Director: Don Weis
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Lee Marvin, Joe Mantell, Chuck Hicks, Merritt Bohn, and Frank London
Composer: Van Cleave
Air Date: 10/4/1963
Production Code: 2602
After a ban on boxing is enacted, mechanical fighters take the place of human pugilists in the ring. Desperate to earn money, former champion Steel Kelly (Lee Marvin) must improvise when his robot, Battling Maxo, stops functioning prior to an important match. Assisted by a mechanic named Pole (Joe Mantell), Steel impersonates Battling Maxo and spars with an advanced model before a crowd of spectators—with a brutal outcome.
Operating on an interesting premise, “Steel” may appeal to science fiction buffs and boxing enthusiasts alike. The finale of this episode does, however, lack the ironic poignancy of a typical series installment.
“Steel” benefits from the performance of Lee Marvin, whom fans of The Twilight Zone may recognize from “The Grave.” Specifically, the gritty, intense demeanor of Marvin strengthens the credibility of his character—a tired, disgruntled boxing champion who, similar to the librarian from “The Obsolete Man,” struggles to find purpose in a “civilized” future.
By establishing his narrative in the near future, Richard Matheson fails to enforce the realism of his narrative concept. Viewers may, for instance, question why the sport of boxing is outlawed in the year 1974—a mere ten years after the release of this episode.
This offering may also evoke criticism for its predictable ending, wherein Steel suffers a quick and devastating loss to the B7 robot. A more haunting final scene, in contrast, would have Steel defeat his opponent only to die of exertion shortly thereafter.
Using sci-fi tropes to explore the courage, tenacity, and resiliency of the human spirit, “Steel” offers a statement on man’s remarkable ability to adapt to change—a relevant theme in the age of technology.
“Steel” deserves praise for its topnotch acting and profound insight regarding human nature. Nevertheless, viewers may take issue with this episode for its underwhelming story.
Overall Quality: 6/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.