"Mr. Denton On Doomsday" is the third episode of the original Twilight Zone series. The original air date was October 16th, 1959.
'Mr. Denton on Doomsday' grew out of an original pitch that Rod Serling did for the show called 'Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle.' In the original idea, Mr. Dingle is a schoolteacher who happens to end up becoming a famous gunfighter. The elements of the peddler as well as the ending were roughly the same. However, the original plot seems to be closer in line with the Jimmy Stewart / John Wayne classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Interestingly, the man who played Liberty Valance ( Lee Marvin ) would go on to star in two different Twilight Zone episodes including the western themed "The Grave' in which Marvin's character would also die.
As the episode stands, it starts with the appearance of Mr. Denton. Mr. Denton is a drunk who is in the habit of humiliating himself by singing 'How Dry I Am' for cruel bullies who then buy him an alcoholic drink. The lead bully is named Dan Hotaling (who is played by a young Martin Landau.) This all changes when Fate steps in, literally. A peddler named Henry J. Fate offers Mr. Denton a potion that will cure his current problem.
The potion that Fate gives to Denton makes him the quickest draw in not only the West, but possibly the world. It is revealed that before alcoholism sank in, Denton was quite handy with the iron already. Denton dispatches the bullies, seems to sober up,and catches the attention of a woman working in the bar.
The woman ( who was called Miss Smith) was played by Jeanne Cooper. Fans will know that the very recently deceased Ms. Cooper would go on to play the role of Katherine Chancellor on The Young and The Restless. Cooper was also the mother of L. A. Law actor Corbin Bernsen. Denton's success with a pistol does not come without other dangers though. Another young gunslinger wants to prove his quality against the fastest gun.
Gunfighter Pete Grant was played by a young actor Doug McClure. It was a simpler purer time and McClure seemed to personify that type of quality. We really can't put a finger on the type of quality that McClure seemed to personify. Maybe it will come to us.
After accepting the challenge of Grant, Fate steps in again with another potion for Mr. Denton. The twist is that Fate has given a vial to Grant as well. Denton and Grant both shoot each other in the hand. Neither of them can ever shoot a gun again. Denton ends the episode by declaring that both men have been 'blessed.' Doug McClure would go on to star in the western The Virginian as well as get married five times in his relatively short 59 years. McClure also lives on in our popular imagination by inspiring the creation (along with Troy Donahue) of The Simpsons character Troy McClure who was voiced by the late great Phil Hartman.
Henry J. Fate (which also sounds like a Simpsons character in that all of the middle names like in Rocky And Bullwinkle seem to be J) was played by Malcolm Atterbury. Atterbury mostly played television roles throughout his career. However, Atterbury is also remember for the Alfred Hitchcock movie North By Northwest in which he screams "The plane's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops."
In a final series note, 'Mr. Denton on Doomsday' was the first Twilight Zone episode to be syndicated. The importance of this is that it is one of the few Twilight Zone seaon one episode to include the original title sequence. It is that title sequence which first gave us the iconic image of the eyeball with heavy mascara.