Director: Allen Reisner
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Jeanne Cooper, Malcolm Atterbury, Ken Lynch, Arthur Batanides, Bill Erwin, Robert Burton, and Doug McClure
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 10/16/1959
Production Code: 173-3609
Reduced to a laughing stock after years of heavy drinking, famous gunslinger Al Denton (Dan Duryea) has a twist of luck upon meeting Henry J. Fate (Malcolm Atterbury)—a street peddler selling a mysterious potion. With his quick draw restored, Denton readies himself for a duel that will change his life forever.
Combining fantasy elements with a Western motif, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” may appeal to enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone. Nevertheless, this episode is marred by sluggish pacing and character inconsistencies.
Forced to perform humiliating acts in order to earn his liquor, the character of Denton will evoke sympathy from those of a sensitive nature. The audience may therefore feel a sense of triumph when Denton, having regained his sharp reflexes and steady aim with a revolver, puts an end to the shenanigans of Dan Hotaling (Martin Landau)—a town bully who makes Denton sing off-key before tossing him a bottle of whiskey.
Similar to almost every offering within the Western genre, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” is hampered by a slow-moving story. For example, Denton fails to regain his dignity until nearly halfway through the episode—a drawback that may prevent modern fans (i.e., those with attention difficulties) from investing in Denton’s struggle.
Despite feeling guilty over killing a 16-year-old boy, Denton—now wishing to avoid further bloodshed—accepts the challenge of a rival gunman named Pete Grant (Doug McClure). Though likely prompted by an unspoken honor code, Denton’s decision to duel with Grant makes little sense within the context of Rod Serling’s narrative.
In spite of its minor flaws, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” provides a clever and fantastic spin on an Old West theme. Viewers of The Twilight Zone should therefore enjoy this episode, which benefits from the delicate performance of Dan Duryea.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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