The Twilight Zone Episode 49: Back There

General Information

Director: David Orrick McDearmon

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Russell Johnson, Paul Hartman, Bartlett Robinson, John Lasell, James Lyndon, Raymond Bailey, Raymond Greenleaf, John Eldredge, James Gavin, Jean Inness, Lew Brown, Carol Rossen, Nora Marlowe, and Pat O’Malley

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Air Date: 1/13/1961

Production Code: 173-3648

 

Overview

After discussing the nature of time travel with his peers, socialite Pete Corrigan (Russell Johnson) stumbles a hundred years into the past. Realizingthe-twilight-zone-back-there the date to be April 15, 1865, Corrigan warns the police about John Wilkes Booth and his plan to assassinate the President of the United States. Though Corrigan remains unable to plead his case in a compelling fashion, a mysterious individual named Jonathan Wellington (John Lasell) appears interested, almost suspiciously so, in the potential danger facing Abraham Lincoln.

“Back There” benefits from the performance of John Lasell, whose enigmatic portrayal of “Wellington” serves to conceal a major plot twist from the audience. That being said, the efforts of a solid cast are undermined by Rod Serling’s muddled—albeit occasionally thought-provoking—use of time travel.

 

Pros

the-twilight-zone-back-thereWhile working to prevent Lincoln’s untimely demise, Corrigan is complemented by an ominous musical arrangement from Jerry Goldsmith—a factor that accentuates the dramatic impact of a conflict frequently employed in science fiction fare (i.e. one or more characters traveling back in time to modify the outcome of unpleasant or catastrophic circumstances).

 

Cons

Corrigan immediately and inexplicably arrives in the past upon stepping outside one evening, leaving ambiguous the means by which time travel is the-twilight-zone-back-thereaccomplished. For this reason, “Back There” may frustrate those who prefer that temporal displacement be explored from a scientific rather than metaphysical perspective.

Also worth criticizing is the character of Corrigan, whose approach to saving Lincoln resembles that of a raving lunatic—hardly the response that many would expect of an esteemed figure. While one can surely empathize with Corrigan’s desperation to avert the tragedy at Ford’s Theatre, viewers may question why the protagonist—an otherwise intelligent and reasonable man—never employs a modicum of restraint when informing the authorities of Lincoln’s fate.

 

Analysis

(Spoilers beyond this point)

the-twilight-zone-back-thereBy operating on the premise that certain aspects of history can be altered while others cannot, “Back There” puts an intriguing spin on the time travel trope. No attempt is made, however, to explain why significant events (e.g. the assassination of President Lincoln) must occur without disruption, even though subtle changes to the timeline are shown to have taken place upon Corrigan’s return to the present.

 

Concluding Comments

Notwithstanding any logical flaws, “Back There” is a captivating thought experiment. Fans of The Twilight Zone are thus advised to view this entry, which offers a bizarre but delicately handled twist on the death of Abraham Lincoln.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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One thought on “The Twilight Zone Episode 49: Back There

  1. This is a great episode. I realize how some TZ time travel episodes have a time machine such as “Execution”, and others such as ” Walking distance”, “100 yards over the rim”, and this one seems to just have an invisible time portal that the character finds himself stepping through. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Corrigan’s friends are discussing time travel and debating whether the 1929 stock market crash could’ve been prevented. Carrigan then leaves and steps through that time portal right outside his heretige club.
    They made the 19th century look very convincing. I liked how they showed that streetlight turn into a candlelight when going back 100 years. They made the talking sound 19th century too such as “I’m from the army of the Republic of course”, or “Fords theater of course”. And the appearances of people convincing too, such as the mutton chops that several of the 19th century men in this episode had.The man who played Wellington, later revealed to be John Wilks Booth, looked very much like the real Booth.

    The interesting point discussed by Carrington’s friends at the club in this episode about whether time can be altered or not, you could see in this episode that the answer is no. Carrington tried his utmost to warn everybody about Lincoln being shot, yet could not stop it from happening.

    This is just a thought, an interesting idea, that Carrington going back in time and warning everybody is actually what caused Lincoln’s assassination. It’s a paradoxical situation, since Carrington holds the knowledge of Lincoln being shot, his going back in time to warn everybody getting the attention of Wellington (Booth), who is basically given the idea through this about shooting Lincoln, which is why he ends up doing it. It’s a paradox which goes round and round, Corrigan’s warning actually causes it even though he tries to stop it. It’s just an idea, however though, due the alterations in history though through Corrigan’s time traveling and warnings, the heritage club has different members when he gets back to 1960. That tells us that Booth assassinated Lincoln whether Corrigan went back or not. Like said earlier, it was a fixed thing. Carrington’s warnings only got in Wellington’s way while he had already been planning the assassination before he overheard Carrington ‘s warning in the courthouse. And he drugs him before setting off to Fords theater, which is the only scene altered in the chain of events that would’ve happened if Carrington never went back there. And this just goes back to the point before, some things in history just can’t be changed.