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June 2 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1961 premiere of 'The Obsolete Man'

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Jun 2, 2018

Today, June 2nd, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1961 premiere of "The Obsolete Man."

In a dystopian future where books are outlawed and a Chancellor (Fritz Weaver) operates a kangaroo court before his hysterical followers, TZ icon Burgess Meredith portrays librarian Romney Wordsworth, a man without a profession. Unfortunately, in this Rod Serling universe, they don't send you to a retirement village in Palm Springs – they put you to death.

However, Romney has no intention of going quietly. After receiving his sentence and before his public execution, Romney follows through with a very clever plan...

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The courtroom where Romney Wordsworth's (Burgess Meredith) sentence will be pronounced in "The Obsolete Man" - not exactly people friendly. 

Kudos to the casting department for hiring Meredith and Weaver to square off in this terrific episode. Burgess Meredith also starred in three other iconic TZ roles: lovable Henry Bemis in "Time Enough at Last" and the title characters in "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" and "Printer's Devil." Weaver had previously starred in the marvelous "Third from the Sun."

An additional nod to director Elliot Silverstein, whose staging of the episode – particularly in the Chancellor's court sessions, with Weaver pronouncing sentences from a high pulpit – are inspired.

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Fritz Weaver (left) and Burgess Meredith, two fine actors in top form in "The Obsolete Man."

So let's raise a highball to Romney Wordsworth, a man who once stacked books but now occupies a particularly exalted shelf in the very word-friendly universe of The Twilight Zone.