Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Twilight Zone -- Season 1 Episode 11 (And When the Sky Was Opened)

I remember seeing And When the Sky Was Opened as a kid.  There was something unsettling about the plot.  It was a solid, understandable story.  Three pilots return from a mission in space, except now there are two.  Then, there’s one.  Finally, the last one disappears from existence.  There was just something that never really sat well with me.  I couldn’t articulate it until now.

The story begins with Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes visiting Major William Gart in the hospital.  Forbes is already most of the way to a nervous breakdown.  Forbes asks Gart if he remembers Colonel Ed Harrington.  You might ask who Harrington is.  Gart certainly does.  Harrington was the first person from the space flight to disappear.

Forbes is the only person that can remember him.  People that have known him for years suddenly have no memory of him.  Mr. and Mrs. Harrington claimed not to have a son moments before Ed disappeared.  Even the newspaper shows only Gart and Forbes having returned from space.  Forbes recalls his version of events since the crash to Gart.  It isn’t until Forbes runs from the room that Gart realizes it was all true.  Forbes disappears.  Shortly thereafter, so do Gart and the plane.  It’s as if none of them ever existed.

Here’s what I couldn’t ask as a kid:  Why?  It’s never explained why the three men had to be erased from history.  It’s implied that they may have come into contact with something, but they blacked out.  If they can’t remember, there’s no real threat.  If something did happen and covering it up is that important, why not just erase the ship?  It seems a bit harsh to erase three men from history, as well.

If they are being erased, that would imply a conscious effort.  There’s no real speculation as to who or what that might be.  We don’t see a ship in orbit.  There’s no post-credit scene of two aliens talking to each other.  The episode ends with an empty bedroom where a test pilot should have been.

The episode seems designed more to instill fear than to impart some great moral.  This might have made more sense if the episode had aired on or near Halloween, but it first aired on December 11, 1959.  Despite having first seen it decades ago, there’s no I-get-it moment.  I’ve seen movies and TV episodes where some new piece of information puts the plot into perspective.

The only thing I can think of here is that there’s some historical context that I’m missing.  Perhaps there’s something about the late 50s that I’m not understanding.  In 1959, we hadn’t been to the moon yet.  This could simply be a way of playing on the fear of eventually leaving Earth.

This episode isn’t going to make my top-ten list.  It is enjoyable.  I might consider it for the top 30 or so.  It just leaves too many unanswered questions.  It would be interesting to see what Rod Serling would have done with more time.  As it is, it’s a somewhat lacking episode.


IMDb page

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