Steel (The Twilight Zone)
"Steel" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Set in the near future, its premise is that human boxing has been banned and replaced by android boxing. The story follows a once-famous human boxer who works as a manager for an antiquated android while struggling to come to grips with his career having been taken over by machines.
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Don Weis|
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
by Richard Matheson
|Featured music||Nathan Van Cleave|
|Original air date||October 4, 1963|
The episode is based on the 1956 short story by Richard Matheson.
Sports item, circa 1974: Battling Maxo, B2, heavyweight, accompanied by his manager and handler, arrives in Maynard, Kansas, for a scheduled six-round bout. Battling Maxo is a robot, or, to be exact, an android, definition: 'an automaton resembling a human being.' Only these automatons have been permitted in the ring since prizefighting was legally abolished in 1968. This is the story of that scheduled six-round bout, more specifically the story of two men shortly to face that remorseless truth: that no law can be passed which will abolish cruelty or desperate need—nor, for that matter, blind animal courage. Location for the facing of said truth: a small, smoke-filled arena just this side of the Twilight Zone.
This episode is set in August 1974, almost eleven years in the future at the time that this episode was made. As boxing between human fighters was criminalized in 1968, the sport is dominated by fighting robots. Former boxer Steel Kelly (played by Lee Marvin) manages a B2-model robot called "Battling Maxo". Maxo is an older model that is no longer in demand. Kelly and his partner, Pole, have used the last of their money to get to the fight venue. They are being given this chance because one of the scheduled fighters was damaged in transport. Kelly has to assure the fight promoter that Maxo will be able to fight. After the fight promoter leaves, Kelly and Pole argue about Maxo's fitness. Kelly feels that Maxo should be able to go through with the fight despite its age and condition. Pole tests Maxo's functions and an arm spring fails. They do not have the parts or the money to fix him. Kelly decides that he will disguise himself as Maxo in order to collect the money necessary for repairs. Despite a valiant effort, he is unable to damage the B7 robot he is fighting, even when he lands an unblocked punch directly in the back of its head. He is nearly killed but manages to last a little under three minutes. The crowd jeers and boos at Maxo's performance, not knowing that it is a human doing the fighting. Afterwards, the fight promoter will only give them half the prize money because of "Maxo's" poor performance; Kelly dares not protest, or the promoter will recognize him as "Maxo" and renege entirely. Kelly, bruised but stubborn as ever, tells Pole that they will use the money to get the parts to fix Maxo.
Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone.
This was the first episode sponsored by Procter & Gamble (alternating sponsorship with American Tobacco), who usually "pitched" Crest toothpaste, Lilt Home Permanent, and Prell shampoo, among their other products. Serling was not required to endorse any of P&G's products at the end of their episodes.
Serling, in his narration, had predicted that professional boxing would be outlawed within five years of the episode's airing; at the time, the sport was mired in controversy after Emile Griffith killed his opponent Benny Paret in a nationally televised and particularly brutal 1962 match. With Paret's death at Griffith's hands, as well as the death of Davey Moore from an inadvertent neck injury sustained in a March 1963 contest, the specter of the sport being outlawed was a realistic possibility at the time "Steel" was broadcast. Serling's prediction did not come to fruition; although boxing declined in popularity in the succeeding years, it has never been outlawed.
- AP (March 25, 1963). "Moore Second Champ to Die Within Year". Star-Gazette. p. 10. Retrieved May 31, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Boxing changed forever when one man fought to the death -- on live television". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)