The W.V. Whipple Manufacturing Co. introduces a new automated manufacturing machine that will eliminate 61,000 jobs and the company's president, Wallace V. Whipple, is quite proud of his achievement. Not everyone agrees with him, especially the loyal and longstanding employees who will be out of work. Foreman Vic Dickerson has plans for the machine - plans that land him in the hospital. When the machine is fully operational, it's Wallace V. Whipple who learns just what it is he has created. Written by
Select scenes and segments of dialogue from this episode were featured within the context of the 'Information Age: People, Information and Technology' exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The exhibit ran from May 9, 1990 through September 4, 2006. See more »
At the moment Chief Engineer Hanley turns off the projector, the lamps in the background come on at precisely the same moment. Mr. Whipple is standing in the middle of the room. No one else was in the room to turn the lights on. See more »
These are the players, with or without a scorecard: in one corner, a machine; in the other, one Wallace V. Whipple, man. And the game? It happens to be the historical battle between flesh and steel, between the brain of man and the product of man's brain. We don't make book on this one, and predict no winner, but we can tell you that, for this particular contest, there is standing room only - in the Twilight Zone.
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The Wholesale Firing of Men who Have Worked Here 20 Years
I'm no expert on The Twilight Zone, but I guess my tastes run in opposition to other peoples.
"The Brain Center at Whipple's" is one of my favorite episodes.
I love the piece-character actor ("The Dick Van Dyke Show", "Leave it to Beaver", "The Birds") and professional chef Richard Deacon.
If I wanted to find a fault with the episode, I would certainly point at the direction of Richard Donner. The Twilight Zone is not "Lethal Weapon", nor "The Omen", nor "Conspiracy Theory". Consistently, the dialog of Gregory Peck in "The Omen", the dialog of Mel Gibson in "Conspiracy Theory" and the dialog in "The Brain Center at Whipple's" have a common thread. The dialog is run out way too far. Its fine for modern action movies, but not for a show like the Twilight Zone. To the detractors of this show, I tip my hat on that point. Richard Donner is well acclaimed director...but didn't do as well with a Twilight Zone episode.
If you ignore the long, meandering, overly-punctuated dialog, the story is certainly way ahead of its time. Its prescience is beyond creepy. As we speak, American car manufacturers are working on assembly lines that are completely automated to put hundreds of high-paid assembly line people out of work. The anger and shouting exhibited by the foreman Dickerson is a reflection of the frustration that American workers who are put out of work and that can't find work (as there isn't any) experienced in the 60s and up until today. A man gets old enough and he really can't do anything else. He can't take a night school class and become a doctor. It was unspoken in the episode, but the phrases "Men who have worked here for 20 years" eludes to the idea that these men have committed themselves to their job and the Whipple's company and that losing a job means they have to completely overhaul, if possible, the way they look at the world if they want to get a job...if they can. Its that these men have acquiesced to a plan about their lives and now the commitment they offered in giving their most productive years to a company were in vain. All neatly wrapped up in the confused rage and anger personified in the shop foreman Dickerson. He shouts. His life, as he knows it, his family, his home, his avocations, everything has been upended and he's scared about his prospects for the future, and his responsibility to his family. You'd be angry too. The modern workplace doesn't feature men who work for the same company for 20 years. People have a job for five years and then have to get a new one. People don't see the world from a perspective of working for one company for the rest of your lives. If you were Dickerson, you'd be mad as hell too. Plant Manager Hanley also is enraged. The character selected looks like he's about 80. He's outraged at the lack of compassion and commitment of Whipple's to the people that dedicated their lives to Whipple's. The episode does indeed feature a lot complaining and shouting. If it remains to the direction of Serling, people are upset that progress involves them being declared obsolete.
It is a proper analysis of a season 5 episode written by Rod Serling to compare it to episodes from seasons 1-4 that Serling wrote that it mirrors. There were a lot of mirrored episodes. Some were completely "unique", but many are mirrors. I would draw a parallel between "The Brain Center at Whipple's" and the much celebrated "The Obsolete Man". The hinge of the story is much different, the causes of obsolescence are very different, but the end result is the same. Serling hated totalitarianism (as do I, much from growing up watching the Twilight Zone) and the idea that people were pawns or victims of large tectonic plates of the world moving around crushing them without their having recourse nor ability to avoid them. Serling wrote that men should have the right to choose for themselves when large, powerful forces take away a man's right to chose for himself, it is immoral.
Some of the episode might point to "Patterns", Rod Serling's movie script dealing with corporate greed and competition, but I don't feel "The Brain Center at Whipple's" follows along the same lines. Serling's perceived lack of caring on the part of the corporations and industry does permeate both screenplays. Patterns deals with executives and Whipple's deals with the obsolescence of the worker. "The Brain Center at Whipple's" is an indictment of the hypocrisy of corporate phrase-making and media spin. Its called "progress", but it results in men being put out of work. The episode also eschews the idea that men (and women) have a need to work and to feel productive. Whipple's is an illustrative microcosm of American Industry. There are several more small, subtle point woven into the screenplay and its easy to lose sight or miss them entirely, but watch the news on the economy or the job situation and then watch "The Brain Center at Whipple's". The episode still may be even ahead of its time. The scope of "The Brain Center at Whipple's" may not be fully realized for another 20 years. Many factories, large stores or businesses used to have a large lunch room, with a cafeteria and food service to the platoons of workers. Now, very few of these have a need for a cafeteria due to highly reduced workforces. "There's nothing down there except a few vending machines." Exactly what modern "lunch rooms" look like.
I find this to be an extremely terse, complex (overly so for the average viewer?) episode. Don't watch it to be entertained. Watch it as Serling's prophecy about things to come.
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