Published on March 29th, 2016 | by Rod Serling0
No man is obsolete!
Editor’s Note: The “Obsolete Man” script, written by Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame, depicts the power of the state in a totalitarian society and the power of the individual to resist and expose it.
The Obsolete Man Script
The Obsolete Man Written by Rod Serling
Setting: A large board with a long table and humongous podium. On the side of the room are many government officials robotically and sequentially next to each other. At each end of the table is a microphone with one end having seat with a State secretary. Above the secretary, is a podium with the State Chancellor Standing at top with a grip of files and his own microphone as well.
Secretary: Wordsworth, Romney, Obsolescence. (Turning to Chancellor) He waiting, Chancellor.
Chancellor: Order him in
Secretary: Wordsworth, Romney, Obsolescence.
(A feeble man walks through two large doors. Behind him are other people awaiting their fate in a waiting room. As the two doors close, he is led by a guard to his microphone. His eyes have a look of confusion, awe, and fear as he looks around the word. The Narrator’s voice comes over the scene.)
The Narrator:You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future; not a future that will be, but one that might be. (Camera pans to Narrator)This is not a new world: It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advancements, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace.(Camera switches to the convicted man) This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He’s a citizen of the State, but will soon have to be eliminated, because he’s built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in the Twilight Zone.
Chancellor:Wordsworth, Romney, Field Investigation Finding Obsolescence. Do you know why you’re here Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: Yes sir…
Chancellor: I’d ask you to speak up a little if you will, Mr.Wordsworth.
Wordsworth: Yes, sir, I know why I’m here….
Chancellor: You’ve been under investigation, Mr.Wordsworth for the mandatory period of 1 year and 11 months, you are found to be obsolete. The purpose of this hearing to make a finding in the matter and make a sentence accordingly. Do you understand that?
Wordsworth: I understand that.
Chancellor: Your occupation Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: A librarian, sir….
(Crowd jeers confusingly)
Chancellor: (Puzzled and angrily)…..A what!?
Wordsworth: A librarian, sir…
Chancellor: (To Secretary) Has this man had counsel?
Secretary: Yes,sir, he has.
Chancellor: Has he been given orientation?
(As this goes on, Wordsworth steps back into the darkness, as if knowing his fate)
Chancellor: Mr.Wordsworth, I’ve been told you’ve been given couns(notices he’s out of the light)…STEP BACK INTO THE LIGHT, MR.WORDSWORTH!
(Wordsworth steps back into the light)
Chancellor: I’m told you’ve been given Counsel, Mr. Wordsworth. but I’m still not sure, in my own mind, you understand the nature of this hearing. The field investigators in your sector have classified you as obsolete, this finding carries with it serious implications. Do you understand that, Mr.Wordsworth?
Chancellor:I’d ask you again, your occupation Mr.Wordsworth?
Wordsworth: I AM a librarian, that IS my occupation, that is my PROFESSION. If you people choose to call that obsolete…
Secretary: Request clarification of the term…
Chancellor: Yes…Mr.Wordsworth, the term "You people," you make reference to The State?
Wordsworth: I make reference to The State.
Chancellor: And you persist in declaring your occupation as being that of a librarian. Is that correct?
Wordsworth: Yes, sir, that’s correct.
Chancellor: A librarian. Having to do…with books.
Wordsworth:(Proudly) Yes sir…books!
Chancellor: Since there are no more books, Mr.Wordsworth, there are no more libraries, and ,of course, as it follows , there is very little call for the services of a librarian. Case in point: A minister. A minister would tell us that his function is that of preaching the word of God. And since it follows that since The State has proven that there is no God, that would make the function of a minister quite academic as well….
Wordsworth: There IS a God!!
(Crowd jeers in shock. The chancellor looks angry)
Chancellor: You are in error, Wordsworth. There is NO GOD! (To the crowd) The STATE HAS PROVEN THAT THERE IS NO GOD!!
Wordworth: You cannot erase God, with an edict!
(Crowd is even more in shock at Wordsworth)
Chancellor: You are obsolete, Mr.Wordsworth!
Wordsworth: A lie, no man is obsolete!
Chancellor: You have no function, Mr.Wordsworth. You’re an anachronism,like a ghost from another time….
Wordsworth: I am nothing more than a reminder to you that you cannot destroy truth by burning pages!
Chancellor: You’re a bug,Mr.Wordsworth. A crawling insect. An ugly, misformed, little creature, that has no purpose here, no meaning!
Wordsworth: I am a human being…
Chancellor: You’re a librarian, Mr.Wordsworth. You’re a dealer in books and two cent finds and pamphlets in closed stacks in the musty finds of a language factory that spews meaningless words on an assembly line. WORDS, Mr.WORDSworth. That have no substance, no dimension, like air, like the wind. Like a vacuum, that you make believe have an existence, by scribbling index numbers on little cards.
Wordsworth: I don’t care. I tell you: I don’t care. I’m a human being, I exist….and if I speak one thought aloud, that thought lives, even after I’m shoveled into my grave.
Chancellor: Delusions, Mr.Wordsworth, DELUSIONS!! That you inject into your veins with printer’s ink, the narcotics you call literature: The Bible, poetry, essays, all kinds, all of it are opiate to make you think you have a strength, when you have no strength at all!!! You are nothing, but spindly limbs and a dream, and The State has no use for your kind!!!! (Calming down) You waste our time, Mr.Wordsworth, and you’re not worth the waste. Instruct him!
Secretary: Romney Wordsworth, step back to await the finding of this board…
Wordsworth: Yes, sir…
(Wordsworth steps out of the light once again.Three state officials walk forward)
Chancellor: Ladies and Gentlemen, how do you find?
Secretary: Romney Wordsworth, Step forward.
(Wordsworth steps forward)
Secretary: The board finds you obsolete.
Chancellor: Your rights are as followed, Mr.Wordsworth, you are to be liquidated within a period of 48 hours, but you have a option as to method and precise time. There are several prescribed methods, Mr.Wordsworth: pills, gas, electrocution…and it can be done immediately, or an hour from now, or any specific time you request.
Wordsworth: (Pauses and smiles with glee and inspiration) I am very rich man…
Wordsworth: Oh, I merely said that I am a very rich man, I have such a luxury of choices…..that I choose the following: to be given an assassin to whom I shall tell the method of my execution…
Secretary: (To Chancellor) This is unheard of!
Chancellor: Mr.Wordsworth,we don’t understand the nature of the request…
Wordsworth: Simply, that you are to assign me my assassin, but only he and I are to know the way that I am to die.
Chancellor: That would be acceptable Mr. Wordsworth, provided that you are eliminated within the 48 hour period.
Wordsworth: Oh, yes…and one final request… I should like to die…with an audience.
Chancellor: Ahhh, Mr.Wordsworth(looking gleefully) that can be arranged indeed. It is not unusual that we televise executions, it has an educative effect on the population.
Wordsworth: I have no doubt…
Chancellor: Now as to the time of the liquidation, Mr.Wordsworth?
Chancellor: And the place?
Wordsworth: In my room…
Chancellor: Agreed, Mr.Wordsworth. We will choose your liquidator and send him over to you. He will be duty bound not to divulge the method you have decided upon. That will be all Mr.Wordsworth. You may leave and return to your room.
(The Doors open back up as Wordsworth walks out.)
Secretary: *whisper* An odd one and with very bizarre requests
Chancellor: Bizarre, yes, but to our advantage. We will show the people how this…obsolete man…this librarian…dies…
END ACT ONE
Setting: Wordsworth’s apartment. There multiple stacks of books and statues with handmade furniture littered around the one room flat. He lies down looking over at his clock, waiting for The Chancellor to show up. A knock is heard on his door and he proceeds to open it. Revealing the Chancellor standing in the doorway, smiling…
Wordsworth: Come in Chancellor. (Chancellor steps in and Wordsworth locks the door as The Chancellor stares into the room of books and pamphlets that he so hates) Thank you for coming…
Chancellor: Very irregular, Mr.Wordsworth. You know why I’ve come, do you?
Wordsworth:Well, I invited you.
Chancellor: Well, of course you invited me, but why would I honor such an invitation, a cryptic note sent by a condemned man asking me to visit him in the last hours of his life. Hardly the norm, Mr.Wordsworth. Hardly what I’m accustomed to….and somewhat suspect too….how do I know I wasn’t invited for that pitiful gesture of vengeance on the part of the condemned…
Chancellor: Yes…I’m somewhat responsible for the finding in your case. Your…demise in less than an hour can attributed to my decision.(Pause) I’ll tell you why I came here Mr.Wordsworth. Perhaps, to prove something to you.
Wordsworth: And that is…?
Chancellor:To prove to you that The State has no fears, none whatsoever…
Wordsworth:(laughing) Forgive me Chancellor, that has the elements of a joke….I mean you come to MY room to prove that The State…isn’t afraid of me!? Why what a incredible burden I must be! For The State to have to prove that isn’t afraid of an obsolete librarian like myself.(He sits) No, I’ll tell you the reason you came…I tell you the reason even though you won’t admit it to yourself.
Chancellor: Now, it’s my turn to ask, what might that be?
Wordsworth: I don’t fit your formuli. Your state has everything categorized…indexed, TAGGED. People like you are the strength, people like me are the weakness. You control order and dictate and my kind…merely follow and obey. But something has gone wrong hasn’t it? I don’t fit, do I?
Chancellor: Yes, you fit, Mr.Wordsworth! Indeed, you fit! In a few minutes, you’ll be cringing and pleading just like they all do! Oh yes, indeed you fit. You have a worthless meaningless little life, but you also have an instinct for survival. And in a few minutes when you feel life slipping away. When you feel that your survival is just a question of minutes, we’ll see then which is stronger, Mr.Wordsworth, The State or the librarian! (pause) I take it you’ve had a talk with whoever has assigned your liquidation.
Wordsworth: Yes, I have indeed.
Chancellor: (Smiling) Midnight, isn’t it?
Wordsworth: Yes, you see they brought this equipment here earlier this afternoon…
( A TV Camera is shown built into the wall with two large lights built next to it)
Wordsworth:These two men put that up in less than 15 minutes. it’s remote control, very efficient.
(The Camera and lights click on)
Wordsworth: Why, we’re being televised now.
Chancellor: It’s not unusual that we televise executions, Mr.Wordsworth… last year in the mass executions, we televised around the clock. (Proudly to the cameras) Thirteen hundred people were put to death in less than six hours.
Wordsworth:You never learn do you? History teaches you nothing!
Chancellor: On the contrary. History teaches us a great deal. We had predecessors, Mr.Wordsworth, that had the beginnings of the right idea…
Wordsworth: Ah, yes, Hitler!
Chancellor: Yes, Hitler.
Chancellor: Stalin, too. But their error was not one of excess it was simply not going far enough! Too many undesirables left around and undesirables eventually create a corp of resistance. Old people for example, clutch at the past and won’t accept the new. The sick, the maimed, the deformed, they fasten onto the healthy body and damage it. So WE eliminate them! And people like yourself, they can perform no useful function for The State, so…we put an end to them.
(walks around, sarcastically admiring the decor around him)
Chancellor:What a charming room you have, Mr Wordsworth. Have you lived her long?
Wordsworth: Just over twenty years. I built that furniture myself….
Chancellor: Ah, yes.. so I understand, Mr.Wordsworth. That incidentally has kept you alive this long, that little talent. Carpentry, you see, is a skill and The State provides considerable leeway for people who posess certain skills. Unfortunately, you went as far as you could go which was insufficient. So, in a few moments, it will be the end of a rather fruitless life and Mr.Romney Wordsworth, librarian, goes to his own Nirvana….that’s what they call it in your little books isn’t Mr.Wordsworth?
(He tosses a book at Wordsworth’s feet with disgust. Wordsworth sternly looks back at him.The Chancellor glances at the camera on the wall and shifts his eyes back at Wordsworth.)
Chancellor: You aren’t facing the camera, Mr.Wordsworth. You’re cheating your audience. They’ll want to see how you die. Please,face the camera, Mr.Wordsworth.(Wordsworth looks at the cameras with a sly grin on his face, The Chancellor kneels next to him, rubbing his hands together hoping to break Wordsworth but he keeps his sly look) That’s right, and don’t stifle your emotions, if you feel like crying, go ahead and cry, and if you feel like pleading, by all means plead. Some high State official might take pity on you.
Wordsworth: Yes, that would please you wouldn’t it? A little abject hand wringing, chest pounded, falling down on my hands and knees….
Chancellor: Suit yourself, Mr.Wordsworth.(Stands up) Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be entertained by them when they do come. I have another appointment this evening.
(Chancellor heads toward the door)
Chancellor: (Stops and turns around) Make it brief, Mr.Wordsworth.
Wordsworth: You have plenty of time, You’re not going anywhere!
Chancellor: What’s that?
Wordsworth: I’m afraid I haven’t been very fair with you. I invited you here for a very special reason. Would you like to know the method I have chosen for my liquidation. Well, in a few moments, here in this room a bomb is going off.
Chancellor:Very thoughtful, Mr.Wordsworth. Relatively quick and painless death.
Wordsworth: Yes, but knowing you’re about to blown to smithereens in just a few moments, isn’t the happiest thought in the world now is it, IS IT?
Chancellor: That depends on the individual. (Heads back toward the door)
Wordsworth: Indeed, it does…
(Chancellor tries to open the door and finds that it is locked with no way of unlocking it from the inside except with a key)
Chancellor: What kind of idiosy , is this, Mr.Wordsworth? You’ve locked the door.
(Chancellor is now scared)
Wordsworth: Oh yes, yes, I’ve locked the door…now question(turns to cameras to address the question at the nation wide audience): How does a man react to the knowledge that he’s going to be blown to bits in a half an hour? Answer:(turning back to Chancellor) that depends on the individual. As for me, I’m going to sit down ( heads towards safe in his room and pulls a grubby, old, Bible,) and read my Bible.
(Wordsworth clutches his Bible like a lost treasure. The Chancellor is slowly moving towards him as if unsure how it would look in front of the cameras to force him to open the door and then stops )
Wordsworth: It’s been hidden here for over twenty years, it’s a crime punishable by death, so it’s only thing I have that has any value at all to me…So I’m just going to sit down and read it…until the moment of my death. How will you spend your last moments Chancellor. (Sits down in chair once more)
Chancellor:(Trying to hide his fear) This is insane Wordsworth let me out of here!(Heads to door and tries to open it) Let me out of here, guards, someone!
Wordsworth: You’re cheating the audience. You aren’t facing the camera…
Chancellor: (Heads toward window at end of room) Gaurds, somebody down there.
Wordsworth: There’s no sense in raising your voice. There’s nobody there, that’s one of the rules you made up yourself. Isolate the person to be liquidated. That’s what you said! Oh, no,no,no, I think there is no one there, so why don’t you face the camera. It’s important, you said so yourself.
(Chancellor begins to break, hands rubbing together, but hides it from the camera’s broadcast. But then turns around)
Chancellor: I’m beginning to understand, Wordsworth, shoe on the other foot, that’s the idea. It’s one thing for somebody like yourself, to do a little cringing and pleading, but what a choice opportunity to show a member of The State doing likewise. But you’re insane, Wordsworth, if you think they’ll let me stay here!
Wordsworth: They? I ask clarification of the term "They." Ah, you mean The State! Oh, I think they’ll sit on their hands for awhile. They wouldn’t want to miss this scene. Besides the act of rescue would be very demeaning to them, to have to break in here and rescue a high ranking member of The State, to snatch him out of the soup, so to speak. Oh, I think "They" won’t help you.
Chancellor:I misjudged you, Wordsworth….(walks toward window, hiding his shock at Wordsworth’s well contemplated plan from the camera)
Wordsworth: You underestimated me. You wanted to the whole world, to see the way a librarian dies. Well, let them see, how an official of The State dies too. Face the camera, step into the light!
(The Chancellor, obeys knowing he must not prove himself to be a coward, but the fear is still evident in his glare at Wordsworth)
Wordsworth: Let the whole country see the strength of The State, the resilience of The State, the courage of The State. Let the whole country see the way a valiant man of steel faces his death. You have a Nirvana coming up to. Why don’t you sit down, we’ll have a little chat. Just you and me… and the great equalizer…..cause death is the great equalizer…(to the camera)So here you have this strong, handsome, uniformed , bemedaled symbol of giant authority and this little, insignificant, librarian…and suddenly in the eyes of God….there is precious little to distinguish us….
(The Chancellor looks toward the door as if expecting to be rescued.)
Chancellor: We shall see, Wordsworth, we shall see…(He sits and faces the cameras)
(The scene gradually transitions from points within the twenty minutes before the explosion. Wordsworth calmly reads passages from various books of the Bible with no fear on his face, the camera’s broadcasting every word and image. The Chancellor proceeds to smoke a cigarette but is beginning to panic as death slowly approaches.)
Wordsworth:The lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake. Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I shall fear no evil for thou art with me….
Wordsworth: By rod and by staff they come for me. Thou preparest a table before me in front of mine enemies. Thou annointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Wordsworth: Defend me from them that rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity and save me from the bloody men. For lo, they lie in wait for my soul. The mighty have gathered against me. Not for my transgressions, not for my sins, O God….They run and prepare themselves without my fault, await to help me and behold. Then therefore, o God of hosts.
Wordsworth: The fool that said in his heart "There is no God" The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek God…
(Tears are swelling up in his eyes. As the last seconds appear on the clock, the cigarrette falls out of his mouth and he weeps out of fear. Wordsworth is still calmly reading to him as he breaks)
Wordsworth: Out of the depths, have I called unto thee, O Lord. Lord hear my voice. Let thine ears be attended to the voice of my suffocations
Chancellor: Please,PLEASE,let me out…in the name of God..LET ME OUT!!! (Runs to the door, pulling it) LET ME OUT, LET ME OUT!!! LET ME OUT!!!
Wordsworth: Yes, Chancellor, in the name of God, I will let you out! (Wordsworth gives him the key)
(The Chancellor unlocks the door and runs and hides on the edge of the stairs, in cowardly fear. Wordsworth, in his room, sighs and closes his eyes and accepts his fate as the camera broadcasts the explosion across the country as it sets off, killing Wordsworth instantly. The Chancellor, covered in debris, walks away in tears of fear.)
Setting: The Board Room
(The Chancellor, now all clean walks into the board room only to stop in shock at seeing his secretary dressed as he is in his podium, in the chancellor’s garments. Below him at the foot of the podium is another secretary.)
Secretary: Stand right where you are! No further! You have been removed from office, the field investigators have declared you obsolete.
Secretary: You have disgraced The State.You have proven yourself a coward. You have therefore, no function….you are OBSOLETE!
Chancellor: But I’m not…I’m NOT obsolete.
Secretary: You are obsolete!
(The entire board room beings to chant "obsolete" over and and over again as the Chancellor tries to speak)
Chancellor: You’re making a terrible mistake. A tragic mistake. I’m not obsolete!! I glory The State, I carry the State, I give The State strength! How can you call me obsolete! HOW CAN YOU!!!
Chancellor: Please…I’m not obsolete…
(Secretary snaps his fingers and one of the security steps toward The Chancellor.The officials surround and begin to hum a robotic tone as the Chancellor speaks, their voices rising and their mouths opening as he tries to plead for forgiveness)
Chancellor:(whimpering)Please…I’m not obsolete… I have a function, I have a purpose (begins to gently weep)
(The humming gets louder as they close in on him)
Chancellor: No, no, no, I’m not obsolete…(Dashes through the crowd)NOOOOO!!! PLEASE, I’M NOT OBSOLETE!!!!! NOOO!!!!!
(The Chancellor runs toward the podium only to be chased and dragged by the other,cackling, officials across the long, humongous,table. As they prepare to drag him off to his death screaming, they chant "obsolete" over and over and the Secretary raises his arms, exemplifying the "omnipotence" of the State… The camera swipes to show The Narrator)
The Narrator: The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete, but so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under "M" for mankind—in the Twilight Zone.
(Camera pans up and fades into a starry sky)