The Twilight Zone Episode 122: Steel

General Information

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

 

Overview

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 The Twilight Zone Steel(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.

 

Pros

The Twilight Zone Steel“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.

 

Cons

By establishing his narrative in the near future, Richard Matheson fails to enforce the realism of his narrative concept. Viewers may, for instance, question whyThe Twilight Zone Steel 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.

 

Analysis

The Twilight Zone SteelUsing 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.

 

Concluding Comments

“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

 

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4 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 122: Steel

  1. Does Steel die at the end of this episode? I’ve never quite been clear on that. In the short story he doesn’t but in this version they seem to be either suggesting he did … or, leaving it ambiguous so as to let the viewer decide. What are your thoughts?

    • I actually never assumed that Steel was dying after his fight with the B7, though I could see how his fate might seem ambiguous given the camera angles of the final scene. Also consider that his death would likely undermine the premise of this episode, which indicates that human beings can adapt to just about any circumstance imaginable.

      • I always figured that Steel may have died but the spirit he represents — man’s capacity “to outfight, outpoint, and outlive any and all changes by his society” — will continue to live on in his partner and others; it’s akin to the end of Spartacus: our titular hero dies — but he’ll be back … in others.

  2. Lets get it over with
    Pros: Lee Marvin
    Cons: oh brother where to begin?
    Keeping this one short; Even with our birdseye view today the 1970’s of steel looked like a Warner Bros picture that starred Boris Karloff. Why was boxing outlawed? Who cares. In the “future” of 1974 500 bucks for a fight would have ludicrous and too low. The robots were so advanced that even today they are beyond the skills of the greatest engineers. It is shocking to see one of the greatest writers of fantasy fiction phone it home probably as leverage to write for other projects. Even Rod looked bored in the intro as if he had to be dragged to the set. The ending was self serving and preachy. Once ‘cut’ was announced to wrap this turkey up one can picture Marvin beating it off the set in his roadester wiping this half hour off his jacket. Only if Rocky could have battled the B 12.