Tonight's Twilight Zone installment serves as an interesting counterpoint to last week's episode. In "Third from the Sun," the characters fled one planet (which we assumed was Earth) for another (which in fact WAS Earth, zing!). In "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," the characters think they've left one planet (which is Earth) and crash-landed onto another (which in fact IS…. okay, I'll stop just short of spoiling it, but really, it's not really much of a surprise). The two episodes are nice variations on the same basic theme, and I wonder at this late date if they were scheduled back-to-back intentionally.
The dubious surprise ending isn't really the episode's strength, though. It's got a well-written teleplay by Rod Serling, based on an idea by Madelon Champion, with some nice visual flair courtesy of director Stuart Rosenberg and DOP George T. Clemens (welcome back, George, from wherever you were last week). The acting is top notch: Edward Binns is the weary old space dog, and Dewey Martin is his brash young subordinate. The conflict is convincing and immediate: they're in a desert-like environment with precious little water, which lays some prime groundwork for the disintegration of the chain of command. Fifty years after its premiere, the episode still crackles with intensity. It didn't quite make my Top 40 back in November, but it was close.
Death Valley makes its second appearance on the series, this time playing the so-called asteroid that our heroes think they've crashed into (I wonder if their mission was to deliver supplies to James Corey…?). It's gorgeous to look at, but it's likely to make you thirsty. Have a cold bottle of water handy.
Next week: A true Twilight Zone classic, and one of my top ten favorite episodes of all time. Thumb a ride if you have to, but don't miss it.