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.
“Third From the Sun” – Directed by Richard L. Bare
Broadcast date: January 8th, 1960
Will Sturka, a scientist at a military base, is convinced, along with his co-worker Jerry Riden, that a nuclear holocaust is imminent. It turns out that Sturka and Riden have been plotting to steal an experimental spacecraft so that they, along with their wives and Sturka’s daughter, can leave the planet and travel to another world 11 million miles away. However, Sturka’s superior, Mr. Carling, gets wind of their plan and is intent on stopping them. Thinking that by leaving immediately they would outsmart Carling, they instead run into him at the airfield where he tries to stop them at gunpoint. Disarming him, they hightail it to the spacecraft and board it, fleeing.
Aboard the ship, Jerry and Will ponder the vastness of space while also recognizing the close proximity of the world they’re attempting to reach. We are then told the name of the planet they are hurtling towards: Earth.
There is a frantic, surreal perspective that is constant throughout this episode. The camera angle is often askew or oriented to give a view that is unconventional and unsettling. Nothing feels safe or normal here, which can easily be ascribed to the terrifying foundation of the story. This episode comes at a time when the Cold War was looming over the world, so the threat of atomic/nuclear annihilation was absolutely terrifying. It cast a pall over everyone and everything, influencing how we saw the world, desperate for peace but preparing for death. It calls to mind all the films and stories from that era that were either hopeful, envisioning a bright and peaceful future, or those that saw only our demise on the horizon.
The twist at the end of the episode was completely unexpected, at least from my perspective. The world Serling and Co. built felt so much like our world of the time, so the reveal that it wasn’t came as a surprise, not just as a twist ending but as a horrible possibility that other worlds must suffer the same difficulties and pains as us.
This is an episode where the ending leaves you stunned. It’s a majestic story that calls into question the concepts of humanity, peace, technology, family, and desperation. This is a brilliant episode and deserves to be seen by all.