Director: Justus Addiss
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Dana Andrews, Patricia Breslin, Malcolm Atterbury, Robert Cornthwaite, John Zaremba, Lindsay Workman, Marjorie Bennett, Tudor Owen, James Yagi, and Robert F. Simon
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/7/1963
Production Code: 4853
Disillusioned with the 20th century, Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews) travels back in time to avert the sinking of the Lusitania, rescue Japanese civilians prior to the bombing of Hiroshima, and assassinate Hitler before the Holocaust can occur. Unsuccessful in his efforts to alter history, Driscoll later arrives in the year 1881 and decides to live his life in the small, peaceful town of Homeville, Indiana—with a terrible outcome.
In spite of its thought-provoking subject matter, “No Time Like the Past” is marred by a flawed execution. Specifically, this episode may invite criticism for its logical inconsistencies, hackneyed plot twists, and frequent pacing issues.
Offering a bittersweet romantic subplot, “No Time Like the Past” deserves praise for its effective use of tragic undertones. Notably, Paul Driscoll’s doomed relationship with schoolteacher Abigail Sloan (Patricia Breslin) should be commended for its poignant, if not heart-wrenching, conclusion—similar to Captain Kirk’s involvement with Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
The first act of this episode contains two significant logical shortcomings. First, Driscoll fails to present a piece of futuristic technology when pleading his case to the Lusitania captain (Tudor Owen) and the Hiroshima police chief (James Yagi), which, if produced in reaction to the skeptical responses of both individuals, could easily validate the extraordinary claims made by the protagonist. Second, the main character waits until 1939 to assassinate Hitler—already in a position of great power and therefore extremely difficult to kill, especially from the window of a German hotel room.
Reminiscent of “Back There” from season two, this episode provides a fascinating ethical dilemma on whether a visitor from the future—in possession of detailed knowledge concerning past events—should save the life of a murdered president and risk altering the timeline by doing so. Problematically, however, “No Time Like the Past” struggles to emphasize the potential consequences of saving James Garfield—hardly the most exceptional president in U.S. history—from certain doom, preventing the audience from sympathizing with Driscoll’s inner conflict.
“No Time Like the Past” is an uneven episode of The Twilight Zone. Despite benefiting from heroic characters and delicate performances, this offering suffers from a predictable twist ending and a lack of subtlety surrounding its anti-war subtext.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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