It looks innocent enough: a soft, glowing light that appears on select faces. A halo, perhaps? Some celestial marking? No, not here. It's The Philippines in WWII, and war is hell. That light is the mark of death, and only one man can see it. He's Lieutenant William "Fitz" Fitzgerald, played with sufficient intensity by William Reynolds, and foreseeing death is a talent he'd rather not have. Hell, can you blame him? The role was originally assigned to Dean Stockwell, who ended up being unavailable (he'd later appear in season three's "A Quality of Mercy," another WWII story set in… The Philippines).
The episode co-stars Dick York (best remembered as the endlessly harried husband on Bewitched) as Captain Phil Riker, Fitzgerald's sympathetic friend and superior officer.
Serling's experiences in WWII are well documented, and inform a number of his teleplays (both in and out of The Twilight Zone), including this one. Richard L. Bare directs. Lucien Moraweck provides an original music score. "The Purple Testament" is a fairly by-the-numbers affair, but one scene is quite effective: word has spread throughout the camp that Fitz can see who's going to die next. As the soldiers line up, ready for combat, Fitz silently looks upon each of them, examining their expectant, fearful faces. It's chilling.
A bit of hilarity amidst all this seriousness: in one scene near the end of act one, Fitz and Smitty, a wounded soldier, talk about a fellow soldier nicknamed "Porky," who received a war souvenir in the form of a shrapnel wound in his finger. In Serling's promo for next week's episode, he's sporting a Band-Aid on his finger! Coincidence? The answer lies somewhere... in The Twilight Zone.
Mr. Serling, wounded.
"The Purple Testament" was parodied as "The Ned Zone" in the "Treehouse of Horror XV" anthology episode of The Simpsons (11/07/04), in which Ned Flanders foresees the deaths of those he touches after a blow to the head caused by…you guessed it, Homer Simpson. Most significantly, he foresees himself killing….you guessed it, Homer Simpson.
The Simpsons has parodied many Twilight Zone episodes over the years. I could probably start a whole new sub-blog about it….
Next week: Three weary astronauts land on earth, much to their delight (and confusion, since they're millions of miles out in space). Well, it certainly looks like earth (hint: it's not). Take off your helmet and tune in.