"Paladin of the Lost Hour"
is the second segment of the seventh episode from the first season (1985–1986) of the television series The New Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is the first of two revivals of Rod Serling's acclaimed 1950/60s television series of the same name. It ran for two seasons on CBS before producing a final season for syndication.-Series history:...
An old man standing at a grave, apparently grieving, is suddenly attacked by a couple of muggers. The man screams that someone must protect him. One of the muggers takes the only thing the man had—a pocket watch that starts to glow and burns the hand of the mugger. It floats through the air back to the old man, while another man visiting the grounds helps him. The old man, who reveals his name is Gaspar, wants to talk to Billy, the man who helped him. They go to Billy's apartment and talk about what happened at the cemetery. He goes there to visit his "girl" and Billy was visiting a friend's grave. Billy must go to work and lets Gaspar stay so Gaspar can rest.
Billy gets home to find Gaspar still in the apartment and cooking dinner. Billy discovers that Gaspar is homeless and dying. He offers to let Gaspar stay, and Gaspar discovers that Billy was visiting the grave of a man he fought with in the Vietnam War. They watch the news to discover how close a nuclear war could be, but Gaspar claims that it won't happen. It won't happen because "it's only eleven o'clock." Billy questions why Gaspar's watch is stuck at eleven o'clock, but Gaspar dismisses it. Gaspar then talks about how he'll miss Minna, his "girl" while Billy talks about his experiences in Vietnam. Billy explains that the grave he visits is of a man who sacrificed himself so that Billy would survive. Billy has been racked with guilt ever since. While Gaspar is asleep, Billy tries to pick up the pocket watch but it floats away from him. Billy watches in shock as it floats over to Gaspar. Gaspar awakens and catches it. He asks Billy if he knows what Gaspar means and then proceeds to tell Billy. It means master of the treasure, keeper of the secrets and paladin of the palace. He wants Billy to accompany him to the cemetery the next day because he believes he is going to die the next day.
At the cemetery, Gaspar tells Billy the story of how a pope from the 16th century decreed that the entire civilized world would observe the calendar in line with solstices and equinoxes. But the pope's calculations were off by one hour. That hour "slipped free and bounced through eternity." An hour that must never be used. An hour that must never toll. To do so, would bring eternal night, which would happen when his pocket watch turns twelve, midnight. And if he should die before passing it on to another "paladin", the watch will begin to tick. He offers it to Billy, to whom he believes the last hour can be trusted. Billy claims he couldn't be worthy, but Gaspar says he is. Gaspar tests him by asking Billy to allow one minute for Gaspar to call back Minna and enjoy one minute with her. Billy has an ethical problem with the request, and refuses it. Gaspar says that Billy's response was the correct answer, and that he passed the test. Gaspar then says he is going to give Billy a gift and lets the watch tick. A wild wind comes up and Billy sees a Marine in front of him. Although he says nothing, Billy smiles knowingly. As the Marine and the wind disappear, Billy notices Gaspar on the ground. He tells him that the Marine let him off the hook, relieving him his guilt. He never knew he saved Billy's life, but he now knows that he didn't die in vain. Gaspar opens his eyes and asks, "May I remember you to my old girl?" He gives Billy the watch and then dies.
The novelette, written by Harlan Ellison
Harlan Jay Ellison is an American writer. His principal genre is speculative fiction.His published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, essays, a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media...
, won the 1986 Hugo Award
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards...
for Best Novelette
The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially...
and the script won the 1987 Writers Guild of America
The Writers Guild of America is a generic term referring to the joint efforts of two different US labor unions:* The Writers Guild of America, East , representing TV and film writers East of the Mississippi....
Award for Anthology Episode/Single Program. The story is available in Ellison's collection Angry Candy
Angry Candy is a 1988 collection of short stories by Harlan Ellison that is loosely organized around the theme of death. The title comes the last line of the poem "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls" by E. E...
The novelette and script were written at the same time. Although in the original story, it is not stated which man is black and which is white, Ellison wrote the script specifically with Turman in mind. The tale originally had a different ending. When the show's producers said that it needed to be changed, Ellison initially balked. It was only because the producers were also writers for whom Ellison had respect that he considered their idea. He eventually decided that they were correct, and changed both the script and the novelette.
This episode was truncated into a half-hour run time for syndication, as recently shown on the Chiller TV network.