The Ray Bradbury Theater

Season 6 Episode 21

Downwind from Gettysburg

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Aired Unknown Oct 17, 1992 on USA

Episode Recap

Technicians work on a humanoid robot. It recites the Gettysburg Address and they step back and cheer as Abraham Lincoln seemingly comes alive. Walter Bayes accepts the congratulations of his underlings.



Later, Bayes has the robot Lincoln installed on a state in a theater where it gives its speech once more. His partner, John Phipps, comes in and notes that a TV studio has asked to record the presentation that night. Bayes insists that the embargo stands, and the Lincoln robot is an affirmation. Phipps admits that he and the others in the Lincoln Resurrection Brigade weren't sure if this day would come to pass, but Bayes insists there are stories to tell and describes all of the effort he made to recreate Lincoln.



A young man places a false mustache and spirit gum in a box and then leaves his home with an invitation to the Gettysburg Project, speaking of destiny.



In the reception room of the theater, Bayes tells Phipps that when Lincoln was at Gettysburg, Bayes's great-grandfather was there when he was nine. The story has been in the family for four generations, how the boy sat on his father's soldiers and related what the President said in his Gettysburg Address. As Bayes waxes poetic, the visitors applaud him.



That night, the guests arrive for the Project presentation. Bayes is in his office listening to the performance and pouring himself a glass of champagne. Meanwhile, the man uses his invitation to get in, goes to the restroom, and removes his coat to remove antique clothing. Phipps comes in and invites Bayes to join the others in the booth, but Bayes says he'll listen from his office.



The presentation begins and Lincoln gives his speech. The young man, having donned his mustache, slips backstage and takes out a derringer. As the speech continues, he steps out and shoots the robot in the back of the head, "killing" it. As the audience screams, the security guards capture the intruder. Bayes and Phipps order their men to take the intruder into the theater and clear out everyone else. Bayes finds the derringer and confirms that it's been fired. He then goes forward to where the Lincoln robot sits, slumped over. Bayes contemplates the gun in his hand and the intruder calls out, "sic simper tyrannis."



Bayes goes to confront the young man, who smiles in triumphant. Bayes points the gun at his head and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. The intruder points out that it only holds one bullet, and Bayes admits he knows. He tells the security men to search the intruder for a knife and they find it. Bayes then tells the man to identify himself, and the intruder says he is John Wilkes Booth. When he holds the knife to the man's throat and demands the truth, the intruder admits his name is actually Norman Llewellyn Booth. The security men find Booth's belongings, spirit gum and a forged invitation, and Bayes realizes that Booth set up everything just like the real John Wilkes Booth.



Phipps warns Bayes that the police will soon be there, and Booth demands that they arrest him. Instead, Bayes drags Booth onto the stage and calls for the stage lights, and then asks why. Booth says it was too good a chance to miss, a Booth killing a Lincoln, and Bayes starts to choke him. He regains control of himself and insists he won't be tried for murder for killing a man who killed a machine. Booth boasts that it would make quite a story and Bayes says that he wants to understand, and dares Booth to convince him of his motivations. When Booth doesn't respond, Bayes says that he's a coward. Booth says that he was brave enough to find something sad when he couldn't find anything to be glad about.



As the police pull up outside, Bayes tells Phipps to delay them and tells Booth to continue. The intruder explains that he once killed a turtle because it would outlive all of them, and he was jealous of perfection, particularly perfect machines. Booth insists that it was destiny, and his story will be spread across the world. Bayes tells Phipps to send the police away. He tells everyone else to step outside and then says that Booth is a liar. Bayes doesn't believe Booth's claim and tells him that he wants attention and be known as the first man to be tried for murdering a machine. Booth denies it but Bayes knows better.



Booth finishes by telling Booth that he can do whatever he wants, and he won't press charges. He'll deny that Booth was ever there, and remove any evidence. Booth will be deprived of the attention he seeks. Bayes rips off the fake mustache, grabs Booth, and tells him that if he tells anyone, Bayes will hunt him down and make him suffer. The cowed Booth starts to slink out through the side entrance, but Bayes slaps him once and then lets him go.



Bayes returns to the stage and contemplates his mechanical creation. He berates himself for letting the President's murderer go. As Bayes watches in tears, the robot comes back to erratic "life" and tries to give the Gettysburg Address once more.
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