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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

1.17 --- Paladin of the Lost Hour

Directed by : Alan Smithee
Written by : Harlan Ellison
Starring : Danny Kaye, Glynn Turman
First aired : 8th of November, 1985.

While visiting the grave of his late wife, an elderly man called Gaspar (Danny Kaye, White Christmas, The Court Jester) is assaulted by two petty punks. He is rescued by Billy (Glynn Turman, Cooley High), and the two men strike an unlikely friendship - Gaspar, the old, crotchety caucasian, and Billy, a young black fellow.

Back at Billy's place, Gaspar admits he's homeless, and Billy lets him stay for as long as neccessary. Gaspar remarks that it won't be for too long, as his time is almost up, and he will be dying shortly. Soon, Gaspar and Billy start talking about everything and nothing - Gaspar tells his new friend of great grief for his late wife which he sorely misses, and Billy of his Vietnam experience, in which he got saved by an unknown soldier who sacrificed himself for him. One particular detail sticks out - while watching the news, Billy abruptly shuts off the TV after hearing another news report about potential nuclear holocaust, but Gaspar comforts him by showing him an old pocket watch, saying that nuclear war won't happen as it's "only 11 o'clock".

One evening, before going to work, Billy sees the watch and tries to take it in his hand. The watch, however, magically floats off in the air, and returns into Gaspar's hand, who just woke up. Feeling that his end is near, Gaspar asks Billy to meet him at the cemetery tomorrow, as he would like to pay his late wife one final visit.

At the graveyard, Gaspar finally opens up to Billy and tells him that he is the keeper of Earth's final hour, which lies trapped in that old pocket watch. If he is to die before passing it on, the clock will start to tick and when the time expires, eternal darkness will reign. Billy initially refuses, but then realizes that it is indeed his calling, and accepts to be the new guardian of the lost hour. As a reward, he is granted one minute of it, which he uses to meet the man who died for him. His task fulfilled, Gaspar dies, and the pocket watch floats off to Billy, who in his newfound duty finds internal salvation.

***

I will not waste words here : Paladin of the Lost Hour is, simply put, a masterpiece. Written by Harlan Ellison, Paladin is a touching, heart-warming slice of Twilight Zone, teaching us of value of sacrifice and human nature. Veteran comedian and great humanitarian worker Danny Kaye is spellbinding in his, quite fittingly, last ever role - Turman is no worse as the tortured Vietnam vet fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against tremendous guilt. There is great on-screen chemistry between Kaye and Turman, and the already excellent episode benefits even further from it. Once you see it, Paladin of the Lost Hour will stay with you forever...and I would recommend you to go out of your way to see it, if you haven't already. A TZ feature which is easily comparable with the best classic TZ pieces - a real gem.

Trivia : "Alan Smithee" is actually Gilbert Cates, who directed several critically acclaimed dramas in the 70s. One would assume he disowned Paladin due to syndication butchering, during which no less than twelve minutes of his work got slashed off.

Comments on "1.17 --- Paladin of the Lost Hour"

 

Anonymous Scott said ... (7:34 PM) : 

Absolutely one of the best of the 80s series. As a matter of fact, one of the best of ALL the Twilight Zone Series.
To anyone who is a Zone fan, this is absolutely a must-not miss.
This story, along with a small handful of others, definately make this "80s" TZ release worth buying on DVD.
TZ DZ Fan-----TZ Cafe

 

Anonymous Brian said ... (7:49 AM) : 

I just watched this episode last night and then listened to Harlan Ellison's commentary. Mr. Ellison lays down his side of why the episode is credited to Alan Smithee, and it isn't because of syndication changes.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:00 AM) : 

I believe I must have seen this episode when it originally aired in '85. It has been with me, haunting me ever since. I thought it was gone forever in the abyss of canceled TV series ..... until today.

Today is the first time I relived the entire story by reading it on the internet. I am familiar with the works of Harlan Ellison and have appreciated them very much throughout my life. I had no clue he was the author of this story that had achieved mythic proportions in my mind. Many times I had tried to relate the story to others but had trouble because it always made me very emotional. My personal interpretation was that it was about saying goodbye for a final time (Gaspar and Minna).

It is obviously so much more.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:23 PM) : 

Fantastic episode! Really deep and magical story, with some moving performances.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:05 AM) : 

Actually, it was Danny Kaye's second-to-last performance: he appeared in an episode of Cosby a few months later.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:37 PM) : 

I just bought TZ season 1 on DVD, especially for this episode. I had watched it when it was released originally and I've been dreaming if owning it ever since. I do confess that to me the whole magic of the episode is due to the amazing, fabulous, monumental performance of Danny Kaye. The story has many good points, but without to the amazing acting of its two main characters it would fall flat, especially in some moments when it becomes a bit soppy. But great actors saved the day!!!

 

Anonymous Jp said ... (6:27 AM) : 

Just an amazing story. Some of the finest work on tv...ever! It amazes me even more given Ellison's voice track on the DVD suggests much discord with this episode. If you have to watch just one of TZ mark II, make it this one!

 

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