The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 16 – On Thursday We Leave for Home

A colony has been trapped for thirty years on a marginally habitable planet.  The planet has two suns and never has night and the temperature is always well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  The machinery that refrigerates the below ground dwellings of the colonists has finally completely given out and the drinking water is always hot.

The colony is at the brink of despair and all that keeps them from giving up is their leader Captain Benteen.  Whenever they despair, he preaches to them about the rescue ship that will arrive any day.  His assistant Al Baines, has lost hope and when they find that one of the women has committed suicide Al says that she has done the wise thing and none of them should have to go on enduring the hell they live in.  But Benteen tells them a comforting story about the beauty of Earth with its fall foliage, white clouds and cool black nights.  They hypnotically repeat his words like cult followers and calm down.

And then the ship arrives and Colonel Sloane announces that he’ll be able to bring the whole colony home in a few days and they’ll head to Earth where they’ll leave behind the misery and despair of their hell world and join the human race on green Earth.  Everyone is ecstatic except Benteen.  He’s anxious because he’s losing the control over his flock.  When the Colonel describes how the colonists will be treated like heroes back on Earth Benteen tells him that his people won’t be able to understand that experience.  Benteen tells Sloane that the colonists are like children that he has led through their lives telling them whatever they needed to know.  He assures the Colonel that even after they return to Earth, he will continue to control their lives as head of the group and that they will not separate after reaching Earth.  Colonel Sloane listens to Benteen’s speech but at the end he replies that he wants Benteen to allow the colonists to vote on whether they want to stay together or go their own ways.

Benteen calls a meeting with the colonists and tells them that when they get ack to Earth he will arrange for Earth to give them a place where they can continue to live together under his leadership.  But they all want to go to different places that they have heard about from their older relatives.  Benteen is upset by this lack of loyalty.  The next day he tells the colonists and Colonel Sloane that the colony won’t leave on the ship but will stay on the planet.

Colonel Sloane demands that the colonists have the chance to vote on returning to Earth by a show of hands.  Eventually all of them vote to leave.  Benteen, feeling betrayed, runs off.  The next day when the ship is ready to leave Colonel Sloane and Al Baines go searching in the underground caves calling for Benteen to leave with them.  But he ignores their calls and stays hidden until they leave.  Once they are gone Benteen comes out and starts talking to an imaginary gathering of his colonists.  He starts describing the beauty of Earth but when he hears the sound of the space ship leaving the planet he runs out and cries out “don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here, please, I want to go home.”

James Whitmore plays Captain Benteen and he is a very capable actor.  He gives the script a very good rendition.  He portrays a man who considers himself the present-day Moses of a lost tribe.  And he also portrays his jealous possessiveness for his prerogatives over his people.  He allows his desire for power to overrule his judgement as to what is good for his people.  So, Whitmore does a good job with the story line.  And the cast is also pretty good.  Their misery and desperate trust in Benteen are fairly compelling.  The crisis over leaving is handled fairly well and Benteen’s final plea to go home is affecting.

I’ll give this a solid B+.


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