On Thursday We Leave for Home – The Twilight Zone season 4, originally aired May 2, 1963
On Thursday We Leave for Home – A man named Benteen leads a colony of Americans stranded on a desert planet for 30 years. And the conflict begins once rescue arrives … a bittersweet episode starring James Whitmore.
Narrator: [Opening Narration] This is William Benteen, who officiates on a disintegrating outpost in space. The people are a remnant society who left the Earth looking for a Millennium, a place without war, without jeopardy, without fear – and what they found was a lonely, barren place whose only industry was survival. And this is what they’ve done for three decades: survive; until the memory of the Earth they came from has become an indistinct and shadowed recollection of another time and another place. One month ago a signal from Earth announced that a ship would be coming to pick them up and take them home. In just a moment, we’ll hear more of that ship, more of that home, and what it takes out of mind and body to reach it. This is the Twilight Zone.
What’s truly sad about On Thursday We Leave for Home is that the leader of the colony, played by James Whitmore, doesn’t want his people to go. Not because he’s a control freak, or on a power trip. But his being keeping the colony alive — barely — has given his life meaning, and purpose. It’s kind of like the parent, who can’t let go when his child’s moving out of the house.
And when the rescue ship arrives, he’s happy to see them, at least outwardly. The colony’s facing a hopeless future — there’s been a spate of suicides in recent months. But even so, he can’t help himself, and tries poisoning the water … He’s trying to explain to “his” colonists why they shouldn’t return to Earth:
Reasons for the colonists to stay
Captain Benteen: Now listen to me. I want to tell you some things about the Earth that you haven’t heard before. Things that are ugly. Things that are wrong. Things – that cannot be lived with. There is violence on Earth. There are hatreds! And jealousy! Now listen to me, listen to me and listen carefully. The Earth is a place we do not know. The Earth is a place we have never lived in. It is a society we do not belong in. If we leave here, we will die. We will die! We’ll be committing suicide, if we go back to Earth. We will die of a misery we have never experienced before. Loneliness. Loneliness like animals in a zoo. We do not belong there. [points to Col. Sloane] We do not belong to his kind. We do not belong there. We do not belong there.
Col. Sloane: Captain Benteen! Why don’t you let your “children” vote on it?
Captain Benteen: Only if they know what’s waiting for them! Only if they know that the Earth is not a garden. Never was a garden! And it never will be a garden!
Col. Sloane: [Stepping forward] Fair enough! Fair enough! Then I’ll tell you what Earth is. It’s a race of men – struggling for survival. Just as you have survived. And Captain Benteen is quite right when he tells you it isn’t a place of all beauty. We may yet have wars. And there still remains prejudice. And I suppose as long as men walk, there’ll be angry men, jealous men, unforgiving men. But it has one thing that you don’t have. One thing. It lets every man be his own master. There won’t be any Captain Benteens down there for you. There won’t be anybody to tell you when to eat, and when to sleep, and when to meet. There won’t be anyone to tell you when to dance or what to sing or how to play. And instead of the thirst, you may feel hunger. Instead of heat, you may feel cold! But you’ll be men and women. You won’t be sheep. You won’t be a kindergarten. And when you pray to God, his name won’t be “Benteen”!
And Benteen loses the argument. His “children” decide to return to Earth. Which Benteen can’t handle. So what does he do? He hides, so he won’t have to see them depart. At the last moment, he relents … He can’t bear the thought of living alone. But, it’s just too late …
Narrator: [Closing Narration] William Benteen, who had prerogatives: he could lead, he could direct, dictate, judge, legislate. It became a habit, then a pattern, and finally a necessity. William Benteen, once a god – now a population of one.
Cast of characters
- James Whitmore (Planet of the Apes; Them!) … Captain William Benteen
- Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) … Colonel Sloane
- James Broderick (Family) … Al
- Paul Langton (The Incredible Shrinking Man; It! The Terror from Beyond Space) … George
- Jo Helton … Julie
- Mercedes Shirley … Joan
- Russ Bender (The Strangler; Invasion Of The Saucer Men) … Hank
- Danny Kulick … Jo-Jo (as Daniel Kulick)
- Madge Kennedy (Lust for Life) … Colonist
- John Ward … Colonist
- Shirley O’Hara … Colonist
- Tony Benson … Colonist
- Lew Gallo (Ocean’s 11 (1960); Soldier in the Rain) … Lt. Engle
- Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone season 1; Night Gallery season 1) … Narrator / Self – Host (uncredited)
- The striking diorama backgrounds of the planet, the model and the large-scale prop of the rescue ship sent to bring the colonists home, and the uniforms of the rescue crew were all originally created for Forbidden Planet. This was a recurring feature on “The Twilight Zone”.
- The cave that the colonists use as their meeting hall was originally the underground lair of the Morlocks in The Time Machine.
- Sound effects inside the ship are the same as the ones on the bridge of the Enterprise from the original Star Trek series.