Director: Joseph M. Newman
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Jack Klugman, Connie Gilchrist, Robert Diamond, and Billy Mumy
Composer: Rene Garriguenc
Air Date: 9/27/1963
Production Code: 2607
While stationed in South Vietnam, Private Pip (Robert Diamond) sustains a terrible injury on the battlefield. Upon receiving the news, Pip’s father Max Phillips (Jack Klugman)—a bookie with a degenerate past—decides to give up his criminal ways in honor of his son. After suffering the wrath of his boss, Max wanders into a local carnival and reunites with Pip (Billy Mumy)—now appearing as a ten-year-old boy.
“In Praise of Pip” benefits from the chemistry of Jack Klugman and Billy Mumy, who reinforce the father-son relationship at the heart of Rod Serling’s narrative. Also worth noting is the concept for this episode, which includes an early reference to the Vietnam War.
Previously featured in “Death Ship,” “A Game of Pool,” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” Klugman deserves praise for his portrayal of Max Phillips—a low-status thug who, despite lacking the qualities of an exemplary father figure, succeeds in evoking sympathy from the audience. Klugman’s performance will especially resonate with those of a sensitive temperament, who should recognize the heartfelt nature of Max’s transformation.
Though quite touching, the ending of this episode fails to carry the dramatic impact of a typical Serling twist. (Klugman’s emotional responses do, however, compensate for the poor execution of the climactic scene.)
Also lacking in narrative tension, “In Praise of Pip” struggles to present its main conflict in a compelling or exciting manner. Specifically, the character of Max, now mortally wounded by the bullet of his fellow gangster, meanders around the carnival grounds before begging God for a last-minute “trade”—hardly the most engaging premise for an episode of The Twilight Zone, poignant drama notwithstanding.
“In Praise of Pip” should be commended for its underlying themes of redemption, self-sacrifice, and letting go of past mistakes. Note, for instance, that Max turns over a new leaf only when faced with the near loss of his beloved son—a statement on how the human will, no matter how stubborn or unwavering, can be impacted by events of a traumatic or life-altering variety.
This offering will appeal to viewers who appreciate subtle, heartwarming character moments over creepy or macabre situations. Nevertheless, “In Praise of Pip” may evoke criticism for its underwhelming sequences.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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