Regardless of the use to which it is being put, how can I not recommend an American Greatness post about the Twilight Zone. I wonder if I have a reader on the staff there?
The Zone of Adulthood
So how did these three episodes do in my grading system?
- “Walking Distance” C
- “I Shot an Arrow into the Air” B-
- “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” B+
Interestingly, the author said Walking Distance is his favorite episode of all. As I’ve said, to each his own even in the Twilight Zone.
So, here’s a lifeboat drama folded into an early space flight story. A rocket with eight astronauts is lost during the launch. It disappeared from the radar and all communication is lost. We next see the astronauts in a desert landscape, which we are told is an asteroid, near the smoking wreck of their ship. Four of the astronauts are dead, one is critically injured and three are unharmed. As senior officer Colonel Donlin takes charge of the survivors and orders his subordinates Corey and Pierson to bury the dead and care for the injured man. Corey balks at giving the injured man water because of its short supply. This sets him at odds with his fellows who come to see how selfish and inhumane he really is. When the injured man dies Donlin sets Corey and Pierson to the task of exploring beyond the vicinity of the crash site and find if there is anything to help their plight. Hours later Corey comes back without Pierson claiming they went in separate directions and he didn’t know where Pierson was. But when Donlin accused him of having Pierson’s full canteen instead of his own empty one Corey confessed to taking it but claimed he took it after finding Pierson’s dead body in the desert on the way back.
Donlin takes Corey’s pistol away at gunpoint and forces Corey to retrace his steps and show him Pierson’s body. When they reach the spot, the body is gone so they follow a trail and find Pierson lying on the ground with a head wound and badly injured. Donlin drops his rifle and kneels down next to Pierson and asks him what happened. Pierson can hardly talk so he tries to draw a symbol to show what he found at the top of the mountain above them. It’s a long vertical line with two short horizontal lines through it, sort of like a double armed cross. Pierson then collapses and dies. Meanwhile Corey has grabbed the rifle and trained it on Donlin. He admits that he attacked Pierson and now he would kill Donlin. He shoots Donlin and proceeds to climb the steep mountain in the hot sun. When he reaches the top, he sees that he is in Nevada and the symbol Pierson drew represented the telephone poles across from the ridge. They weren’t on an asteroid. They had crashed back to Earth. He starts laughing hysterically because he has killed his comrades and will now have to answer for it.
I’m going to put aside how stupid it is to think that somehow, they could crash into an asteroid while lifting off from Earth. I’m going to ignore the absurdity of an asteroid that was too small to be noticed from Earth having the atmospheric pressure and gravity field of a full-sized planet. Putting those things aside you get the classic law of the jungle scenario of the sociopath murdering his friends to get to live last in the lifeboat. This has been explored before but we get the twist of the state of nature turning out to be an illusion. He hasn’t escaped society. It will have the chance to set him straight. One observation, apparently the desert southwest is indistinguishable from another planet to astronauts of the nineteen sixties. Apparently, they hadn’t seen any westerns on tv or the movies.
As with several other tropes that will be reused in the series not knowing they are on Earth is used here for the first time so I’ll give them a pass on that. This is a relatively lively drama so I’ll give this a B-.