"The Changing of the Guard" is the 37th and final episode, of the third season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in June of 1962. It stars Donald Pleasance, in one of his first television roles in the United States. The third season of the Twilight Zone was probably its most successful and widest ranging season, so this episode seemed to me to be related to the culmination of the third season, although I do not know if that was intended.
The story takes place in a traditional Vermont prep school for boys, where an old teacher, somewhat of a curmudgeon but also warm and thoughtful, has taught the students for three generations. Right before Christmas Vacation he learns that he is to be retired. This causes him to contemplate his life, and wonder whether he has ever taught his students anything of value, or whether he was just an old man quoting poetry. In despair, he thinks his life has been worthless, and tries to commit suicide. However, it is time for a Christmas Miracle, in the manner of Its a Wonderful Life. The revelation of the meaning of his life is somewhat compressed, being told, instead of shown, but allowances for such brevity must be made in a short television show. I also find the conclusion a little too pat, but again, allowances must be made.
This episode is mostly carried along by Donald Pleasance's strong performance. Although it seemingly has a limited scope, it manages to touch on several important issues in The Twilight Zone's third season, including military life, the role of the individual in society, and how much people should hold on to their past. But, as the name suggests, things are changing soon, and our next Twilight Zone episode will be in a new, longer format. What new issues will Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone tackle, in this Changing of the Guard?