifle, loads it, dispatches a hot maid, gets Schicklgruber in the cross-hairs, and I’m not sure what happens — the gun doesn’t jam, but the bullet doesn’t fire.  He ejects it and reloads, but the SS busts in. Again, he could have built in a little more time; maybe by killing baby Hitler, especially if he was crying in a theater.

Finally, Driscoll materializes on the Lusitania before it is to be torpedoed by the Krauts. Having not learned his lesson, he has only allowed himself 5 minutes to warn the Captain.  Sadly, he fails here also and returns to the time tunnel.

The professor tells him that the past is inviolate, rather than in sepia which everyone expects; it can’t be changed.  Driscoll decides to try another trip to the past.  This time, using the miraculous machine to travel back for good, to find a home in 19th century Indiana.

tznotime11Ending right here would have made a middling 30 minute episode. However, in the most blatant padding seen yet in the 4th season, this opening bears about as much relevance to the rest of the story as a Simpson’s couch gag.  But did the 2nd half pad out the 1st half, or vice versa?

We next see Driscoll walking down the street in 1881 which he describes as being a paradise, free of “atomic bombs and world wars.”  Although, he must be avoiding eye-contact with all the widowed women, fatherless children, and dudes with missing limbs from the Civil War, less than 20 years past.

He heads to a bar because, in 1881, it is happy hour all the time — $.05 beers.  He spots a newspaper that says President Garfield is coming there to give a speech.  He realizes that Garfield will be assassinated on that date, but opts to let history takes its course.  At the boarding house he is hot for schoolmarm Abigail Sloan and decides to let nature take its course.  Sadly, the owner tells hims she’s “a moral girl.  I mean real moral.”

tznotime09One night at dinner the other boarders are treated to more speeches.  Another resident pontificates about how America should plant its flag everywhere and bring civilization and freedom to the world with an army of a million men. Then he goes off on the Indians, wishing “we had 20 George Custers . . . as if you could actually make savages understand treaties.”

Driscoll is seething at the man’s ranting.  He finally responds, “I’m just some kind of sick idiot who’s seen too many young men die because of too many old men like you who fight their battles at dining room tables.”  Hard to argue with that, but then he continues on and on.  It’s a good speech, and makes valid points; it just lacks the natural cadence of a conversation.  Despite their opposing positions, Driscoll is no less of a dogmatic blowhard than the warmonger.

Driscoll walks out and Abigail follows him.  He kisses her, but President Garfield cockblocks him by being assassinated.  He tells Abigail that they can’t do this because it is wrong, especially with her.  Barring another Marty McFlyian imbroglio, I never could figure out his meaning.

Driscoll remembers a tragedy that will befall the town and Abigail.  While trying to prevent the tragedy, he actually causes it.  Distraught, he goes back to his own time. His lesson: You can’t do anything about the yesterdays, so change the tomorrows.

I really didn’t care for it the first time around.  Fortunately, I fell asleep and had to view it again.  There are several weaknesses: Serling’s speechifying, the feeling that this was two episodes jammed together, Dana Andrews’ monotone performance, the similarity to other episodes . . . where was I?  Oh, yeah, I disliked it less on a subsequent viewing; not a ringing endorsement, I know.

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