The Twilight Zone Episode 26: Execution

Technical Specs

Director: David Orrick McDearmon

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Albert Salmi, Russell Johnson, Than Wyenn, George Mitchell, Jon Lormer, Fay Roope, and Richard Karlan

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 4/1/1960

Production Code: 173-3628



the-twilight-zone-executionWhile awaiting execution via hanging, murderous cowboy Joe Caswell (Albert Salmi) is teleported eighty years into the future by the experiments of Professor Manion (Russell Johnson). Though initially pleased with his remarkable turn of fate, Caswell soon discovers that 20th century society can be just as savage, if not more so, than that of the Old West.

A classic fish-out-of-water scenario, “Execution” offers a haunting study on the paradoxical nature of progress (i.e. the fact that technology tends to advance more rapidly than human development). That being said, an excessively violent approach to storytelling may offend science fiction fans of a sensitive inclination.



Fantastic though his circumstances may be, Caswell embodies a combination of ignorance, brutality, and confusion that would be expected of an 18th centurythe-twilight-zone-execution criminal plunged into a reality beyond his comprehension—an aspect that accentuates the realism of an otherwise extraordinary situation. Especially worth mentioning are any scenes wherein Caswell—now in a state of shock after killing the man responsible for his temporal misadventures—must navigate the streets of a modern city with only his raw, primitive instincts to guide him, thereby evoking pity for a decidedly crude and barbaric individual.



By conducting himself in a foolish manner (i.e. confronting a hot-tempered sociopath while unarmed), the professor—coincidentally portrayed by Russell Johnson of Gilligan’s Island fame—fails to demonstrate the intelligence of a man who builds and successfully operates a time machine.



the-twilight-zone-executionAs evidenced by Caswell’s mental breakdown and subsequent rampage, “Execution” appears to suggest that civilization is now even more unnatural than in centuries past. Note that in the opening sequence, Caswell maintains a calm, rational manner despite the imminence of his execution; however, upon traveling to then present-day America, Salmi’s character remains unable to quell his homicidal tendencies—an ironic statement on a flawed society and its harrowing effect on the human spirit.


Concluding Comments

Narrative shortcuts notwithstanding, “Execution” is a disturbing and philosophically profound episode of The Twilight Zone. Serling enthusiasts may therefore wish to view this episode, which exemplifies all the misanthropic sentiments for which the late teleplay writer is known.


Overall Quality: 8/10


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One thought on “The Twilight Zone Episode 26: Execution

  1. Execution was a great episode, with 1880s wild west outlaw Joseph Cadwell about to be hung for shooting over 20 people including a man in the back who’s father is at the hanging to enjoy watching his retribution.
    1960 New York scientist uses his time machine to reach back into time and zap Joseph just as his hanging occures saving him in the Nick of time from his death from his necktie party.
    With Joseph now in the scientist’s apartment in 1960 NY still baffled by what just happened, the scientist starts to notice the rope Burns on his neck and a bad vibe from the man getting him suddenly concerned on who he may’ve have just brought to him. He expresses his concerns on his tape recorder saying “I don’t like his looks, expression, I have a feeling I have brought a 19th century primitive outlaw to a 20th century urban jungle, and heaven help whoever gets in his way”.
    After showing Joseph out the window at the streets of 1960 New York and all the more modern buildings, lights, noise, and “carriages without horses”, which Joseph is quite irked at seeing, the already suspicious scientist starts questioning him about right and wrong and justice. Joseph spills how he’s killed over 20 people, the scientist now very disturbed says he has to send him back. Joseph argues about how he had to kill for survival when out in the 19th West ” another man’s bread or jacket stands between you and staying alive “, and how he always resented smug people like the scientist who always had things easy “in a warm room on a full stomach” who always felt the need to lecture people like Joseph on justice, etc. He then knocks the scientist to the ground, runs out of his apartment, and then runs wild in the streets of NY freaking out over all the lights and noise, not understanding what a telephone booth, TV, or jukebox is. And because of his habitual violent ways, he handles it all by smashing things up, breaking things, pulling his gun out, shooting at things, and trying to rough through everyone and everything.
    Very good episode.

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