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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 5 E 122 Steel

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Rod Serling: 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.

On August 2, 1974, "Steel" Kelly and Mr. Pole, his mechanic, arrive in Maynard, Kansas with an outdated boxing robot, Battling Maxo, for a heavyweight bout. Mr. Pole has doubts about the wisdom of this, which only seem to be confirmed when Maxo suffers a breakdown during last-minute preparations for the match. However, "Steel" has never given up on giving Maxo his comeback, and he doesn't intend to start now — even if he must pit "Steel" against steel to do it.


This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Because "Maxo" lost, Steel and Mr. Pole only get so little money, not enough to buy them a new boxing robot. But Steel, despite that's he's just been beaten within an inch of his life, hasn't lost his optimistic spirit. He looks on the bright side and estimates what little money they earned should be enough to buy new parts for the real Maxo. And then they'll be back on their feet.
  • The Boxing Episode: The episode has a boxing team arrive in town for a heavyweight bout, with the twist that human boxing has been outlawed and the boxer is a robot. It winds up being a man-versus-machine bout when the robot breaks down before the fight and its owner "Steel" goes into the ring in its place.
  • Chromosome Casting: This episode does not feature any speaking roles for women.
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  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Regardless of what tends to prove true about underdogs, it's impossible for a human to outpunch a robot designed for boxing or even to last very long in the ring.
  • Cynic–Idealist Duo: Mr. Pole, the mechanic, has a very clear view of how broken-down Maxo is and complains about him or suggests that they try something else (like getting a newer model) throughout the episode. "Steel" never stops believing that Maxo has more years ahead of him, as soon as he gets some work done.
  • Determinator: "Steel" Kelly never concedes that his robot should be retired, despite Maxo's condition having remained at the breaking point for three years and robotics having continued to advance in that time. When Maxo breaks down, he goes into the ring himself and gets beaten practically to a pulp trying to earn repair money.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Nobody seemed to notice that Steel was sweating during the match which would've proved he wasn't a robot
  • I'll Kill You!: When Mr. Pole grumbles that he should have told someone Kelly was "Maxo", Kelly says that he would have killed him if he'd let the cat out of the bag.
  • Man Versus Machine: "Steel" Kelly pretends to be his boxing robot, "Battlin' Maxo", to try to earn some money for Maxo's repairs. The other boxing robot beats the living hell out of him but Kelly survives the bout and lasts long enough to earn said money.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: When Maxo breaks down, "Steel" muses that only the manager and his assistant have actually seen himself and Mr. Pole and that the audience hasn't seen a B2 boxing robot in years — meaning they might not know the difference if he disguises himself as Maxo and goes through with the bout.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Kelly is known by the nickname "Steel" as he was never beaten during his boxing career. His first name is never revealed.
  • Robot Athlete: Robots are used for boxing in 1974.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: The bad news is that "Steel" Kelly didn't won the match against the other robot and thus he earned a pittance. He still thinks he achieved a victory by surviving the bout, nobody noticing that he was a human, and gaining enough money to fix his robot.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: This episode takes place on August 2, 1974. The short story by Richard Matheson is set in 1980.
  • Zeerust: The episode, in which human fighters have been replaced by boxing robots, takes place in the far off year of 1974, with human boxing having been outlawed in 1968.

Rod Serling: 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.