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.
“The Last Flight” – Directed by William Claxton
Broadcast date: February 5th, 1960
Flight Lieutenant Terry Decker lands his WW1-era biplane in a US military base in France. It turns out that he is from 1917 and is convinced that he has somehow traveled 42 years in the future whilst flying. He explains his series of events to the base commander General Harper and Major Wilson, including dropping the name Alexander Mackaye, who happens to be the Air Vice Marshal that is on the way to do a base inspection. They put Decker in a room to wait with Wilson entering to ask for more details.
It comes out that Decker believed himself to be a coward, a man who purposefully attempted to escape any patrol or stay within allied airspace so as to avoid conflict. He even deceived the men around him into believing that he had been part of combat but in reality he had shot at his plane with his own firearm.
The reason he brought up Mackaye’s name was because that was the last pilot he flew alongside. When a squadron of German planes engaged them, Decker flew away into the white cloud that he believes transported him into the future, leaving Mackaye to his fate. Suddenly, Decker is convinced that he needs to leave, to get back into that cloud. He feels that if he meets Mackaye then the history of the past 42 years will be irrevocably altered and that all the men who Mackaye saved will be lost. He attacks Wilson and a security guard, flees to his plane and takes off to fly into the cloud once again.
Back in Harper’s office, Mackaye joins the General and Major Wilson, who immediately begin asking him about Decker. It turns out that Mackaye feels that Decker saved his life all those years ago. He explains that he thought Decker had fled, flying into a cloud, only to see him return and take out several German planes before being shot down himself. We end with General Harper showing all the effects he’d taken from Decker towards the beginning of the episode to Mackaye, who is dumbfounded that they have them after all these years.
As “The Twilight Zone” episodes go, it’s not bad at all. It bases itself off a foundation of science fiction (time travel) while also focusing on the human aspects involved. The fascination here isn’t that Decker traveled through time, although that is given attention. Rather, we are made to care more about his story and who he is as a person. His fear is palpable and his admission of cowardice is both pathetic and understandable. World War 1 was known as “The Great War” and I can’t even begin to imagine what soldiers went through during such a devastating and traumatic experience.
Perhaps what is most interesting about this episode is that Decker is terrified of meeting Mackaye in the late 1950’s because he doesn’t want the Air Vice Marshal to remember his cowardice. In a turn of character, he’d rather fly back through time to face the very forces that shook him to his very core rather than be looked at with scorn by someone he considered a friend and comrade. It’s a rather beautiful ending.
It’s not the best episode so far but it’s more than serviceable.