The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 7 – The Old Man in the Cave

In this episode there was a devastating nuclear war in 1964.  Ten years later we are in a small community somewhere in the Northeast.  At this point a small community is hanging on by a thread with farms barely producing starvation rations and no electricity or machines to help with the work.  The town leader is a man named Goldsmith who talks to the “Old Man in the Cave” to know where it’s safe to plant crops or which cans of food are contaminated.  The rest of the townspeople grumble about eliminating any potential food but they obey because the Old Man has always been right.

Suddenly a working automobile, a jeep, with four soldiers appears on the street and their leader Major French (played by James Coburn) informs them that he is the local face of a military unit that is organizing the remaining survivors into a new society.

Goldsmith tells French that they’ve met other wandering soldiers before claiming to represent a larger organization but actually just looking to steal food.  French resorts to force to force Goldsmith and the townspeople to obey his orders.  He demands that the town provide him with food but when Goldsmith warns him that the canned supplies are radioactive, he asks for proof.  Goldsmith tells him about the Old Man.  French goes up to the cave with his men and tries to open the steel door of the cave with a grenade but is unsuccessful.

Returning to town French convinces everyone but Goldsmith that the canned food is safe and they all eat it.  Then in a drunken state the crowd led by French force Goldsmith to open the cave door.  Inside they discover that the Old Man is actually a computer.  In a drunken rage the townspeople, led by French destroy the computer.  French declares them now free.

In the next scene everyone except Goldsmith is lying on the street dead from eating thee radioactive food.  Goldsmith walks among the dead and speculates on what drove them to this, greed or faithlessness?

This is a pretty bleak story.  Coburn adds a certain amount of flair to his mercenary major.  But it seems odd that after surviving for ten years French wouldn’t be more cautious about eating food that a reliable source has declared poison.  And why would Goldsmith hide the nature of his information source with the improbable Man in the Cave story?  Wouldn’t having a computer that is programmed to help the town survive be an even better story?  Anyway, a it of a downer.  B-.