As we approach November 22, 2013 — the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination — I thought it was appropriate for me to remind those who follow me as an author and filmmaker that the thing I’ve written that has reached a wider audience than anything else in my four decade career was the script for The Twilight Zone I wrote in 1985, “Profile in Silver,” that the CBS television network broadcast in prime time on March 7, 1986.
New documentaries and docudramas being cranked out for this grim anniversary focus on the question of whether Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin or whether there was a conspiracy to end the JFK presidency — a coup d’etat as Oliver Stone most-effectively proposed in his 1991 film, JFK. As you can read below in my first-draft script I wrote a second gunman firing from the grassy knoll that was cut out on the demand of a CBS executive who wrote in a memo read to me on the phone, “The CBS television network is not going to rewrite history.”
That establishment history the CBS television network was unwilling to rewrite was the Warren Commission Report intended — depending who one asks — either to implement President Lyndon Johnson’s order that the Soviet Union and Cuba be exonerated to prevent escalation of the Cold War into a nuclear third world war, or to end speculation that the Vice President from Texas ascended to the presidency by conspiring with others who saw advantage in killing Kennedy on the Vice President’s home turf.
For me, my little science-fiction drama asked a different question: what is the nature of political power and following the Second World War had the presidency devolved into the imperial office the framers of the United States had worked so hard to prevent. I asked that question by the story device of unKilling Kennedy for a half hour.
I think it’s clear — half a century later — that whether or not the JFK assassination was at the hands of a Lone Gunman or a conspiracy of Lone Gunmen, what happened in Dallas a half-century ago was only the beginning of normalized clandestinely organized violence that has reached from the rice paddies of Southeast Asia to the mountains of Afghanistan to the core financial district in New York City to the Political Zone in Washington DC.
The following article was first published here June 15th, 2010, and includes links to watch “Profile in Silver” as it was aired on CBS 26 years ago.
– J. Neil Schulman, November 11, 2013
Update: The complete episode just as broadcast in prime time by the CBS Television Network on March 7, 1986 is now on YouTube as a single video.
–J. Neil Schulman, November 15, 2013
This is excerpted from my book Profile In Silver
And Other Screenwritings (Pulpless.Com, 1999).
I got the idea for “Profile in Silver” while driving to a lunch meeting with Robert Jaffe of Vista Films, the production company that was attempting to find a studio to finance All the King’s Horses. Over lunch at Hamburger Hamlet in late 1983, I pitched Rob the idea as a feature and he loved it, but aside from sharing my notes with him, nothing concrete ever came of the pitch.
I also told the idea to my friend Alan Brennert and, two years later when Alan was on staff as executive story consulant for the revived Twilight Zone, and I was living in New Jersey, Alan phoned me and asked me if I could write my script for it at under an hour’s length for the show. I said yes and Alan assigned me to write a story outline.
For the first time, I was officially employed as a Hollywood screenwriter. But I was still living 3,000 miles away, and that was a significant element in everything that followed.
“Profile in Silver” was controversial, inasmuch as nobody at that time had ever used the JFK assassination as a plot element in a TV show, or portrayed President Kennedy and his family in a fictional context. All previous portrayals of John F. Kennedy had stayed extremely close to real life, from PT-109 to The Missiles of October.
How things have changed now! Oliver Stone’s JFK portrayed the assassination from the point of view of New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, who believed in a conspiracy. Quantum Leap put us inside the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the series lead character, Sam Beckett, changes history by preventing Jackie Kennedy from being assassinated, also. The X-Files has the Cigarette Smoking Man assassinating JFK from an underground sewer and setting up Oswald as a patsy. And NBC’s new series Dark Skies has JFK assassinated because he’s been told the truth behind the UFO landing at Roswell. I sometimes wonder whether any of these projects could have made it past industry executives if “Profile in Silver” hadn’t been on CBS prime-time first.
Alan was concerned enough with the JFK element that I wrote two versions of the story, one with real names and history, and another version with what Alan and I called a “Greek Tycoon” approach, where the events and names were fictitious but close enough to reality that everyone would know what we were doing anyway. The Greek Tycoon had been a recent movie which had fictionalized Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis using just that approach.
I wrote the outlines and Alan submitted them to Carla Singer, who was the executive at CBS Entertainment in charge of developing The Twilight Zone before it actually aired. Carla turned it down, on the grounds that using the JFK assassination as a plot element was in bad taste. Alan told me we would try again after the show was on the air and a different CBS executive was in charge of the show, and told me to develop a second story for the show in the meantime. I did, and it became “Colorblind.”
Carla Singer turned that down, also. I was the only writer who had had any stories rejected, which caused Alan and Harlan Ellison, who was on the show as a creative consultant, to write several long memos to CBS complaining about being made to force the show into a straitjacket.
When Twilight Zone made it onto the CBS schedule, Carla Singer was replaced as overseer of the show by Tony Barr, who approved me to go to script on “Profile.” But there were several story restrictions, the most emphatic was: the second assassin had to be removed from the story. Tony Barr’s memo, which Alan read to me over the phone, said, “The CBS television network is not going to rewrite history.”
Harlan wanted me to fight to keep the second assassin in, but there were other story elements I was more concerned about keeping in, most specifically, JFK’s discussion of political power with Professor Fitzgerald on Air Force One. Alan fought for, and kept in, the story elements I most cared about.
I wrote two drafts of the script. I wrote the second draft after a telephone story conference with Alan, Harlan Ellison, story editor Rockne O’Bannon (who later wrote the movie Alien Nation), executive producer Phil DeGuere, and producer James Crocker.
Then, because of a production deadline, and my being 3,000 miles away where I couldn’t meet their production needs, Alan did the final polish himself.
The main change that Alan introduced in his polish was taking the futuristic scenes from the beginning of my second draft and placing them in 1963. This was done because of the budget limitations on attempting to portray the Harvard campus 200 years in the future. I missed the parallel frame of having the story begin and end in the same future classroom, but Alan preserved a lot of that by beginning the story in a similar Harvard classroom in 1963, with Fitzgerald lecturing on inflation during the American revolution. Alan and I are both American Revolution history buffs, and Alan had pleasantly surprised me by taking a conversation the two of us had several weeks earlier and using my half of the conversation, almost verbatim, as Fitzgerald’s lecture to his 1963 students.
Alan also felt that having Fitzgerald be too specific about the future in the Oval Office conversation with JFK was too distracting from the emotional content of the scene, so he cut that dialogue. It made the script less explicit about the author’s political intent in writing the story, but dramatically stronger.
A word to budding writers: you have to be a top-level producer to have the control over your own screenwriting that a novelist takes for granted.
I flew to Los Angeles for the two-weeks filming of “Profile in Silver,” and the experience was wonderful thanks initially both to the Twilight Zone production staff and director, John Hancock. John’s major work has been as a stage and feature film director–Bang the Drum Slowly, Weeds, and Prancer among them.
John and I hit it off right away because my father is a violinist who had played ten years in the Boston Symphony, and John Hancock, a Harvard graduate himself, had been a violinist while at Harvard and had been concertmaster of the student orchestra at the Boston Symphony’s summer residence, Tanglewood. I developed a warm relationship with him on the set, where he gave me a personal education in directing, with such wisdom as, “When the Director sits down, production comes to a halt.”
John didn’t sit down more than a couple of minutes for the entire shoot.
John invited me to stand as close to him as I wanted to during the entire shoot, and frequently consulted me about my opinion, in essence giving me authorial input into the final form of the production. John also invited me to discuss my interpretations on the scenes and characters with the actors.
I ran lines with Barbara Baxley, who had been cast as Dr. Kate Wang just 24-hours before her first scene, and hadn’t yet had time to understand the time-travel elements of the story. Additionally, the character had been written for an Asian actress, but due to an error in the CBS casting memo describing the part, the talent agency representing most Asian actors had never sent over any Asian actresses in the right age-range to read for it. I improvised dialogue implying that “Wang” was a married name and Barbara added the words “a phrase my husband taught me” to cover the change in her ethnicity.
I also got a chance to discuss character elements both with Lane Smith, who played Professor Fitzgerald, and Andrew Robinson, who played JFK.
One of the first scenes filmed was the scene in Fitzgerald’s office when Kate Wang materializes, and they discuss Fitzgerald’s upcoming trip to Dallas. Lane was having trouble with his extensive speeches in that scene because Lane has a natural Southern accent which he was having to change to a Boston accent for the role. I suggested to him that he let his natural accent come out in the office scene, because it would be exactly like an actor coming out of a role for Fitzgerald to talk with someone from his own time.
Lane took my suggestion, with John Hancock’s approval.
I also got a chance to discuss my story intents with Andy Robinson before the scene between JFK and Professor Fitzgerald on Air Force One that set-up the entire emotional context of the story.
Through interpretation, Andy was able to restore much of the meaning of my earlier drafts, even with JFK dialogue that was no longer explicitly in the Oval Office scene.
Many people have wondered why Andy Robinson, who had been best known as the bad guy Scorpio in the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry, had been cast as JFK. Andy told me that he had played JFK, previously, replacing William Devane in the Broadway production of the satirical anti-war play, MacBird.
(Devane, who starred in The Missiles of October about the Cuban missile crisis, later went on to play a time-travelling historian in a TV movie who was trying to prevent the JFK assassination — but could never prevent it. That movie was based on a book written after my original 1983 outline for “Profile,” and was produced after “Profile” had already been shown on CBS.)
There are several milestones in the production of “Profile in Silver” that are worth mentioning.
The first is that I wrote into both drafts of my script JFK delivering the speech he was scheduled to give on November 22nd, 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. As filmed, we hear the speech in the background on the car radio, as the secret service agent is accompanying Fitzgerald to Love Field to meet Kennedy. Andrew Robinson recorded the entire speech so that CBS sound editors could lay it in the background of that scene. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only time that the speech JFK never got to make has ever been delivered by anyone in a motion picture or theatrical production.
Also noteworthy about that speech is that CBS’s broadcast standards department sent a note to the Twilight Zone production staff questioning the authenticity of the Dallas Trade Mart Speech. The note said the speech didn’t sound like authentic JFK. How time changes our perceptions! I had gotten the Trade Mart speech from a book of JFK speeches, and it’s what you would expect: a speech meant to kick off JFK’s bid for re-election in 1964.
CBS broadcast standards didn’t have a single question about the authenticity of the speech I have JFK give at the end of “Profile,” in a Harvard classroom 200 years in the future. I made that speech up completely, but it was inspirational in tone — the way we remember JFK’s speeches through the lenses of time.
I was also able to make use of a wonderful coincidence. November 22nd, 1963 was a Friday — and on the CBS schedule for that night, as usual in its 7:30 PM time slot, was the original Rod Serling Twilight Zone. All regularly scheduled programming for that night was pre empted by the JFK assassination in the universe we lived through — but in the universe in which my futuristic history professor prevents the assassination, CBS decides to end its news coverage of the day’s events just in time for that evening’s airing of The Twilight Zone.
In the scene in the Treasury inspector’s office where the secret service agent who found the Kennedy Half Dollar is having a fellow Treasury agent inspect the coin, we hear a special news bulletin cut back to regularly scheduled programming, and we hear the opening notes of the famous Twilight Zone theme just as the scene cuts to the Oval Office and JFK says he finds Fitzgerald being a Soviet spy “hard to believe.”
Later, in the Dallas hospital scene after the assassination, in the filmed version, you can see a white-coated doctor looking directly into the camera for a moment. That doctor is Yours Truly, who submitted to a 1963-style short haircut just before the scene was filmed, so I could pull an Alfred Hitchcock. I was not overacting. John Hancock told me to look directly into the camera, and I was just doing what the Director told me.
As edited by John Hancock for broadcast, “Profile in Silver” came in at 26 minutes and 52 seconds. Scenes are short and cut quickly, so it plays more like a theatrical motion picture than an episode of a TV series. It took ten days to film and cost about $900,000 to produce — very expensive for a TV series in 1986. When commercials were inserted, it broke the half hour and came in at 35 minutes — which left the balance of the hour for “Button, Button,” starring Mare Winningham.
USA Today ran a feature on “Profile in Silver” in its March 3, 1986 television
column, and I was interviewed about the show by Gene Burns on a Boston radio talk show.
Lane Smith, who plays Professor Fitzgerald, went on to play Nixon in a TV biography, the prosecutor in My Cousin Vinny, and a corrupt senator in the Eddie Murphy comedy The Distinguished Gentleman. Lane now plays Perry White on Lois & Clark.
Andrew Robinson, who plays JFK, can now be seen (through a thick layer of theatrical appliances and makeup) as Garak, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In a recent interview in Psychotronic Video, Andy Robinson spoke extensively about how much playing JFK in that episode meant to him, and how much he liked the script.
Alan Brennert, who bought the script and polished it, later shared an Emmy as Supervising Producer for LA Law, and is now writing feature film scripts.
And Carla Singer, who as the first CBS Executive in charge of the revived Twilight Zone turned down the story for “Profile in Silver”?
When she finally saw it, she changed her mind, and decided it was one of the best episodes.
CBS must have agreed: the hour containing “Profile in Silver” was the only one which they ran three times in prime time, before the show went into syndication, where it has run another dozen or so times in a half-hour edition.
That third airing of “Profile in Silver” was seen by the veteran TV producer who gave Rod Serling his first job in television. He thought my script was one of the few that carried the spirit of the original Twlight Zone series, and that’s how I got the assignment for The Mars Story.
I have written two novels, short stories, and articles published in major magazines and newspapers. But the power of television is such that even a single episode of a series show that never got more than mediocre ratings after the first week or so has been seen by so many millions of people that it’s probably the only thing of mine that most people have ever seen. The episode has been syndicated worldwide and sold on videotape overseas. I was in Paris just a few weeks before it was broadcast there.
It may only be 26 minutes and 52 seconds long, but if a writer has to be remembered for a single script, I’m delighted that the one I’m remembered for is “Profile in Silver.” — JNS, 1999
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
“Profile In Silver”
by J. Neil Schulman
EXT. CAMPUS – HARVARD UNIVERSITY – 2163 A.D. – DAY
SERIES OF SHOTS and SUPERIMPOSED TITLES–
“HARVARD UNIVERSITY – 2163 A.D.”–
to establish. Even almost two centuries in the future, Harvard
still has ivy-covered buildings and students running late to class–or
taking advantage of warm, sunny weather to study outside. The only
obvious indication of a future century–aside from odd clothing and
hairstyles–is that after a group of students climb into a beat-up car
and rev the engine, the car shoots off vertically.
INT. “DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY” LECTURE HALL
and this, too, has changed little. Students are seated at tablet
armchairs listening to a lecture. That is, those students who aren’t
catching up on sleep or secretly finishing work for their next class.
Delivering the lecture is their professor, DR. JOSEPH K. FITZGERALD, a
handsome man in his mid-forties, whose suit and hairstyle is obviously
professorial, but still, somehow, futuristic. While he lectures, as a
nervous habit, Fitzgerald is flipping a silver coin in his hand.
Living today in worldwide freedom, peace, and
prosperity, it’s almost impossible for us to
comprehend political violence two centuries
ago. The Twentieth Century was a time of
world wars, brushfire wars–the everpresent
threat of nuclear war. Genocide, riots,
hijackings, tyranny–political terrorism. But
there was one event which encapsulates the mad
violence of that period: the assassination in
November, Nineteen-sixty-three of the American
President, John F. Kennedy.
A STUDENT wearing a LETTER SWEATER raises his hand with perhaps a
touch of arrogance. Fitzgerald recognises him.
Your ancestor, Professor Fitzgerald?
Yes, I am proud to say. While I can hardly
expect you to approve the politics of that
insane era, John Fitzgerald Kennedy rose above
the insanities of his time by being a man of
vision and a man of courage. Most important
to you, John F. Kennedy was a Harvard man.
STUDENTS laugh appreciatively.
When they stop, Fitzgerald waves his hand in an odd way; suddenly the
lights dim and WE SEE FILM PROJECTED behind him: STOCK NEWS
FOOTAGE of that fateful day in Dallas–the motorcade, the shots, screams,
the limousine tearing out into traffic.
(continuing over film)
There have always been unanswered questions.
Was Lee Harvey Oswald the assassin? Was there
a conspiracy? Did this relate to other
political killings of that era–Diem of
Vietnam, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King?
Until now, we could only speculate.
Fitzgerald pauses, then resumes flipping his coin nervously.
After trying for six years, my historical-
research grant from the Rand Institute has
come through. I leave for the past tonight.
In the next lecture, I hope to bring you some
As Fitzgerald continues lecturing, his VOICE FADES AND
Dr. Joseph Kennedy Fitzgerald, a Professor of
History at Harvard … descendant of a man who
graduated Harvard and went on to make some of
the history the Professor teaches. In a few
hours, Dr. Fitzgerald will make a journey back
in time to a fateful day in history …
November twenty-second, Nineteen-sixty three.
Dr. Fitzgerald is searching for an ending to a
history lesson. But the ending he finds will
go beyond history … it will go beyond
politics … it will stretch the limits of
human courage. Perhaps it will stretch even
the boundless dimensions of …
CLOSE ON THE COIN
as it drops into Dr. Fitzgerald’s hand. WE SEE that it is a 1964
KENNEDY HALF DOLLAR.
… The Twilight Zone.
ESTABLISHING SHOT “RAND INSTITUTE FOR TEMPORAL
STUDIES” – NIGHT
a formidable-looking hi-tech glass-and-steel office complex, still
active at night, its sign also glowing in the darkness.
EXT. “TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT PLATFORM” – NIGHT
which looks like a sports arena during a night game, with a floodlit
riser at its center–the PLATFORM. But except for two TECHNICIANS
sitting at a control console near the Platform, it is vastly empty.
We follow Dr. Fitzgerald–now styled and dressed in a suit-and-tie
appropriate for 1963–as he walks toward the Platform with DR. KATE
WANG, a distinguished, Chinese woman in 2163 garb.
On a table near the Platform are a MAN’S LEATHER BELT with a
rectangular buckle, a SIGNET RING, A WALLET, AN ANALOG
WRISTWATCH, and what looks to be a 1963 MODEL 8-MILLIMETER
MOVIE CAMERA. Wang shows Fitzgerald the Belt first–it matches his
We’ve imbedded the temporal displacement
circuit inside the belt, and hidden the
control panel in its buckle. Proper I.D. in
the wallet. The wristwatch is your computer.
Dr. Fitzgerald puts the Wallet into his jacket, then starts putting on
the Wristwatch and the Belt.
Will it tell time?
That’s a very old joke.
Sorry. Where have you hidden the emergency
In a Harvard signet ring. If the displacement
circuit in the belt fails or is separated from
the ring it will home back here directly.
We’ve set it on five minutes failsafe.
Dr. Fitzgerald nods, placing the Ring on his right hand. Wang hands
Fitzgerald the “Movie” Camera. He straps it over his shoulder.
An F-minus-infinity retina, auto-zoom with
three-sixty peripheral. Only a fifty gigabyte
disk, but you won’t need more. Ready?
I’ve been ready for the last six years.
Feel lucky you’re going at all. After the
Sodom and Gomorrah meltdown, our insurance
Fitzgerald’s only reaction is to frown and step onto the Platform.
Dr. Wang joins the Technicians at the control console. The console
starts to VIBRATE with the force of great amounts of energy being
gathered; the Platform starts to PULSE in changing colors.
Dr. Wang, I read a few grams unexpected mass.
What is it, Joe?
A family keepsake–a good luck charm.
Fitzgerald reaches into a jacket pocket and pulls out his KENNEDY
HALF DOLLAR. Dr. Wang walks up to the platform and examines it.
It’s dated one year after your destination.
But not strictly forbidden. No anachronisms
found in any historical document. I ran a
He puts the COIN back into his jacket.
Don’t get involved back there, Joe. You’re an
historian. Stick to your job.
What are you worried about, Kate? Afraid I’m
Frankly, yes. You have a very Chinese view of
She steps back to console and nods to the Chief Technician.
All circuits test positive … Tachyon
modulation positive … Phasing five point
five nominal … Plasma bottle charged …
Displacement on command–Ready.
The Chief Technician nods to the Second Technician who pulls a lever.
On the Platform, Dr. Fitzgerald flashes bright red.
… We have temporal coherence.
Suddenly, Dr. Fitzgerald shrinks to infinity and a super-powerful
laser beam shoots up from the platform to the starlit night sky,
punching a hole in Time.
FLASH CUT TO:
EXT. DEALY PLAZA – DALLAS – NOVEMBER 22, 1963 –
JUST BEFORE 12:30 PM
as Dr. Fitzgerald materializes on the sidewalk near the Grassy Knoll,
just as the Presidential motorcade is approaching.
A TEXAN does a double-take as Fitzgerald pops in next to him.
Where in Sam Hill did you come from?
Before the Texan can get any further into it, Fitzgerald lifts his
“movie” camera up to his eye and starts recording. The Texan goes
back to watching the approaching motorcade.
FITZGERALD’S POV THROUGH RANGEFINDER
VARIOUS SHOTS as he ZOOMS IN ON the open Presidential limousine and
sees (our actor) PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY.
[NOTE: for reasons that will become apparent later, the two Actors
playing KENNEDY and FITZGERALD should bear strong physical resemblance.]
To the President’s left–our actors–JACKIE KENNEDY (in her famous pink
suit), on the jumpseat in front of JFK, TEXAS GOVERNOR
CONNALLY. SECRET SERVICE AGENT GREER is driving the limo,
SECRET SERVICE AGENT KELLERMAN is on Kennedy’s right.
SECRET SERVICE AGENT RAY KINGMAN is walking alongside the Presidential
limo, on Fitzgerald’s side of the street.
Additional limousines follow in the motorcade with more Secret
Service, VICE PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON (our actor),
press and dignitaries.
Crowds line the street, waving flags, shouting greetings to the
A “DALLAS POLICEMAN” (our actor) steps into Fitzgerald’s POV and
Fitzgerald ZOOMS CLOSE IN on the crucial window of the TEXAS
SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY COMPANY, and WE SEE (our actor)
LEE HARVEY OSWALD taking aim with a rifle on the Presidential
FITZGERALD’S POV – IN RAPID SEQUENCE
THE “DALLAS POLICEMAN” is surreptitiously–with his pistol still
holstered–raising his pistol.
Oswald FIRES his rifle, hitting Texas Governor Connally–the SOUND of
the SHOT is delayed.
The “Policeman” now has his still-holstered pistol aimed directly at
SMASH CUT TO:
RAPID SEQUENCE – FITZGERALD AND THE “POLICEMAN”
as Fitzgerald drops his camera onto its shoulder strap and instantly
realizes–emotionally–that the man in front of him is not a Dallas
policeman but a Second Assassin–and this assassin is about to murder
John F. Kennedy.
To Fitzgerald, for the first time, this is no longer the dispassionate
study of the long-dead past: this is happening now. He hesitates,
realizing that he’s just an observer, then the emotional pain becomes
And with that bellow, Fitzgerald leaps forward onto the disguised
gunman just as he FIRES.
RAPID SEQUENCE – SECRET SERVICE AGENT KINGMAN
as he HEARS Fitzgerald’s shout and spins around just as the
“Policeman” FIRES, to SEE Fitzgerald jump him.
RAPID SEQUENCE – FITZGERALD AND “POLICEMAN”
As Fitzgerald tackles him, the “Policeman’s” GUNSHOT is redirected
away from Kennedy’s head and impacts harmlessly on the limo.
RAPID SEQUENCE – SCREAMING BYSTANDERS
At the SOUND of the two GUNSHOTS.
RAPID SEQUENCE – IN LIMO – AGENT KELLERMAN
as he throws himself onto JFK and Jackie.
Agent Kingman and ANOTHER AGENT arrive at the spot where Fitzgerald
has tackled the “Policeman”. KINGMAN grabs Fitzgerald and pulls
him toward the President’s limo; the other Agent holds the assassin.
RAPID SEQUENCE – KINGMAN AND FITZGERALD
RAPID SEQUENCE – THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMO
as Kingman pulls Fitzgerald onto the Presidential limousine just as
everyone realizes that Governor Connally has been shot.
(to agent driving)
The Governor has been hit! Get him to a
(driving; to radio)
I’m pulling out!
LONG ON THE LIMO
as it pulls out of the motorcade and accelerates.
BACK IN SPEEDING LIMO
as Kingman and Fitzgerald are settled in the front seat, quietly
TALKING to each other in the b.g. WE SEE Fitzgerald reach into his
jacket, take out the Wallet, and hand a 1963 Harvard “Faculty I.D.
Card” to Agent Kingman.
(continuing; to radio)
Alert Parkland Memorial Hospital that the
Governor will be there in four minutes.
President Kennedy nods, satisfied, then notices Agent Kingman and
Mr. Kingman, who is this man?
Mr. President, this is Dr. Joseph Fitzgerald,
one of your constituents from Harvard. He
just saved your life.
KENNEDY AND FITZGERALD
as they look at each other for the first time.
Dr. Fitzgerald, Harvard, and I, are in your
CLOSE ON FITZGERALD
as he realizes the full impact of what he has done.
EXT. EMERGENCY ENTRANCE – PARKLAND MEMORIAL
HOSPITAL – DAY
as the limousine pulls up. A stretcher crew immediately takes the
wounded Governor out.
JFK gestures to Agent Kellerman that he wishes to get out of the
limousine, but Jackie stops him.
You can’t do any good in there, Jack.
The others wait expectantly for a moment while JFK decides, then
Kennedy nods determinedly.
Mr. Greer, radio ahead to the Dallas Trade
Mart. I’ll speak as scheduled.
INT. THE DALLAS TRADE MART
where President John F. Kennedy is delivering the luncheon address
that history had never intended him to give.
Dr. Fitzgerald stands on the sidelines, an historian still, recording
it all in his “camera.”
We in this country, in this generation are–by
destiny rather than choice–the watchmen of
the walls of world freedom. We ask,
therefore, that we may be worthy of our power
and responsibility–that we may exercise our
strength with wisdom and restraint–and that
we may achieve it in our time, and for all
time, the ancient vision of peace on Earth,
goodwill toward men.
MASSIVE LUNCHEON AUDIENCE (FROM STOCK FOOTAGE)
There is APPLAUSE.
CLOSE ON FITZGERALD’S FACE
as he realizes that Kennedy’s vision was destined to be fulfilled–but
will it be, now that history has been changed?
PRESIDENT KENNEDY AGAIN
That must always be our goal–and the
righteousness of our cause must always
underlie our strength. For as was written
long ago: “Except the Lord keep the city, the
watchman waketh but in vain.”
As APPLAUSE greets the end of Kennedy’s speech, we
SIDE WINGS OF TRADE MART
As JFK, Jackie, Vice President Johnson, Fitzgerald, and the rest of
the Presidential entourage are walking out.
AN AIDE rushes up to the Vice President and addresses Johnson
Mr. Vice President, we’ve got more problems!
Tornadoes have sprung up all around the state!
One is heading here, another just ripped its
way through downtown Austin, and another just
hit your ranch!
(grimly, to Aide)
Better get the choppers ready, son.
The Aide runs off.
Mr. President, if I were you, I’d hightail it
back to Washington and mind the store. It
looks like fate is set on spoiling our
He knows it’s not fate that’s doing this.
Take care of your people, Lyndon. Let me know
how I can help.
Yes, Mr. President.
Johnson rushes out. Kennedy turns to Fitzgerald.
Dr. Fitzgerald, I can use an extra Harvard
professor in my Brain Trust right now. Are
you free to be my guest at the White House?
Uh, yes, sir.
Then let’s get going. This is turning out to
be “one of those days.”
As they rush out of the Trade Mart, we
EXT. (LOVE) AIR FIELD – STORM – AFTERNOON
as strong rain and winds surround AIR FORCE ONE while it takes off.
STOCK FOOTAGE – TORNADOES
As they wind their way through Texan cities.
EXT. AIR FORCE ONE – BREAKING ABOVE CLOUDS – AFTERNOON
INT. AIR FORCE ONE – IN FLIGHT
this time, not carrying a flag-draped casket and a just-sworn-in new
president, but with JFK still alive and well.
Jackie is sitting forward, being interviewed by a reporter.
Kennedy is sitting catercorner to Fitzgerald in a living room area.
Both men have drinks. Agent Kingman is seated nearby, reading.
AN AIDE comes up to the President.
Mr. President, news out of Texas is bad.
Parts of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin–gone.
Hundreds dead, more missing. The Lieutenant
Governor is requesting federal disaster
relief. The only good news is that Parkland
Memorial was untouched. Governor Connally is
out of surgery in stable condition.
Thank God for that, at least. Okay, get the
paperwork going. I want disaster relief on my
desk before I go to bed tonight.
Yes, sir. One more thing. In addition to the
fake policeman Dr. Fitzgerald apprehended,
Dallas police arrested a man named Lee Oswald.
They’ve charged Oswald not only with shooting
the Governor, but with murdering a Dallas
Kennedy nods seriously.
The Aide leaves. The historian from the future can’t resist asking.
Mr. President, do you have any idea–
Jack. Men who’ve saved my life call me
“Jack.” … I’m “Joe” to everyone but my
Good name. My Dad’s name. Also my late
I … know.
You were asking something?
If you have any idea who would have reason to
shoot at you?
Kennedy takes a sip of his drink before answering.
Considering the awesome power wielded by the
President, who wouldn’t? Two centuries ago,
the Founding Fathers tried to set things up so
we wouldn’t have a king anymore. Now, because
we’re always a pushbutton away from war, the
President has been stuck with more power than
any king in history. It’s no wonder my
administration has been called “Camelot.”
Like King Arthur, you had to win your office.
It must gratify you, no?
What gratified me was getting the world
through the Cuban Missile Crisis in one piece.
Providence was with us that time. But
Scripture tells us to “put not your trust in
princes.” Maybe someday people will take that
That would leave you unemployed.
This job gives me few moments of great joy.
I’ll tell you, Joe, after I’m out of office
what I’d best like to do is help you Harvard
professors find a way to beat nuclear bombs
A century from now, nuclear bombs will power
We’ve studied that idea. But how do you
prevent enemy nations from regarding nuclear
rockets as weapons?
Insurance companies. Next century, people
will replace nation-states with insurance
You have a wicked sense of humor, Joe. I’ll
have to tell that one to Senator Goldwater
when I see him.
Fitzgerald is puzzling out that remark when the Aide returns.
Mr. President, there’s a radiophone call for
you from Defense Secretary McNamara.
Excuse me. (still chuckling) Insurance
The President gets up and walks aft, leaving Dr. Fitzgerald alone with
his thoughts. Without thinking, Fitzgerald sticks his hand into his
jacket pocket, pulling out his Kennedy Half Dollar, and automatically
starts to flip it in his hands.
Suddenly, the plane is hit by turbulence, and Fitzgerald misses
catching the coin. The coin rolls to where Agent Kingman is sitting.
Agent Kingman sees the coin, and looks up to meet Fitzgerald’s frantic
gaze; Fitzgerald looks away quickly. Kingman picks the coin up.
CLOSE ON KINGMAN
as he sees what the coin is.
KINGMAN AND FITZGERALD
As Kingman–seeing Fitzgerald trying to look innocent–realizes that
this must be Fitzgerald’s property.
as President Kennedy returns to the seat next to Fitzgerald, JFK
passes his Aide and waves him over.
(quiet but urgently)
Listen carefully. I’ve just placed our
Strategic Forces on Yellow Alert. Set up an
Emergency Cabinet meeting for tonight at ten.
Rusk is on a plane to Japan–see if you can
get him back. Tell Bundy, Taylor, Sorensen.
And Bobby! But act normally and do it
quietly–I don’t want the press onboard to
know anything’s wrong.
As the Aide leaves, Kennedy straps himself in again and turns to
Fitzgerald, likewise speaking quietly but with urgency.
How familiar are you with the history of our
Completely. My specialty is this era.
Fitzgerald sees Kennedy’s confusion and corrects himself quickly.
I mean this area. Why do you ask?
Soviet troops just captured West Berlin. The
Russian premier is demanding we pull our
forces out of the rest of Germany or they’ll
kill every American in Berlin.
But Khrushchev never would have done that!
(nods with finality)
Premier Khrushchev was assassinated today.
On Fitzgerald’s startled look, we
EXT. AIR FORCE ONE – ON THE GROUND – AFTERNOON
as the door opens. The Secret Service, JFK and Jackie, Fitzgerald,
the Warrant Officer with the “Black Bag,” and the rest of the
entourage begin deplaning.
as he watches Fitzgerald getting into the Presidential limousine with
the Kennedys, then LOOKS DOWN again at the mysterious Kennedy Half
Dollar. Kingman slips the coin into his pocket then walks up to
another SECRET SERVICE AGENT.
I need to do some research at Treasury before
it closes. Can you spare me?
The Agent nods.
THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE
as it departs.
EXT. THE WHITE HOUSE – THE LIMOUSINE ARRIVING – AFTERNOON
as JFK and Jackie get out of the limousine first and two children run
to meet them: six-year-old CAROLINE and three-year-old JOHN, JR.
CLOSE ON THE COIN
as we see it being held in a man’s hand.
WIDER – INT. OFFICE – AFTERNOON
as Agent Kingman is sitting across a desk from another TREASURY MAN.
The T-MAN is looking at the coin through a watchmaker’s loupe screwed
into his eye, then removes the loupe and leans back in his chair.
Remarkable. Utterly remarkable. I’ve never
seen counterfeit work this faithful to Mint
standards. Whoever did this is a real artist.
Then it is a counterfeit? It’s not something
our Mint has in the works for next year?
Of course not. How could it be? Other
countries stamp reigning sovereigns on their
coins, but it’s against U.S. law to mint the
image of any living person.
Could it be a practical joke of some sort? Or
a prototype of a campaign handout? Maybe one
of the President’s brothers … or the
I doubt it very much. They’d have to know
it’s a felony … and possibly treason, since
it implies President Kennedy is going to die
by Sixty-four. This man who lost it … you
saw him save the President’s life?
Absolutely. Or I wouldn’t have allowed him
anywhere near the President until his
credentials had been confirmed.
And were they?
I checked during the President’s speech.
Matched Fitzgerald’s prints with FBI. Clean.
Checked Harvard, Internal Revenue, the Army.
All in order. But that’s the really odd
thing. The documents are all there, but I
can’t find anyone who’s ever heard of
Fitzgerald. It’s like somebody got into the
records and just dropped him in. And yeah, I
checked with CIA. They’ve never heard of him.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Company
didn’t tell us about one of their Spooks.
Maybe. Still, this Harvard professor is
Johnny-on-the-Spot to save the President’s
life … he loses a coin that shouldn’t exist
… he’s got three of the President’s family
names … he even looks like the President.
Now, with a crisis more dangerous that Cuba
coming on, the President is confiding in this
stranger like a long-lost brother. If you ask
Suddenly, the office starts shaking violently with a rolling motion
Californians are too familiar with … but that shouldn’t be happening
in Washington D.C.
An earthquake. Lamps fall over, fixtures swing …
Kingman and the T-Man both jump up, startled out of their wits.
My God … an earthquake in Washington?
INT. OVAL OFFICE – THE WHITE HOUSE – SAME TIME
as JFK sits behind his desk talking on the telephone … and the
earthquake hits here, too.
Kennedy drops the phone and jumps to his feet … and by doing so
saves his life again as a massive BOOKSHELF topples onto his chair
where he was sitting.
The Presidential Aide runs into the Oval Office in a flash, as the
RUMBLING DIES AWAY.
Sir, are you all right?
I’m fine! Find out if my kids are okay!
The Aide runs out. Kennedy pulls the phone out from under some books
and picks up the receiver again.
You still there, Bobby? (beat) You’re damn
right we felt it here! (beat) Yeah, I’ll
talk to you later.
The President hangs up just as the Aide returns.
Nobody hurt, sir … the children weren’t even
really frightened. I’m afraid the First Lady
isn’t doing quite as well … we just lost
half her favorite bone china.
Tell her to break out the paper plates!
What the Devil is going on today?
I don’t know, sir. But my father’s a minister
and I can bet you his sermon this Sunday is
going to be on the Apocalypse … if we make
it to Sunday.
as he wearily drops his face into his hands. HOLD on him, then
INT. WHITE HOUSE GUEST BEDROOM – FITZGERALD
as he turns a lamp upright again then starts talking to his Wristwatch
Computer, rubbing his back as if it’s been injured.
Resume program … Last parameter, three-
times-ten-to-the-ninth non-parallel vectors.
Compute time-line status.
(Voice like HAL 9000)
After pressure release by tornadoes at
intervention site, Stable Two was achieved by
Stable, my aching back! What about the
earthquake just now?
Shockwave backwash from first intervention in
time line. No major effects.
All right, then. With Khrushchev
assassination as Stable Two, give me worst-
and-best-case outcomes on this time-line, with
Worst-case scenario: Three-hundred megaton
nuclear exchange between the Superpowers
within nine days, resulting in total
annihilation of biosphere. Probability:
seventy-seven percent. Best-case scenario:
surrender of Western Europe to the Soviet
Union within six years, resulting in collapse
of Soviet economy. In desperation, Soviets
blackmail West for food, West is provoked into
agro-bacterial war between the Superpowers,
resulting in total annihilation of biosphere
within century. Probability: twelve percent.
There’s only an eleven percent possibility of
avoiding total war on this time-line?
Three percent. Eight percent
includes all other scenarios leading to–
–Total annihilation of biosphere.
GIRL’S VOICE (O.S.)
Why are you talking to your watch?
Fitzgerald looks up, startled.
IN DOORWAY – CAROLINE
as she walks into
GUEST ROOM – FITZGERALD AND CAROLINE
Because it gives me smarter answers than I get
from most people.
You should talk to my Daddy instead. He gives
me smart answers on everything.
Yes, I’m sure he does.
JACKIE’S VOICE (O.S.)
Caroline, dear! It’s time for your dinner!
I’ll be right there, Mommy!
I talk to my pony Macaroni, sometimes. But I
never get any answers. See ya!
Caroline ducks out.
Fitzgerald checks the corridor, then resumes talking to his
Wristwatch, more quietly.
Since this time-line is non-viable, give me
all options for repairing original time-line.
There exists only one viable option for
repairing original time-line. The
assassination of President John F. Kennedy
must occur as history originally recorded.
ON FITZGERALD’S HORROR
as the thoughts of the little girl he just met–and the answers she
gets only from her “Daddy”–hit him hard. He drops his face into his
hands exactly like JFK did.
INT. THE OVAL OFFICE – NIGHT
JFK is alone, in his famous ROCKING CHAIR, puffing on a cigar and
thinking. A TELEVISION next to his desk is on in the b.g., a CBS
TELEVISION SPECIAL NEWS REPORT.
ANCHORMAN (ON TV)
–certainly an indication of a conspiracy by
Soviet hard-liners. However, the tornadoes in
Texas and the earthquake in the Capital would
certainly have to be put down to one of those
unbelievable coincidences that you meet so
often in the news business.
There is a knock at the office door. (TV SOUND continues UNDER.)
Agent Kingman enters.
Hi, Ray. (Indicates chair) Take a load off.
Want a drink?
Thank you, sir, but I’m still on duty.
I won’t tell on you.
Kingman remains standing and smiles … letting us know that this is a
game the two of them have played before.
Mr. President, I have some concerns about Dr.
Fitzgerald. I’ve checked with Harvard, and
even though they have him in their records as
a full professor on sabbatical, nobody there
has ever heard of him. It’s possible that Dr.
Fitzgerald is a spy.
(used to being
I don’t know for who, sir, but I wouldn’t
eliminate the Soviets. I can’t think of a
better way to get an agent close to the
President than to set up an assassination and
have your man save the President’s life.
I know people, and Joe Fitzgerald is no Soviet
spy. Also, the Soviets are subtler than that
… if they wanted to pull something this big
they’d use sleeper agents who’d been in place
for twenty years.
There’s more, sir.
Kingman reaches into his pocket, pulls out the KENNEDY HALF DOLLAR,
and hands it to Kennedy.
Dr. Fitzgerald lost this on Air Force One.
CLOSE ON KENNEDY – IN PROFILE
as he LOOKS at HIS OWN FACE IN PROFILE on the half dollar.
I think someone is taking this Camelot stuff a
bit too far.
All right. You’d better get Fitzgerald in
STANDING IN DOORWAY – FITZGERALD
Fitzgerald has his “camera” strapped over his shoulder.
I was already on my way here, Mr. President.
OVAL OFFICE – ALL
In the b.g., WE HEAR
–This concludes this CBS News Special Report.
We now return to our regularly scheduled
Kennedy gestures Fitzgerald into the office.
Dr. Fitzgerald, were you part of an
assassination conspiracy in Dallas today?
No, sir, I was not. But I knew about the
assassination before I came to Dallas.
Excuse me, sir.
Where did you get that coin?
It’s been in my family for almost two hundred
You’ll pardon me if I say that’s a little
IN THE B.G.., we HEAR the original “Twilight Zone” THEME MUSIC and:
ROD SERLING’S VOICE
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which
is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as
space and as timeless as infinity. It is the
middle ground between light and shadow–
between science and superstition–
(gesturing toward TV)
People of your generation should have paid
more attention to the classics.
My generation? You’re the same generation as
Fitzgerald walks over to the TV set.
ROD SERLING’S VOICE
–And it lies between the pit of man’s fears
and the summit of his imagination. It is an
area which we call–
Fitzgerald switches off the set just before we hear the words “The
Twilight Zone.” Then he faces his ancestor directly.
No, Mr. President, I am not. I am of a
generation that won’t be your age for another
two-hundred years. I am a time-traveler from
the future … and your direct descendant by
two converging lines.
Dr. Fitzgerald, the matters we are discussing
are much too serious for you to joke about
I’m not joking, sir.
Fitzgerald picks up his camera.
In a split-second, Agent Kingman has his gun out, pointed at
This isn’t a weapon.
Fitzgerald points his “camera” toward the wall–away from both
Kennedy and Kingman–and turns it on.
IN FRONT OF WALL – KENNEDY GIVING SPEECH
AT TRADE MART
in a Full-size, 3-D, Full-color and Sound Playback.
We in this country, in this generation are–by
destiny rather than choice–the watchmen of
the walls of world freedom. We ask,
therefore, that we may be worthy of our power
KENNEDY AND AGENT KINGMAN
as they watch this phenomenon, open-mouthed.
–that we may exercise our strength with
wisdom and restraint–and that we may achieve
it in our time, and for all time, the ancient
vision of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.
Fitzgerald turns the “camera” off and the Kennedy Hologram
Kingman holsters his pistol again. After a pause, he speaks first.
Mr. President, request permission to go off
Granted. For both of us, also.
Kingman immediately goes over to the liquor and pours three stiff
drinks. He hands one each to Kennedy and Fitzgerald.
He has time to ponder his remark as the three men drink.
Fitzgerald and Kingman draw up chairs. Kennedy breaks the tension
in the room.
Insurance companies, huh?
That’s only a transitional phase. By my time
we’ve put together a social system I’m sure
you’d consider much-more bizarre than that.
But we have achieved your dreams. We’ve
eliminated war, poverty, and tyranny. Your
dream of humankind moving into space has
become a reality … I took my graduate degree
out near the orbit of Jupiter.
I never thought humanity would achieve that
sort of Utopia.
It’s not even close to being Utopia, sir.
We’ve taken the Biblical advice about not
putting our trust in princes, but we haven’t
beaten our swords into plowshares. We just
finally got it through our skulls that it’s
safer to avoid princes with big swords.
Kennedy gets up (Kingman and Fitzgerald rise immediately) and JFK
starts pacing near his desk. He is still holding the Kennedy Half
Dollar and he looks at it thoughtfully.
You come from the future. Did you come back
to tell me what I’m supposed to do about the
Berlin crisis today?
(suddenly choked up)
I … didn’t know about that.
Didn’t know? How could you not know?
Kennedy looks at the Coin one more time.
ZOOM IN ON THE COIN’S DATE – 1964
as Kennedy sees it and suddenly realizes what it means.
You came to Dallas to observe an
assassination. My assassination.
Dear God in heaven.
Kennedy looks down and sees–on his desk where the earthquake left
it–a copy of his book, Profiles in Courage.
This Berlin crisis would be the end of the
world, wouldn’t it?
Kennedy picks up Profiles in Courage, then puts in down again,
firmly. When he speaks again, it’s with the firm resolve of a P.T. boat
You’re here, which proves that it wasn’t.
You’ll have to take me back. Can you take me
back? Can you make it like it was intended to
Fitzgerald drops his head forward. Then he looks up again and removes
his Harvard Signet Ring, extending it toward Kennedy.
You’ll have to put this ring on.
Agent Kingman, stay out of this!
If there’s anyone you need to say goodbye to–
I couldn’t make myself leave them if I did.
And they wouldn’t remember, would they?
President Kennedy takes the ring, closes his eyes, and slips the ring
onto his right hand.
as he flashes, on-and-off, bright red, and
freezes in place.
What’s happening to him?
You’ve taken an oath to protect the life of
Only Secret Service know that code name for
What do we have to do?
We’ve got to go back.
After several long beats,
EXT. DEALY PLAZA – DALLAS – NOVEMBER 22, 1963 –
JUST BEFORE 12:30 PM
just as the Presidential motorcade is approaching.
watching the approaching motorcade. This time Fitzgerald is nowhere
on the open Presidential limousine, AS BEFORE.
as before, walking alongside the Presidential limo, but suddenly–
momentarily–he FLASHES BRIGHT RED.
Additional limousines follow in the motorcade.
Crowds line the street, waving flags, shouting greetings to the
The “Dallas Policeman” steps forward and pauses.
ZOOM CLOSE IN
on the crucial window of the TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY
COMPANY, and WE SEE (our actor) LEE HARVEY OSWALD
taking aim with a rifle on the Presidential limousine.
RAPID SEQUENCE – THE “DALLAS POLICEMAN”
surreptitiously–with his pistol still holstered–raising his pistol.
RAPID SEQUENCE – OSWALD
as he FIRES his rifle, hitting Texas Governor Connally–the SOUND of
the SHOT is delayed.
RAPID SEQUENCE – THE “POLICEMAN”
as he now has his still-holstered pistol aimed directly at JFK’s head.
RAPID SEQUENCE – LONG ON THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE
as WE SEE a FLASH OF RED LIGHT surrounding the limousine.
RAPID SEQUENCE – THE DISGUISED GUNMAN
just as he FIRES.
RAPID SEQUENCE – SCREAMING BYSTANDERS
At the SOUND of the two GUNSHOTS.
RAPID SEQUENCE – AGENT KINGMAN
as he jumps onto the Presidential limousine.
RAPID SEQUENCE – FRONT SEAT OF
THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMO
(driving; to radio)
The President’s been hit! I’m pulling out!
RAPID SEQUENCE – LONG ON THE LIMO
as it pulls out of the motorcade and accelerates toward the hospital.
INT. SIDE ROOM – PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
as a gurney holds A SLAIN BODY COVERED BY A SHEET.
Agent Kingman is next to the gurney in conference with an
EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR.
Of course there were serious head wounds, but
still, that doesn’t account for–
Use logic, Doctor. It couldn’t be anyone else
… and the country will be traumatized enough
without raising silly questions about the face
on that body. This man is President John F.
The Doctor pulls back the sheet on the body … and we
ZOOM IN ON
THE SERENE FACE OF DR. JOSEPH K. FITZGERALD.
INT. LECTURE HALL – HARVARD – 2163 A.D. – DAY
as WE SEE THE BACK of a man dressed in 2163 garb, delivering a
lecture–in a wholly distinctive voice–to the HISTORY CLASS.
History records many facts … some of them
right, some of them wrong. But let the record
show that, in any age, good or bad, there are
men of high ideals … men of courage … men
who do more than that for which they are
CLOSE ON THE LECTURER’S HAND
as WE SEE that on it is A HARVARD SIGNET RING.
You will not always know their names. But let
their deeds stand as a monument, so that when
the human race is called to judgment, we may
say–this, too, was humanity.
and WE SEE that the MAN delivering the lecture is JOHN F. KENNEDY.
as they RISE TO THEIR FEET IN APPLAUSE, WE HEAR:
A fitting tribute of the sort only to be found
in … The Twilight Zone.
The Twilight Zone: “Profile in Silver” is available on the DVD collection, The Twilight Zone – Season 1 (1985 – 1986).
A fan has posted it onto YouTube.