The Twilight Zone episode, "The Encounter" starring George Takei is available on Paramount+ streaming
Premiering in 1959, The Twilight Zone achieved immense success due to its continuous re-airing. However, for various reasons, a few episodes from the sci-fi/horror anthology series’ five-year run were excluded from recirculation. Among these was the banned episode titled “The Encounter,” starring George Takei, which after 50 years, is now available on Paramount+.
The Twilight Zone episode “The Encounter” starring George Takei is available for streaming on Paramount+
Banning the George Takei episode was a bit of an anomaly, given The Twilight Zone’s progressive approach and courage to address controversial topics with forward-thinking perspectives.
However, in “The Encounter,” good intentions resulted in a significant misjudgment. The episode focuses on Fenton (Neville Brand), an American World War II veteran, who discovers a Japanese samurai sword in his attic.
As the story unfolds, it is revealed that he had taken the sword from its original owner, whom he had killed after the man had surrendered. The katana bears an inscription that reads, “The sword will avenge me.” Despite Fenton’s attempts to dispose of it, the weapon mysteriously keeps returning to him, haunting him with its ominous presence.
Fenton is interrupted by a young Japanese-American man named Arthur Takamori (George Takei), who is seeking employment as a gardener. The tension between the two characters gradually intensifies as their underlying prejudices surface. Fenton begins expressing increasingly anti-Asian sentiments, while Takamori reveals that his father betrayed the U.S. forces during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Shortly after its initial airing, “The Encounter” faced severe criticism and backlash, eventually leading to its controversial banishment from public view.
Unbeknownst to them, the sword seems to amplify their emotions, leading to an explosive outburst of violence. A scuffle ensues, resulting in Fenton being tragically impaled on the blade. In a harrowing turn of events, Takamori (George Takei) seizes the sword and lets out a chilling scream of “Banzai!” before plunging to his death through the attic window.
Shortly after its initial airing, “The Encounter” faced severe criticism and backlash, eventually leading to its controversial banishment from public view. One of the most glaring issues was its clichéd portrayal of the Japanese character, Arthur Takamori (George Takei). Critics argued that the episode reinforced harmful stereotypes about Asian Americans and perpetuated racial biases.
While Fenton’s overt bigotry does partly offset this flaw, the deeper problem lies in the fictional background attributed to Takamori (George Takei). There is no historical evidence of Japanese-American treachery at Pearl Harbor or anywhere else, and such fabricated narratives were utilized to justify the internment of thousands of U.S. citizens during the war based solely on their ancestry.
This creates a disastrous case of “both-siderism” within the episode, attempting to balance Fenton’s genuine biases with an artificial contrivance in the name of “fairness.” In reality, this approach only perpetuates harmful stereotypes and diminishes the historical significance of the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“The Encounter” is presented as a poignant statement against prejudice, aligning with The Twilight Zone’s commitment to such themes. However, the episode fell short in terms of diversity behind the camera, which was uncommon during that period. It was written, produced, and directed solely by white men who, despite good intentions, lacked the necessary perspective to handle the material.
Ironically, the role of Takamori marked an early milestone for George Takei, known for his role in Star Trek, who spent his childhood in an internment camp during the war. In subsequent years, Takei courageously shared his personal experiences, shedding light on the U.S. government’s shameful history regarding this matter.
In response to the intense criticism and public outcry, CBS made the unprecedented decision to ban “The Encounter” from future airings and any subsequent re-releases. The Twilight Zone episode was effectively hidden from the public eye for years until now, serving as a dark shadow on an otherwise revered television series.