The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
25 user 3 critic

The Obsolete Man 

In a future totalitarian society, a librarian is declared obsolete and sentenced to death.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Romney Wordsworth
Josip Elic ...
Subaltern (as Josep Elic)
Harry Fleer ...
Barry Brooks ...
Board Member
Harold Innocent ...
Board Member
Jane Romeyn ...
Board Member


In a futuristic totalitarian world, meek and mild-mannered librarian Romney Wordsworth finds himself on trial for being obsolete. This future society has decided on everything people need to know. There is no God and there are no books. Society doesn't need librarians. Romney makes an impassioned plea about his rights and free will but the judge in the case, the Chancellor, will have nothing of it. The jury finds Romney obsolete and orders him to be executed. As he can choose the method of his death, Romney's plans include a little surprise for the Chancellor. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis






Release Date:

2 June 1961 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The protagonist's name is, ironically, Wordsworth. See more »


At the beginning, the Subaltern is heard to say, "Wordsworth, Romney, obsolescence," but his lips are not moving. See more »


Chancellor: Since there are no more books, Mr. Wordsworth, there are no more libraries. And of course it follows that there is very little call for the services of a librarian. Case in point: A minister. A minister would tell us that his function is that of preaching the word of God. And, of course, it follows that since the State has proven that there is no God, that would make the function of a minister somewhat academic, as well.
Romney Wordsworth: There *is* a God!
Chancellor: [shocked silence] You are in error, Mr. Wordsworth; there...
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User Reviews

Where dumbing-down will lead us to if we let it.
1 December 2013 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

Probably the most important message to come from the Zone is this one. Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) is proud to be a librarian in a totalitarian state where such an occupation is banned. He is condemned to death for this as he is deemed obsolete by the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver). The state is an austere place that bans all freedom of thought. However, Wordsworth is a man with a plan, being inspired to make a stand for the literature and freedom of religious thought that he loves.

'The Obsolete Man' has the quality of a nightmare while being natural and true at the same time. The message about the individual is timeless. We all need education, literacy, personal aspirations, and choice to be really human. Serling mentions the tyrants of history leaving their impression on this state. Do not let the dumbing-down, ban-everything, political correctness of today facilitate their evil, lingering influence.

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