Friday, February 5, 2010

TZ Promo: “The Last Flight” (2/05/1960)

Tonight's installment isn't sci-fi/horror icon Richard Matheson's first story used on The Twilight Zone, but it's the first one actually written by him from the ground up, from conception to script (versus an existing short story being adapted by Serling). Interestingly, the episode was the seventh to be produced for the series' first season, but eighteenth in line to be aired. It's no reflection on the quality of the episode, however (as opposed to, say, "The Mighty Casey," but we'll get to that one in a few months): "The Last Flight" is quite good, not necessarily one of my favorites, but certainly engaging.

British actor Kenneth Haigh is marvelous as William "Terry" Decker, a cowardly WWI RAF pilot who flees an aerial battle by flying into a strange cloud and lands… at an Air Force base in modern-day France. It's your basic trip-through-time-to-put-right-what-once-went-wrong affair, which by now has been done to death in films and TV (Quantum Leap is the most obvious example), but in 1960 was probably quite an intriguing concept (okay, it kinda still is, I must admit… I'm a sucker for time travel stories). Directed by William Claxton, the bulk of the episode is essentially a talking-head piece with an extended dialogue between Decker and two Army officers, but it never gets boring. The bookend scenes (the initial landing, then the escape) are brilliantly staged.

On the music front, much of the stock score pulls from Bernard Herrmann's composition for the series' pilot, "Where Is Everybody?".  Cues from this particular score will pop up again and again throughout the series' run.

Coming up: War is hell. Okay, that's a given, but what if you could see death on the faces of your fellow soldiers? That's a whole new kind of hell, and we'll explore it next week.


Robin said...

I think this episode was ok. I think that Kenneth Haigh played his role very well.

Craig Beam said...

Agreed. He seemed genuinely perplexed and frightened by what was happening, then filled with commanding resolve when he realized what he had to do. A great performance.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely one of the more watchable episodes, and it's stood the test of time.

My one gripe is the reference to "a white cloud?" Seriously? SERIOUSLY? The writers couldn't have come up with anything better than that? What do they think clouds are colored? Chartreuse?

Would've worked better if it had been a "strange, green cloud," or a "strange, red cloud."

"A white cloud?" Gaah!