Original Air Date: September 22, 1961 (Season 3 Episode 2)
File Under: Machines
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Boris Sagal
Cast: Harold Stone, Fred Wayne, Noah Keen
Synopsis: An investigator tries to solve the mystery of a plane that arrives without people in it. The plane disappears from existence and it’s revealed that this lost flight was the only case he couldn’t solve.
This object, should any of you have lived underground for the better parts of your lives and never had occasion to look toward the sky, is an airplane, its official designation a DC-3. We offer this rather obvious comment because this particular airplane, the one you’re looking at, is a freak. Now, most airplanes take off and land as per scheduled. On rare occasions they crash. But all airplanes can be counted on doing one or the other. Now, yesterday morning this particular airplane ceased to be just a commercial carrier. As of its arrival it became an enigma, a seven-ton puzzle made out of aluminum, steel, wire and a few thousand other component parts, none of which add up to the right thing. In just a moment, we’re going to show you the tail end of its history. We’re going to give you ninety percent of the jigsaw pieces and you and Mr. Sheckly here of the Federal Aviation Agency will assume the problem of putting them together along with finding the missing pieces. This we offer as an evening’s hobby, a little extracurricular diversion which is really the national pastime in… the Twilight Zone.
Why I love it: This is a genuinely creepy episode which feels a lot like an episode of “Lost”. It doesn’t have the most satisfying conclusion, but hey, neither did “Lost”. Sometimes these types of stories get written into a corner. For the most part, however, the episode delivers a fantastically engaging story in a mere 20 minutes – something some of today’s movies cannot achieve in 5 times that amount of time.
Best Scene: Plane arrives empty, lands itself without a pilot, everyone is all like “whaaaaaat?”
Scariest Scene: Blue plane seats appear brown to one person and red to another. As well, the numbers on the plane’s tail change depending on who is reading them. The FAA investigator decides to stick his hand in the plane’s propellers in order to prove the plane might not even be there to begin with. Everyone but the FAA investigator then disappears completely, including the plane! Explanation? It is all an illusion!
Moral of the Story: Some of life’s mysteries will drive you stark raving mad.
Fun Fact!: Actor Bing Russell who portrays Cousins is Kurt Russell’s father!
Picture of a man with an Achilles’ heel, a mystery that landed in his life and then turned into a heavy weight, dragged across the years to ultimately take the form of an illusion. Now, that’s the clinical answer that they put on the tag as they take him away. But if you choose to think that the explanation has to do with an airborne Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship on a fog-enshrouded night on a flight that never ends, then you’re doing your business in an old stand in… the Twilight Zone.