Director: Buzz Kulik
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: James Whitmore, Tim O’Connor, James Broderick, Paul Langton, Jo Helton, Mercedes Shirley, Russ Bender, Daniel Kulick, Madge Kennedy, John Ward, Shirley O’Hara, Anthony Benson, and Lew Gallo
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 5/2/1963
Production Code: 4868
After spending thirty years on the desert planet V9-Gamma, space colonists led by Captain Benteen (James Whitmore) await the arrival of a transport ship. When Colonel Sloane (Tim O’Connor) arrives in a flying saucer from Earth, however, Captain Benteen remains unwilling to relinquish his command and provide his people with the freedom that they desire.
Combining science fiction devices with commentary on the human condition, “On Thursday We Leave for Home” earns its standing as a highlight of season four. Many will also appreciate the performance of James Whitmore, who conveys the subtle but rapid changes of a man deprived of his perceived purpose.
Despite issuing commands in a dictatorial manner, Captain Benteen will evoke sympathy from those of a sensitive temperament. Specifically, by admonishing a subordinate for shirking his responsibilities, sheltering his people from a meteor shower, and sharing a poignant description of Earth’s beauty with a young child, Captain Benteen initially comes across as a caring and benevolent leader—much in contrast to Captain Ross of “Death Ship,” who exhibits no concern for his crew members while barking orders at them. Viewers will therefore recognize the tragic nature of Benteen’s character transition, which indicates that ultimate power can destroy even the kindest of men.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Coming to his senses, Captain Benteen pleads with the departing spaceship for a passage to Earth. However, viewers may question why Benteen—originally content with dictating his will to an imaginary audience—has a last-minute change of heart in the final scene.
Offering a nuanced look into the mind of a dictator, “On Thursday We Leave for Home” demonstrates that every world leader, no matter how evil or corrupt, considers himself the hero of his own story—a profound, albeit highly disturbing, lesson on human nature.
“On Thursday We Leave for Home” is a haunting, beautifully acted episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially effective are the implications present in Rod Serling’s narrative, which implies that even the most vile, authoritarian figures throughout history can be viewed from a sympathetic angle.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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