Director: Richard L. Bare
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, Dick York, William Reynolds, William Phipps, Barney Phillips, S. John Launer, Michael Vandever, Paul Mazursky, Marc Cavell, Warren Oates, and Ron Masak
Composer: Lucien Moraweck
Air Date: 2/12/1960
Production Code: 173-3619
Serving in World War II, a U.S. Army lieutenant named Fitzgerald (William Reynolds) finds that he can foresee which of his fellow soldiers will die next. Captain Phil Riker (Dick York) refuses to accept Fitzgerald’s clairvoyant ability, assuming instead that his comrade is slowly cracking under pressure; however, Riker begins to express concern over a prediction regarding his own fate.
An ominous episode, “The Purple Testament” details the harrowing psychological impact that war can have on a typical soldier. While those who enjoy riveting battle sequences would be wise to look elsewhere, fans of The Twilight Zone may nonetheless appreciate this episode for its resonating analysis of the human condition.
By emphasizing natural and realistic character exchanges, “The Purple Testament” lends credibility to the fantastic premise upon which it operates. The interactions between Riker and Fitzgerald in particular were written and performed such that a convincing friendship can exist between both men, thereby allowing viewers to empathize with the captain when he decides to consider the lieutenant’s admittedly outlandish claims. Also commendable, the manner with which Fitzgerald reacts when confronted with his “gift” is quite chilling despite the primitive glowing effect used to represent death personified (Lucien Moraweck’s haunting score also works to accentuate the otherwise crude technique outlined above).
As one would expect from a classic Rod Serling effort, “The Purple Testament” benefits from exceptionally well-written dialogue. That being said, an almost exclusive reliance on exposition hardly conveys the brutality, death, and destruction that affect (albeit indirectly) the protagonist. Perhaps if additional action had been showcased following the initial skirmish, audiences could have more easily shared in Riker’s torment.
Survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress, both induced by prolonged battle exposure, are themes to which Serling heavily alluded while characterizing Fitzgerald and, more importantly, exploring his difficulty in reconciling personal loss with his perceived failure to prevent it. Before long, Fitzgerald’s inability to accept that no amount of foresight can alter the most certain outcome of all leads to a complete absence of hope—undoubtedly an intentional but sad commentary on the struggles that many real-world veterans have been forced to endure after leaving behind fallen comrades and readjusting, perhaps unsuccessfully in most cases, to civilian life.
Though sluggishly paced at times, “The Purple Testament” follows the emotional descent of a once level-headed soldier in such a way that will appeal to those of a sensitive inclination. Additionally worthwhile are the performances of Dick York and William Reynolds, which make believable the concept of two ordinary people thrust into the Twilight Zone while tackling horrors of a more tangible nature.
Overall Quality: 9/10
If you enjoyed this post, please click the follow button or enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.