Land of Shadow and Substance – The Last Flight – (2/05/60)
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. – Rod Serling (Season one introduction)
The Last Flight, based on yet another Richard Matheson tale called Disappearing Act, was the very first straight to production script not written by Rod himself. However, he did have a hand in changing the title, which Matheson had simply changed to Flight, a typical double meaning that Matheson was quite well-known for.
Typically, writers or contributors would have to submit an outline first before any approval to move forward was authorized. However, in this case, Matheson did quite well in just expressing the idea and it was through the plot’s strength that Serling was impressed enough to buy the concept before it was even written.
Filmed at Norton Air Force Base in California, the episode did not go without the usual glitch. This time it was the allure of an actual vintage 1918 biplane prop that drew spectators into the fold and required guarding and roping off in order to keep the enthusiasm at bay. Coincidently, the plane, owned and flown by veteran pilot Frank Gifford Tallman, was no stranger to cameras, having been filmed and appearing in numerous World War I based motion pictures, more than any other.
Lieutenant William Terrance Decker (Kenneth Haigh), a member of the Royal Flying Corps and flying a wartime biplane, appears out of a white cloud above a modern day American air base. He proceeds to land and taxis about, amidst a plethora of state-of-the-art aircraft, drawing attention from security officials.
Major Wilson (Simon Scott) takes Decker into custody and immediately escorts him to the base commander, a General Harper (Alexander Scourby), who questions and seeks answers as to who he is and why he is here. Decker, just as confused as both the General and Major, explains that he has just returned from a World War I flying patrol mission. However, Wilson, and especially Harper do not believe him and tend to lean toward it all being a hoax. But, with clearly everything appearing authentic, from Decker’s uniform, ID card and plane itself, they are perplexed and question why one would take the time to create such an elaborate ruse.
Harper stumbles on one possible theory, that it all surrounds and pertains to a scheduled inspection by Air Marshal Mackaye (Robert Warwick), later that day. Decker is surprised to hear of Mackaye’s visit, having considered the man killed when surrounded by six German dogfighters over the skies of France in 1917, when, in an act of cowardice he had flown off into a strange white cloud.
Harper and Wilson explain that Mackaye was alive and well, having somehow survived, eventually becoming a war hero. After heavy thought and with Wilson beginning to believe his far-fetched tale, Decker rationalizes and realizes there is a purpose for the trip, that he has been given a second chance.
After overpowering both Wilson, as well as a guard at the door, Decker escapes and takes off running amuck across the airfield, eventually finding, starting and returning to the skies in his plane, and disappearing into that same white cloud from which he came.
Air Marshal Mackaye pays the visit and is informed of the odd recent events. Mackaye goes on to explain that during that dogfight forty some years ago, he recalled having the distinct impression that Decker, when entering a white cloud, was bugging out and leaving him to fend for himself. But, surprisingly enough, it turned out that Decker returned from that cloud to save his friend from certain death, and he himself dying in the process.
Next time – The Purple Testament
Want more of horror writer Thomas Scopel & his alter ego sinful clown Wee Wille Wicked? Visit his blog at stayingscared.blogspot.com, where you can download his free mobile app.
Thomas Scopel has explored the dark, demented, and gruesome his whole life, beginning at a young age with Pittsburgh’s Chiller Theater. He has penned and published many reviews, articles and short stories, as well as two novellas. At press time, he is currently in the midst of editing his first full length novel for Suspense Publishing, submitting a few tales elsewhere, and chopping through other various blood infused projects that most would probably prefer to read with the lights on. Also known as Wee Willie Wicked, a sinful, malicious clown who takes pleasure in fear and also writes, usually finding solace in covering frightening film reviews for Horror News Net, one thing’s for certain, this horror writer has no shortage of drive.
Land of Shadow and Substance: The Last Flight