"You've seen them. Little towns, tucked away far from the main roads. You've seen them, but have you thought about them? What do the people in these places do? Why do they stay? Philip Redfield never thought about them. If his dog hadn't gone after that cat, he would have driven through Peaceful Valley and put it out of his mind forever. But he can't do that now, because whether he knows it or not, his friend's shortcut has led him right into the capital of the Twilight Zone. "
A reporter named Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) gets lost while driving on unfamiliar back roads, and stops in Peaceful Valley, New Mexico, to get directions and gasoline. He soon finds himself forbidden to leave the small, isolated town when he accidentally witnesses a secret mechanical device which can control and rearrange atoms, making things appear and disappear, assemble and reassemble. The town refuses to share this and other amazing technology that had been given to them by a "great man of science" from an unknown land and planet (implying super intelligence from an alien world) until "men learn the ways of peace."
The town elders tell Redfield that their law states that he has either the choice of staying forever in Peaceful Valley as a citizen, where all of his needs and wants will be met and where he will live in constant harmony, or he must be executed to preserve the town's secrets. He ultimately chooses to stay in the town, or what he describes as a prison, and yearns for the freedom of his old life and the glory of curing all sickness, ending hunger, and essentially saving the world. Redfield becomes romantically involved with Ellen, who appears to be the town's only adult his age. She convinces him that she wants to be with him even if it means leaving Peaceful Valley. The backwater confinement chafes, and Redfield decides to make a break for it one evening. Knowing that the elders will try to stop him, he uses the technology to make a revolver.
Opening the door of the safe that holds the book of formulas sets off an alarm, and he has no choice but to shoot the three town elders to escape. When Ellen uses the device on him, he learns the lesson that had been designed for him by the elders and taught by the great man of science. Once he and Ellen are just outside the town limits (and the force field), he looks at the book to see it full of blank pages. The town elders, including the mayor that Redfield shot and supposedly killed, reveal that Ellen was a plant and that Redfield spectacularly failed the test, confirming that if their technology reached the outside world, even under the best of intentions, death and destruction would inevitably follow based upon man's greed and inability to live peacefully. Ellen tearfully confesses that her involvement wasn't all a lie, implying that her feelings for him were real, but Redfield will have none of it and approaches what he believes to be his imminent death in the surly, combative manner—being a metaphor for mankind—that has characterized him throughout the episode. The mayor explains that the law calls for Redfield's execution, but he knows of a solution that should satisfy everyone involved.
The scene cuts to Redfield sitting in his car receiving change back from gas he has just bought. With his dog by his side, he asks for directions and drives out of town, just after having a strange deja vu experience when he sees Ellen, with what appear to be tears in her eyes.
Whether the events were a dream, or whether Redfield is now in some sort of illusion is left open. Nevertheless, the town elders, when describing the machines that the original great man of science had made, tell Redfield that their main machine is based upon the "time" dimension, and they demonstrated this by reversing the stabbing of one of the elders as an example. This would draw the conclusion that instead of executing Redfield as their law strictly stated, they reversed time in order to preserve their secret without committing the outsider's inhumane crimes (murder, death, destruction), proving that eventually man will learn to live without violence and in peace ... somewhere in The Twilight Zone.
"You've seen them. Little towns, tucked away far from the main roads. You've seen them, but have you thought about them? Have you wondered what the people do in such places, why they stay? Philip Redfield thinks about them now, and he wonders, but only very late at night, when he's between wakefulness and sleep - in The Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
We move, next on Twilight Zone, into a shadowy area that treads a very thin line between flesh and fantasy. You'll see a performance by Dennis Hopper that, even from my rather close-end perspective, strikes me as an exceptional one. Our story is called "He's Alive" and if this doesn't get you where you live, you'll find it close by in the suburbs.