"The Twilight Zone" A Hundred Yards Over the Rim (TV Episode 1961) Poster

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A Twilight Zone episode with its signature juxtaposition of unassuming people unwittingly caught between the past and the present
Richard Rothenberg10 March 2007
This is a beautiful story, both rugged and gentle at one and the same time. Mr. Christian Horn suddenly emerges from his minimalist wagon train tended by a handful of hardy but weary and increasingly doubting companions. With women and children in tow, the troupe trudged toward the pre-Gold Rush California of 1847, en route from Ohio for the better part of a year, but still stifled by the vastness of the plains and deserts of the United States' western territories as they stood at the time. Also, burdened by hunger, his boy's critical pneumonia-like illness, and with water resources in remission, Mr. Horn, brilliantly portrayed by the highly studious Cliff Robertson who thoroughly researched his character's essence before the shoot, advises that he'll check out the sandy rim nearby for whatever glimpse of hope it may yield on the other side.

An early spot by the great John Astin (soon to become famous as Gomez Addams from "The Addams Family"), playing Charlie, one of Mr. Horn's compatriots, briefly reveals Astin's abilities as a serious character actor as he expresses reserved support for Mr. Horn's dogged persistence. As suggested by this episode's title, upon reaching the other side of the rim, Mr. Horn immediately, but unknowingly enters The Twilight Zone. With wits and courage backed by a quiet, wary intelligence, he begins to understand that which cannot often be grasped through one's ordinary perceptive mechanisms.

In another twist of characterizations, Ed Platt, best remembered for his rare (but long-running) comedic role as Maxwell Smart's (Don Adams) beleaguered, beloved Chief in "Get Smart" beginning four years later, plays his more typical character role here. He portrays the local doc who tries to assist a friendly café owner and his nurturing wife with the unexpected handful of a tattered man who arrives unceremoniously, and bewildered, on their doorstep. How that happened and what follows is unexpected, heartening, and ultimately fascinating in ways that typify "The Twilight Zone" at its best.

And it would be an error of omission not mention the power of the musical score, sometimes subtle, but pounding dramatically toward the climax, just before shifting musical gears once again, precisely on cue. The compositional phrasing provides an effective musical conduit through which the story-line best evokes its emotive content before transitioning back to a perfectly executed return to the introductory setting--except for it having now been duly altered by the Zone of zones.

This classic episode is among those that reveal Rod Serling's singular capacity to employ visionary dimension to his stories from either side of time's turbulent tunnel.
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With great acting and writing, you don't need much else.
sdlitvin17 January 2009
It's episodes like this that remind us that Rod Serling was able to produce terrific fantasy and science fiction without fantastically expensive special effects and elaborate sets. Just a poignant yet intriguing script and great acting by some of Hollywood's biggest stars (Cliff Robertson in this case).

That's all it took to produce this terrific time-travel story of the meeting of two eras, when Chris Horn (Cliff Robertson), a wagon master heading west in 1847 with his wife and desperately ill son, accidentally stumbles into the year 1961. Horn's initial shock at the changes wrought in America in over a hundred years, soon turns to a determination to use the medical advances of the 20th century to save his son's life, back in the 19th century.
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A wagon-train leader needs medicine for a child - but it won't be invented for another 100 years.
pschlining8 August 2008
The show takes a deliberate pace in setting up the characters, circumstances & especially, the POV from their era. To this viewer, when Horn leaves his family & crosses to the other side of the sandy rim, the sudden view of the high-power-line girder structure seems very unsettling & unreal, with no explanation for what it is (in B&W, it was even more so). And the road itself is dark and smooth. All the way out here ? Why ?

The odd twist takes a deadly turn when a tall wheeled noisy 'monster' comes racing down the road toward Horn, who just gets out of the way. But his rifle goes off, injuring an arm (Cinematographer George Clemens showed Horn's POV as seen from a very low angle on the road, lending Horn's 'monster' to be a real & threatening unknown).

Horn has no idea what this all means, but he pulls himself together, keeps going, handling his deep fear, and finds his answers.

Looking at something, someone or another era from a different point-of-view, does indeed open up many possible worlds of thought . .
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Ah, to have had penicillin in the old west...
Michael DeZubiria8 July 2008
A family traveling west in hopes of striking it rich in a mysterious paradise that they've heard about called California suffers more and more every day, until they can think of nothing but the heat and thirst and sickness that they deal with on a daily basis. Serling gives us a pretty obvious story where he imagines what would have happened if one of those people traveling west all those years ago were to have been able to experience modern convenience for just one afternoon during that torturous journey.

It's not the wildest stretch of the imagination as far as a story idea, but the entertainment is high and the performances are some of the best I've seen so far in the series. The couple in the diner hit the nail right on the head with their subdued reactions to the strange stranger's story, not sure to react with shock or to hide their surprise from someone who must be a little crazy.

There's a cute twist at the end and an interesting paradox that calls your attention of the episode thus far into question, the time travel is not presented as anything more than simply walking over a sand bank, and the 100-years-in-the-future theme is done again the following week, but this is an excellent example of how good the twilight zone can be.
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A Hundred Yards Over the Rim
Scarecrow-8811 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In memoriam to a wonderful actor, Cliff Robertson, who passed away yesterday, I watched a terrific little Twilight Zone episode featuring him as a nineteenth century pioneer man who has been leading a wagon train through hostile territory facing the elements and Apache, his wife tired, son running fever, and the company of families with him absent hope or belief that California, a place where such a journey offered the possibility of prosperity and purpose, was worth their sacrifice (leaving Ohio), the effort and time they have spent fighting hunger, heat, cold, and illness.

Christian Horn (Robertson) tells his wife and men (one of which is John Astin, Gomez Addams of "The Addams Family" fame) that he will go over a rim not too far ahead and see what lies in front of them before the company decides it might be wise to turn back and just give up. What Horn finds is beyond his comprehension: power lines and a highway, including a giant monster that nearly hits him (a truck). He treks a mile or so, finds a diner, its owner, Joe (John Crawford) and Joe's wife, Mary Lou (Evans Evans). Horn learns from an equally perplexed Joe (taken aback by Horn's stovepipe hat, unusually "new" relic of a rifle, and serious look of bewilderment) that he is in Arizona, outside of Phoenix. Invited in to the diner, Horn is stunned by what he sees. When Horn discovers that he is in the year 1961, instead of 1847, you can imagine his surprise.

A pure performance from Robertson, who I think just nailed the role to perfection, as he conveys a man totally shell-shocked by what he sees in this new time. It's authentic because we would carry the same expression if facing similar circumstances. Horn sees these "inventions" that are so far advanced from the time he comes from, the experience would elicit shock and awe. All Horn can do is look at a jukebox, the inside of a diner, the instant appearance of a glass of cool water with mouth agape and in total silence. I think the characters of Joe and Mary Lou are just as important because they have a hard time conversing with such an *oddball* (you see, to them he is strange because of his outfit and puzzled demeanor), needing to call the local doc (Edward Platt, Chief of "Get Smart" fame) to help them out. Doc chats with Horn and informs Joe and Mary Lou that the patient's details of his pioneer travels, family, and struggles seem so intricate that such a delusion (as they three believe, because the preposterous notion that he really is a man from 1847 is just too hard to accept) would be incredible to create. When Doc calls the local authorities, Horn flees, running hard and fast to get back to his family. Will Horn be able to return to his family?

The inclusion of penicillin and how an encyclopedia describes Horn's son, the time paradox theme, always used so effectively on the Twilight Zone, once again is utilized to describe how a man—somehow taken from his time and transplanted to the future—can be put somewhere else seemingly for a reason, a purpose he may soon learn later. I just love the idea of the fish-out-of-water formula, regarding time travel and the way others within the "future"(normally in the 60s when the Twilight Zone was current)respond (and vice versa) to their *visitor*. That awkwardness that derives from such an impossible series of events has a special place in the Twilight Zone. Rest in everlasting peace, Cliff Robertson.
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A Step into the Future
Hitchcoc19 November 2008
This episode is good because of the realistic portrayals of its characters. They are human and act with compassion and concern. Cliff Robertson plays the leader of a small group of wagons, heading for California. They are nearly done in by the sweltering heat of the New Mexico desert. Robertson goes "over the rim" looking for water and game. He is suddenly transported a hundred years into the future. He meets some nice people who help him, but he is confused and bewildered. Still, he plays the stoic leader that he is and tries to piece things together. Unfortunately, the authorities get involved but he comes to realize the grander plan involved. This is a nice treatment of a story Serling used many times.
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One of my favorite episodes
medic519766 July 2008
I am a big fan of the 30 minute Twilight Zones and this one ranks near the top of my list of favs. I would say it more the theme than anything else; I have always been fascinated by time travel...

While all Twilight Zone episodes are somewhat dated; the beginning of this episode has a realistic western appeal to it - much the same as a John Wayne movie. Another interesting aspect is the portrayal of the '60s era diner/quick stop in the middle of nowhere that allows the viewer to suspend any pre-conceived notions of the actual time change (which leaves many theoretical and scientific holes, believe me.)

All in all, a solid episode, with better than average twilight Zone (this series ) acting and an above average theme. A solid 7
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Where Can I Park My Wagon Train
dougdoepke7 July 2006
Wagon train master stumbles across time warp and into truck stop 100 years in the future. Finds out that his trip was no accident

One of the more interesting time travel episodes, though nothing special. Direction and story telling are pretty straightforward, without ornament. However, encounter between time traveler Robertson and married couple at truck stop is nicely handled, especially by John Crawford as Joe. There's a persuasive naturalness about his performance that again demonstrates the reservoir of talent behind those anonymous credit-crawl names . Robertson is also effective, while his top hat is not only distinctive, but oddly appropriate head-gear for a bygone era. Episode's main interest, of course, lies in seeing how the characters will react to contrasting time periods. There's none of the grim humor of Albert Salmi's dislocated cowboy in 1960's "Execution", for example. But there is an interesting conceptual wrinkle posed near the end. Slightly better than average.
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Seeing The Future
AaronCapenBanner27 October 2014
Cliff Robertson plays pioneer Christian Horn, who is in charge of a wagon train of settlers headed for St. Louis in 1847, but are currently stuck in the New Mexico desert because his young son has a persistent fever. While his wife stays behind, Christian ventures forth over the rim and into the future, where he narrowly escapes a truck, then encounters a pair of friendly but perplexed people at a roadside diner, who give him penicillin,(unknown in 1847) for his boy, but it may not be so easy for him to get back over the rim, and back to his time... Excellent episode has a superb performance by Robertson, and an intelligent, authentic looking story and atmosphere.
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I think the "message" is being missed.
polarsailor10022 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Having just re-watched this--and without trying to spoil it--an aspect of the story that seems to have been missed in other reviews is that at the beginning of the story, the group has reached the end of its rope and going "A Hundred yards Over the Rim" is an act of desperation and not a particularly hopeful one.

By the end, as part of the time-travel paradox, all that the Robinson character has seen and experienced is what gives him the inspiration--and the others, by extension--the hope to carry on and create the future (1960's present) he alone experiences first-hand. THAT's what makes he story for me.

It isn't a fashionable point to make now-a-days, when "progress' is all but a dirty word, but surviving what we now call the "Westward Expansion" wasn't a foregone conclusion for any one person, or group of people, and only the hope of a brighter future kept some of them from giving up, and "going back," which would have meant almost certain death for many, not to mention for their children and grandchildren.

That's the hopeful message I take away from this episode (as well as most of the high points others have mentioned). But, as I say, not a message that I fear gets taught much in today's schools or comes across in the media, much to our detriment.
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"Hold on, all of you, I'll be right back".
classicsoncall29 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Without ever having seen this episode of The Twilight Zone before, I'm prepared to conditionally confer it to my personal Top Ten list. It helps that the Western is my favorite movie genre, and having Cliff Robertson head the cast along with a couple more veteran character actors in support makes the story even more intriguing. Of course the similarities to other TZ episodes are apparent; one that immediately comes to mind testing the time travel concept is the first season's "Execution", similarly starting out in the heyday of the Old West. Interestingly, that story also had it's dislocated protagonist become fascinated with a jukebox. It seems Rod Serling had no problem rehashing plot lines to the most minor detail.

As the local doctor called in to examine Christian Horn (Robertson), Ed Platt has a curious diagnosis of the wagon master's malady - a delusion of the purest form. You know, I liked that. I don't know if that's a clinically accepted term today, but it seemed to make sense within the confines of the story presented here. The history book passage mentioning Horn's son as a pioneer in the field of antibiotics was just the cleverest way to have the story come full circle to it's inevitable conclusion. The other neat touch was the way Horn's rifle turned into a virtual relic the minute he ventured back 'over the rim'. More subtle than most of the Zone's twists, I think that's what makes the episode so appealing.

Anyone who's read any of my other Twilight Zone or old time classic movie reviews knows I like to go in for an examination of those remembrances of the past as highlighted by the going price of commodities back in the day. As this story ended, I couldn't help but think about the price of homemade apple pie at Joe's Airflite Cafe pegged at fifteen cents, with an additional twenty cents for a la mode. Wouldn't it have been cool if Horn had noticed those signs, and scratched his head at how expensive things had gotten so far in the future!
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One Great Sci-Fi Western
hackraytex26 August 2017
If I was ranking Twilight Zone episodes, this would be close to Number 1. I have seen and read enough westerns with a sci fi or horror twist to appreciate how far ahead Mr. Serling was. Even today, the West is so large and empty that one could run into anything out of the ordinary and if one survived it, no one would probably believe him/her. It was also a place where a person could disappear and probably not be found for a long time. In other word, in the west anything is possible.

I am a big fan of the science fiction/horror western since the American cowboy has to be very resourceful just to survive and staying alive then was a full time job. This has to happen whether the cowboy is in a foreign country, facing aliens from outer space, or being moved to another time. There are a number of episodes like this in the Twilight Zone. Another one is where Albert Salmi gets pulled from being hanged to modern times and freaks out over the large change and the high level of noise that we are used to but would drive him crazy. He reverts to his basic instincts and still meets his destiny.

Outstanding acting by Cliff Robertson, Edward Platt, John Astin, and the rest. Good job everyone.
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Great TZ episode
richspenc10 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I love the Twilight zone. And it's not as much the episodes about monsters, aliens, and space travel that really make it amazing (I always found "To serve man" overrated and far from my very favorite) It's the surreal themes such as time travel, becoming young again, escaping to a better places, entering the afterlife, coming back from the dead, and magic that really make the Twilight Zone so wonderfully outstanding to me.

In "100 yards over the rim", Cliff Roberts, his wife and small child, and a couple other families of early 1800s covered wagon travelers are starving, dehydrated, and sick. Their son has pneumonia. They're tired of not being able to find enough food, water, and protection from the elements (weather, diseases, etc.). Then, as the title implies, Cliff walks over a rim, expecting to only find further vast emptiness and nothing different from what they've already encountered, which is what he would've found if he remained in the early/ mid 19th century.

However, over the rim he encounters a world very strange and unfamiliar to people of his time. A world of utility poles, trucks, gas stations, electricity, air conditioning, clean and ample water to drink, and effective medicine. He meets John Crawford and his wife Mary Lou, who own the gas station/cafe Cliff enters in the new world of 1960 he's in. And in spite of all the traveling he's already encountered, embarks on a new sort of adventure never experienced before.

Of course, there's the expected "I don't believe this stranger who seems to be just a dehydrated delirious desert traveler" reaction from the 1960 locals, but it's all done well. Cliff looks very convincingly bewildered by all he now sees around him. How would you react to pylons, trucks, and modern amenities if you were seeing them all for the very first time ever at age 35 or 40? Bewildered first but then amazed. Getting ahold of plentiful clean water in Arizona (or the territory that was to become Arizona) and penicillin (of course once learning what it can do) would've been a miracle to 1840s covered wagon travelers. The medicines that people made and took for illnesses back in those days were usually either almost useless or worked somewhat but made you more sick in other ways. What could anyone do? It was the best people had ever been able to come up with way back then. But the penecillin Cliff obtains is for his son (and he discovers another possible surprise about his son in the future). If Cliff can get back. And back then, aside from indians, ancient war declaring indians, there was almost no civilization or any real towns out west besides other settlers (such as Lewis and Clark, this was their era). No one could've possibly imagined the world that was to one day come out there. How 100 years into the future from the 1840s would've been a world called Hollywood, with studios and films being made for people everywhere to watch. This was a great episode.
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Fact Or Fiction?
nayehieona-6957314 June 2017
Greetings. I have been a fan of Mr. Rod Serling, i.e., "The Twilight Zone" for decades. I find his work to be both provocative and inciting. In many ways Mr. Serling was "Ahead of his time". I especially enjoyed the episode "One Hundred Yards Over The Rim" It was believably well done, with an enduring message: the power of love and determination. One thing that I find most noteworthy is I am not convinced that the episode is fictional. I have also enjoyed a series "Miracles Around Us", which in no way was affiliated with the "Twilight Zone". Yet one episode was eerily similar to the Twilight Zone submission. In both accounts, a wagon train in peril determined to stop and allow member(s) to go and scout ahead. In both accounts, the scout(s) were transported 100 years into the future, with positive results. In both accounts a boy at the brink of death was cured by a then unknown medicine and went on to become quite significant. Coicidence? Maybe...
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Hey, it's still good!
Eric Stevenson1 January 2017
I feel bad for not liking this as much as most people. I just felt that it should have had more of a twist. Now, I actually do find this a good episode because it actually ends up being pretty hopeful in the end. Most of these episodes end on a downer of some kind or at least bittersweet but this was actually quite positive. It did seem like it wasn't as good. The story's pretty basic with a guy from the 1800's time traveling a hundred years into the future to get medicine for his ill son.

The main character is pretty likable in this story. It does seem kind of odd for an episode of "The Twilight Zone". It ends by saying that we should acknowledge how much we've advanced with technology and how our forefathers truly worked hard in their day. That is a pretty positive and unique moral. It does seem like they could have just done more with this plot. Well, the pacing isn't bad. I just personally didn't love it as much as most people. ***
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Best Twilight Zone Episode
John Michaelson8 July 2016
Why I have felt this episode to be the best of all Twilight Zones, is because, while I was watching it, I felt that if I was a filmmaker I'd want my modern day movie to go exactly as I see it here on TZ. Yes, of course I'd modernize it to incorporate today's technology and settings, but the way this episode was written, acted, shot and edited, it's nearly perfect in its delivery. A modern movie could follow this episode, nearly line for line and still be fascinating to watch.

It's also an episode that would be fine had it been longer and presented more of Chris' ordeal, maybe add a little more of the situations Chris had to deal with, landing in a modern world. But if you think your way through it, without fluffing it up and going too out of the box, and this episode could certainly be done superbly without dragging on and falling short.

Time travel books and stories have existed for hundreds of years, and the movies have depicted time travel since the dawn of filmmaking, but this episode of Twilight Zone was done so perfectly, with an amazing ending, that it deserves a reboot (strictly without CGI) - in a time where reboots are getting old, stale and boring.
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Just saw this episode for the first time ever
koala_t_9830 June 2016
I just saw this episode for the first time, and I have to disagree with the reviewer who says "The how and why of this time travel, like the episode "Back There", is unexplained--and this is one of the weaknesses of the plot." This is The Twilight Zone... it's more fantasy than anything else. I enjoyed the story as it was presented, and the twist that was presented about two thirds of the way through the story was a nice little plot device. Several of the other reviewers mention Edward Platt and John Astin and the roles that they are known for, but I haven't seen anyone mention the fact that John Crawford (who plays Joe) is best known for having played Eph Bridges on "The Waltons" for a number of years. He plays Joe with just the right amount of cynicism at first, then increasing belief in the story that Chris tells them. Time-travel, as done in this story, becomes essential to the plot, and, in the end, leaves the viewer optimistic.
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A Hardy Breed
bkoganbing25 April 2014
Cliff Robertson stars in this Twilight Zone episode as the leader of a small Wagon Train, hardly like the big outfit that Ward Bond and John McIntire led on television. They're part of that hardy breed of men as host Rod Serling says that tamed the west.

What they are in the future New Mexico territory is hot, tired, dirty, and thirsty. In addition some are sick like Cliff Robertson's young son. At a time when they're at their lowest spirits Robertson takes a short walk from the Wagon Train over the top of a small hill and steps 114 years into the future.

Without going into any details that will spoil, let us say that in truck stop diner owners John Crawford and Evan Evans and Dr. Edward Platt, Robertson finds the help he needs and the courage to carry on.

An interesting concept that this Twilight Zone episode offers us.
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"What's going on here?"
Woodyanders10 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Hardy 19th century wagon train leader Christian Horn (superbly played with total conviction by Cliff Robertson) goes over hundred years into the future in New Mexico in search of medicine for his sick son.

Director Buzz Kulik keeps the engrossing story moving at a constant pace and ably crafts an absorbing enigmatic atmosphere. Rod Serling's potent script says something poignant (and significant) about the remarkable strength, resilience, and determination of the human spirit. Robertson completely nails the confusion of his fish out of water character; he receives fine support from John Crawford as friendly café owner Joe, Evans Evans as Joe's equally nice wife Mary Lou, Edward Platt as a pragmatic doctor, and, in a solid serious role, John Astin (Gomez on "The Adams Familt") as the weary Charlie. Fred Steiner's moody score and the crisp black and white cinematography by George T. Clemens further enhance the overall sterling quality of this excellent episode.
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I am intrigued by this episode.
nayehieona12 October 2009
Greetings. I recently viewed an episode of "Miracles Around Us" on a Christian network that was remarkably similar to the Twilight Zone episode. The major differences being that two gentlemen left their families in search of water. Near death, they came upon a 1960's gas station. They procured some water in plastic jugs and a pack of trading cards, featuring a 1965 Mustang. They paid for these items by leaving a prized pocket watch, a family heirloom. A boy in one of the families became an elected official of the town. He is reported to have had in his possession, a strange card with an unknown motorized contraption. This is reportedly a True story. Can anyone shed light on this?
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An okay episode...
MartinHafer1 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" is a decent enough episode, but don't expect a lot of magic. That's because it's one of these time travel episodes but it doesn't really have any sort of twist or unexpected endings--it's all very straight forward. Why it is currently rated 8.3 I really don't know.

The episode begins in 1847. A wagon train from Ohio headed for California is bogged down in the New Mexico desert and it looks like they will soon succumb to the elements, lack of water and illness. The leader is Cliff Robertson, whose son has had a fever for 11 days and can't endure much more. At one point, Robertson tells the rest of the people that they should stop and rest--he'll go on up ahead and scout things. However, when he goes up over the ridge, he's magically transported to 1961. The folks in the diner who meet Robertson are pretty baffled by his clothes and ancient rifle. Likewise, nothing seems right to Robertson. Eventually, he leaves--after taking some antibiotics with him for his son. Then, once again, he goes over the ridge and lands back in 1847. The people chasing him cannot locate him after they go over the ridge and all that's left of Robertson is an old rotting gun.

The acting was good in this one but there wasn't much irony or fun or chills. A guy magically transports himself to get antibiotics for his dying son and therefore lives happily ever after--nothing more. The how and why of this time travel, like the episode "Back There", is unexplained--and this is one of the weaknesses of the plot.
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Hymn to American pioneers.
darrenpearce11129 November 2013
The focus for the Zone this time is on a common and prevailing goodness in humanity rather than the usual foibles. 1840's pioneer Christian Horn (Cliff Robertson) refuses to accept despair and carries on while there is breath in his body. His little son is dying and he's got to find a cure-somehow! A cure not yet found in his time. Self determination is emphasized, as is looking outward and forward, no matter what the odds. An inspirational entry that rests nicely between TZs that deal with darker aspects of humanity.

The costume for Cliff Robertson helps him to cut an engagingly anachronistic figure in a story that suggests that optimism should never become an obsolete notion.
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Mr. Christian Horn, family and party, heading West, after a brief detour through The Twilight Zone.
Spikeopath23 February 2014
Written by Rod Serling, directed by Buzz Kulik, starring Cliff Robertson, John Crawford, Evans Evans and Ed Platt.

Set in 1847 in New Mexico territory, story finds a party travelling West from Ohio to hopefully prosper. The leader is Christian Horn (Robertson), whose son is very sick. It seems hopeless and the party are close to the end of their tethers. Christian decides to trek over the rim in the distance to see if he can find supplies, once over there he of course enters The Twilight Zone.

It's one of Serling's tales that pitches a protagonist into a completely different period of time, a fish out of water scenario, but this one is not played for laughs and it's a very strong episode. Robertson is excellent as the stovepipe wearing leader and fretting father who has to try and comprehend the situation he finds himself in. Nicely filmed out at Lone Pine in California, and with supporting performances and direction backing Robertson up, this is one of the better episodes from Season 2. 7.5/10
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Good Specimen.
Robert J. Maxwell23 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Cliff Robertson is head of a small wagon train that's running out of steam in New Mexico. No game. Water almost gone. No prospects of reaching California. On top of that, his young son is about to die from pneumonia. Robertson takes his muzzle-loading long rifle and checks to see what over the rim of yonder sand dune.

What's over the rim is a New Mexico highway in 1961, running right through a desert with electric power towers, a distant factory, and a nearby café. An eighteen-wheeler almost mows him down as it roars past -- a "monster." At the café, Robertson is astounded by stuff we take for granted, like juke boxes. (Robertson was to have a more engaging encounter with a juke box in "Charlie.") He's sustained an injury to his arm and the kindly but concerned café owner and his wife (Crawford and Evans) bandage it for him and give him a vial of penicillin, telling him that it cures some diseases.

Finally recognizing what's up, the quondam pioneer makes the quantum leap back to 1847, cures his son of pneumonia with that penicillin, and gets on with the trip. An encyclopedia has told him that his son will grow up to be a famous doctor, specializing in diseases of the rich.

These stories about time travel are almost always interesting. And this one is particularly tidy. Sometimes the trips in time are pointless, just an excuse for the exercise of CGIs. In this case, the past and present are tied together by that vial of antibiotic, without which the kid would have died. Robertson apparently gave the role his all, though, to be honest, there's not much you can do in a 25-minute episode of a TV series. Nice direction, though. Buzz Kulik was a true artist. He prompted me to give one of my premier performances in his "Too Young The Hero", in which I had a starring role as a hobo passed out drunk on the hotel stairs. The poor guy WOULD be rattled from time to time, but I managed to help him over the rough spots.

The producer, Buck Houghton, worried that with his Lincolnesque stovepipe hat, Robertson would be laughed off the screen, but it worked out fine. I mean, what would be the alternative? The usual? It's 1847 but give them traditional cowboy hats, Winchesters, and a pair of Colt Peacemakers anyway?
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