Thursday, February 24, 2011

TZ Promo: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” (2/24/1961)

“The Odyssey of Flight 33”
Season Two, Episode 18 (54 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3651

Are you afraid to fly? If you are, it’s likely because you’re afraid that your plane will crash. It’s not an irrational fear --- planes do in fact crash. They say it’s statistically safer to fly than drive a car, but who knows?

Air disasters are a recurring event on The Twilight Zone. It usually involves spaceships ("I Shot an Arrow into the Air," "People Are Alike All Over," "Death Ship," "Probe 7 – Over and Out"), but we’ve lost a few planes too ("Twenty Two," "The Arrival," "Ring-A-Ding Girl"). But what if your particular air catastrophe didn’t involve a crash at all? What if instead your plane became dislodged in time…? Fifty years ago tonight, it happened in “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” written by Rod Serling and directed by Justuss Addiss. A commercial airliner hits a freak tailwind and breaks the time barrier. Where do they end up? I don’t want to give anything away, but here’s a clue…

I am dino, hear me roar!

Yeah, it's a friggin' dinosaur, and a pretty unconvincing one at that. But hey, it was 1961! Turns out the two brief glimpses of this beast constituted the single most expensive shot in the show's five year history. As a Ray Harryhausen fan, I find her (I've always thought of it as female, don't ask me why) most appealing.

Ain't no such thing as a No Smoking sign on my plane.

The episode stars John Anderson as our intrepid pilot, Captain Farver. We last saw him in season one's "A Passage for Trumpet" (which, coincidentally, was repeated fifty years ago last week), and we'll see him again in season four's "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" and season five's "The Old Man in the Cave"). He keeps his cool in spite of the outlandish circumstances that befall his crew. Call him The Twilight Zone's Captain Sully. Anderson might be best remembered as California Charlie, the used car salesman Marion Crane sells her car to in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Fans of TV's The Outer Limits can tell you that he was quite good as the Ebonite Interrogator in that series' excellent "Nightmare." And speaking of The Outer Limits... well, stay tuned.

Speaking of "People Are Alike All Over," Paul Comi (above, left) makes his second Twilight Zone appearance here, this time as Anderson's copilot, First Officer Craig. In the former, he's the one that, ahem, didn't survive the crash; here we find him trapped aboard a doomed flight (man, this guy should just stay on the ground). Rounding out our cockpit crew is Navigator "Magellan" Hatch, played by Sandy Kenyon (above, right), who appeared in damn near every TV show in the 50's and 60's. You may not know the name, but you will absolutely recognize the guy. He'll visit The Twilight Zone again in season three's "The Shelter" and season four's "Valley of the Shadow."

We're called Flight Attendants now.

“The Odyssey of Flight 33” is generally well-regarded, but I’ve never been particularly fond of it. Oh sure, it’s a great idea, but Serling never really develops it. There’s also no moral dilemma, no character development, and no twist at the end. There’s really no resolution to the plight of Flight 33 at all, which doesn’t help matters. We’re left wondering if they ever made it home. Interestingly, the same can be said of season four’s “Death Ship,” which is one of my favorite episodes, but the characters there are quite well developed, which makes all the difference. Still, for 25 minutes, “Odyssey” sufficiently holds one’s interest. And it’s certainly well done on a technical level… even that goofy Claymation brontosaurus is charming. It certainly ain’t bad, but it’s nothing spectacular either. Your (air) mileage may vary.

Next week: And speaking of bad…. Burgess Meredith and Don Rickles can’t even save the day. Uh-oh.

That's right, Rod. Hang your head in shame.


ishkanei said...

I'm one of those who holds this episode in high regard and find it interesting that I'd never considered the fact of it having "no moral dilemma [or] no character development", and yet it still works (for me, at least) -also, for my taste, having no twist at the end is pretty much essential to the story told; the lack of resolution (or explanation for their time-travel) provides the kind of mystery that can keep us wondering during and after the story (as in "And When The Sky Was Opened", another favorite of mine). It seems to me that in a story where an unexplained mystery is the driving issue, moral and character issues, if focused upon, can become distractions rather than (more typically) the kind of factors necessary to keep us interested.

But anyway, the proximate cause of my commenting on this post: to point out that it is Harp McGuire (you might know him from the movie "On The Beach", featuring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, among others) between Paul Comi and Sandy Kenyon.

Very impressed (and gratified) by this blog, the one place I've yet to find information on filming locations for TZ. Good job.

Anonymous said...

I think this episode would have been much more interesting had the plane landed in 1940's America. After all, their fuel was running low; how many tosses of the die did they think they had left? Plus, the technology of the plane would have given the U.S. a huge boost.

An interesting twist never explored.


ishkanei said...

i thought i'd add this in light of recent communication: that another reason i like this episode is that it allows us, through a science fantasy angle, to be privy to the fate of a missing aircraft, as would a flight voice recorder, only in more detail -down to the technical jargon of the flight crew, which really adds a solid you-are-there touch to it, yet without resolving the mystery of the mechanism of time travel or how/where they wind up, which mystery is part of the charm (if that is the right word -power, perhaps?) of the episode. a cvr of a crashed aircraft may not provide much in the way of dramatic development, but it can still provide a great deal of drama in the record of those last moments, and i think the power of this episode lies in that approximation.