Every weekday, we’re going to review an episode of Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi/horror TV series “The Twilight Zone“. We’re starting from the beginning and we will be working our way through every episode the series has offered, including the episodes from the 80’s. You can see all the reviews right here.
“And When the Sky Was Opened” – Directed by Douglas Heyes
Broadcast date: December 11th, 1959
This episode follows the aftermath of a breakthrough experiment which saw three US Air Force pilots take a ship into space, a groundbreaking (no pun intended) feat. However, after the three return to Earth, one of them, Colonel Ed Harrington, begins to feel like he doesn’t belong. As he explores this feeling, he simply disappears without a trace…and erases all history of his existance. The only person who remembers Harrington is Colonel Clegg Forbes, one of the other pilots. Even Major William Gart has lost all recollection of Harrington.
Forbes tries desperately to get anyone to remember Harrington, which isn’t helped by the fact that all evidence automatically manipulates itself to prove him wrong. The newspapers, which originally lauded the endeavors of the three pilots, adjust their headlines so as to make it seem like only two pilots took on this mission. Forbes tells of his attempts to Gart in his hospital room, who insists that no such person as Harrington ever existed. A broken man, Forbes suddenly feels the same sensation as Harrington before his erasure and flees. Gart, trying to stop him, turns the corner only to see that Forbes is gone, as though he has disappeared into thin air. When he alerts the nurse to go after him, she tells Gart that there is no such person. Back in his hospital bed, Gart sees the newspaper that Forbes insisted originally headlined three pilots. Now it only lauds Gart as the sole spaceman to undertake this mission. Fully understanding Forbes, Gart succumbs to the same feeling and is himself wiped from the memory and history of Earth, no trace of him to be found.
While I enjoyed this episode, it feels like it left itself open to too many plot holes. When Gart disappears, the experimental spacecraft, the X-20 DynaSoar, which was wrapped in some kind of shroud, disappears, leaving only the shroud in the middle of a cordoned off area. If there were no pilots and no spacecraft, why would there be a cordoned off area with the shroud neatly placed on the ground? While I realize I’m nitpicking, it’s the little things that ultimately stand out as being incredibly important in episodes of “The Twilight Zone”. Because these twists are so reliant upon a clever, well though out concept, little slips like these become glaring.
I will say that the concept here is quite horrifying. To be struck by a sensation that you simply don’t belong, not only in those around you but in reality itself? That must be a devastating and horrifying existence. Furthermore, to be so sure of something only to have everyone look at you in disbelief and, in some cases, pity, it ends up becoming too much for some.
I would’ve liked for this episode to have explored deeper into the reasoning behind the feelings that these three spacemen experience. Is there a connection between their journey and their demise? Is it a coincidence? Is it all some sort of military experiment? There are far too many questions left by the time the credits roll for me to feel satisfied.