The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 1 – King Nine Will Not Return

This first episode of the second season is a war story.  James Embry is a World War II American bomber pilot.  He wakes up on the desert floor next to his B-25 bomber named King Nine.  He has problems remembering the exact sequence of events but he remembers that there was a bombing mission over Italy that was supposed to return to the North African base but they had crashed in the Sahara Desert.  None of them had parachuted away so they should all have been around the plane dead or alive.  But Embry can’t find any sign of his crew.  After running around and searching in and outside of the plane for most of the show he finds the grave of one of the crew members.  When he looks back at the plane, he thinks he can see the crew but when he runs back to them, they disappear.  He starts to become incoherent and imagines that maybe he’s dead.  He spots some planes in the sky but realizes that they are modern jet aircraft and didn’t exist in 1943 when the plane crashed.  Now he becomes almost catatonic and lays on the ground crying.

Next scene is in a hospital where a doctor and a psychiatrist are discussing how Embry was walking down the street in 1960 when he read a newspaper that had a headline about the King Nine being discovered crashed in the Sahara.  The psychiatrist states that Embry was reacting to the guilt he must have felt because he was not able to fly when that last mission in his plane crashed.  When Embry awakens, he discusses his dream with the doctors and they tell him that it is reasonable for him to be powerfully affected by the news of the discovery of the wreck.  He tells them that it felt incredibly real.  When the nurse comes back with Embry’s clothes that were taken from him when he was admitted.  Removing his shoes from the box a very large quantity of sand falls out.

Okay, so I get it that the trauma of war time loss is an important subject that can be explored and used as the basis of a sf&f story.  But this episode is way, way too thin.  Robert Cummings is a decent actor and very likable but to watch him walking around talking to himself and ranting and raving is not entertaining.  It’s actually quite annoying.  I can’t give this a good mark.  It’s a D-.

4 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 1 – King Nine Will Not Return

  • February 19, 2019 at 3:38 am

    Wartime trauma can do significantly strange things to human’s psyche. Survivor’s guilt, PTSD, any one of a number of things can go wrong with our brain’s circuitry when stressed enough, and combat does indeed stress us to the max. I’ve seen guys in a mental ward at Walter Reed talking to themselves and to men who are no longer alive. Sometimes they are quiet like that. A lot of time they self medicate with booze or drugs. Some turn hard core to religion. Escapism is frequent. Their minds can only take so much, depending on the individual, and when that point is surpassed some really amazing things can happen. Fantasy, partial reality, hysteric aphonia, catatonia, hallucinations, the whole gamut. The colonel (who called himself Mr Future) played by Eddie Albert in the movie “Captain Newman, MD” would be a classic case, as well as others in the ward of the movie.

    Serling was trying to get across a very touchy and a very complicated subject. Serling, himself a soldier, demolitions expert and a man who saw heavy fighting in the Philippines in WWII as a member of the US Army Airborne, was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. His unit, the 511th Parachute Regiment, took 50% causalities in the retaking of Manila. He saw first hand the horrors of war. He knew survivor’s guilt, he saw men come unhinged. He tried to get it across as best he could in this and several other episodes.

    It ain’t easy to express to a 1950’s audience in a half hour show. This episode was not written for general audiences, it was written for veterans, as were most of his war-related shows. Remember, there were an awful lot of WWII vets still around in the 50’s as well as Korean War vets.

    • February 19, 2019 at 7:20 am

      I’m sure that the psychological basis of the story is legitimate but as drama it needs a better mechanism to work it’s way through the material. For instance, Serling could have had Embry talking with one of the dead men. That would have given him a way to produce dialog and channel the emotion in a way that can engage the audience. Even for Shakespeare a twenty minute soliloquy is really hard to pull off. And Serling used this several times. I think it was a product of the method acting of the time but also I think it was a lack of skill in building a drama. And I know that he had limited budgets and had to churn out thirty five of these a year but I still have to call them as I see them.

  • February 19, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    My dad was lucky is some respects in that he didn’t spend enough time in combat to get PTSB, maybe a couple of months. He was a 1943 West Point grad who ended up in the 101st Airborne and got shot up in Normandy. A while hospitals and back the 101st in time for the battle of the bulge where he got caught by a German MG 42 and truly f***ed up, right leg gone and various other hits. Company level officers up against the Germans at that particular time didn’t have much of a life expectancy. My dad survived, got a boatload of metals and me as a result of meeting my mother during his 3 year hospital stay.

    • February 19, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      I guess luck comes in many denominations. He was definitely a survivor that’s for sure. My hat is off to the warriors who have survived all they have and still manage to put up with the day to day insanity going on now.

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