Director: Michael Gornick
Writer: Michael McDowell
Cast: Bruce Davison, Karen Shallo, Patrick Piccininni, William Cain, Jon Matthews, Miranda Beeson, and Paul Sparer
Composers: T. Pile and B. Gordon
Air Date: 11/25/1984
In this clever adaptation of a Stephen King story, aspiring writer Richard Hagstrom (Bruce Davison) inherits a special word processor from his deceased nephew, Jonathan (Jon Matthews). Upon realizing that his new gift can manipulate the fabric of reality, Richard decides to change his circumstances for the better.
A modernized version of a classic Twilight Zone episode, “The Word Processor of the Gods” offers a surprisingly upbeat deviation from the usual gloomy subject matter featured throughout this series. While certain viewers may find the concept of simply wishing unpleasant people out of existence to be a disturbing premise, others are likely to appreciate King’s tale as a thought experiment on controlling one’s destiny instead of accepting misery as a way of life.
The antithesis of an alpha male, Richard comes across as a spineless wimp who shirks his responsibilities to wife and son instead of addressing the problems resulting from his own cowardice. Therefore, it is a testament to Bruce Davison’s acting talents that his character manages to arouse sympathy from the audience despite his many failings as a husband and father (in fairness to the protagonist, very few men would react differently if married to an odious slob). Notably, Davison’s gentle approach strikes a remarkably poignant chord during the interactions between Richard and Jonathan, the latter of whom also benefits from a touching performance by Jon Matthews.
Like many Tales from the Darkside offerings, “The Word Processor of the Gods” builds its narrative around a now laughably dated plot device. However, since the antiquated science fiction themes were also present in King’s source material, writer Michael McDowell can be forgiven for his lack of foresight.
In a similar fashion to The Twilight Zone’s “A World of His Own” and, to give a more recent example, The Matrix, this episode operates on the premise that, in the majority of cases, reality is subject to the will of the individual and not the other way around. On one hand, certain viewers have rightfully criticized the protagonist for using the eponymous word processor to literally delete his problems instead of putting in the effort to attain happiness. Bearing in mind, of course, that only so much could be achieved in such a short runtime, those who condemn Richard’s questionable actions would perhaps be wise to take this episode as a metaphor on the importance of improving life circumstances whenever the opportunity presents itself.
By Tales from the Darkside standards, “The Word Processor of the Gods” is a solid outing that benefits from a (mostly) satisfactory conclusion. Horror enthusiasts may choose to avoid this installment due to its absence of scary material, though others will likely benefit from the positive philosophical implications presented in McDowell’s narrative. Likewise, those who appreciate Davison’s acting abilities should view this entry for the aforementioned reasons.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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