The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Episode Two “The Arrival”

Original Air Date: September 22, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Boris Sagal

“Gentlemen, I have a theory. Unfortunately, the only way I can prove it or disprove it is going to put me in considerable jeopardy…”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“This object, should any of you have lived underground for the better parts of your lives and never had occasion to look toward the sky, is an airplane, its official designation a DC-3. We offer this rather obvious comment because this particular airplane, the one you’re looking at, is a freak. Now, most airplanes take off and land as per scheduled. On rare occasions they crash. But all airplanes can be counted on doing one or the other. Now, yesterday morning this particular airplane ceased to be just a commercial carrier. As of its arrival it became an enigma, a seven-ton puzzle made out of aluminum, steel, wire, and a few thousand other component parts, none of which add up to the right thing. In just a moment we’re going to show you the tail end of its history. We’re going to give you ninety percent of the jigsaw pieces and you and Mr. Sheckly here of the Federal Aviation Agency will assume the problem of putting them together along with finding the missing pieces. This we offer as an evening’s hobby, a little extracurricular diversion which is really the national pastime in The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Flight 107 from Buffalo, New York arrives safely at an unnamed airport, however the airport staff are disturbed to find that no one on board -the plane is entirely empty. An FAA inspector with 22 years of experience is sent in to investigate the situation, his name is Grant Sheckly (played by Harold J. Stone). He is assisted by a cohort of airport staff: Vice President of Operations Bengston (played by Noah Keen), Public Relations Officer Malloy (played by Fredd Wayne), a mechanic named Robbins (played by Robert Karnes), and a ramp attendant named Cousins (played by Bing Russell, father of Kurt Russell).

The men begin arguing about the facts of the plane -the color of the seats, the passenger registration numbers and so on. With no consensus, Sheckly posits a theory that the plane does not actually exist and that it is, in fact, a mass hallucination. To prove his theory he turns on the plane engine while sticking his hand into the propeller blade. When nothing happens to his hand, the plane suddenly disappears along with each of the airport staff members. Sheckly calls out their names and he runs wildly into the control room to find Bengston and Malloy but neither of them recognize him. When Sheckly explains the story about the derelict landing of Flight 107, Bengston recalls the same story only about a flight landing which occurred some 17 or 18 years ago.

At the end of the episode the twist is revealed. Sheckly was actually the investigator on Flight 107 which occurred many years prior. He has since been tortured by the unsolved mystery and his mind has been fabricating elaborate hallucinations. The episode ends with Sheckly standing alone on a runway amidst the revving sounds of plane engines, tormented by his one failed investigation that eludes an answer.

“Picture of a man with an Achilles’ heel, a mystery that landed in his life and then turned into a heavy weight, dragged across the years to ultimately take the form of an illusion. Now, that’s the clinical answer that they put on the tag as they take him away. But if you choose to think that the explanation has to do with an airborne Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship on a fog-enshrouded night on a flight that never ends, then you’re doing your business in an old stand in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • In this episode the exteriors (the landing strip and hangar) were filmed at Santa Monica airport, while the interiors were filmed at an MGM stage.
  • This episode was inspired by Rod Serling’s brother, Robert Serling, who was a pilot and nationally renowned writer on the aviation industry.
  • Coincidentally and tragically the director of this episode, Boris Sagal, later accidentally walked into a moving helicopter blade while filming another movie and died in 1981.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

2 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Episode Two “The Arrival”

  1. Anyone have the tail numbers of the three planes in this episode, or did they use one plane for three missing flights?


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