Original Air Date: December 6, 1963
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Alan Crosland Jr.
“June twenty-fifth 1964—or, if you prefer, June twenty-fifth 1876. The cast of characters in order of their appearance: a patrol of General Custer’s cavalry and a patrol of National Guardsmen on a maneuver. Past and present are about to collide head-on, as they are wont to do in a very special bivouac area known as….the Twilight Zone.”
On the 88th anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, three soldiers discover evidence of Native Americans –their names are Sgt. William Connors (Ron Foster), Pvt. Michael McClusky (Randy Boone), and Cpr. Richard Langsford (Warren Oates). While conducting a tank training exercise coincidentally along the same route as General Custer eighty-eight years prior, they begin experiencing strange things. They spot a tee-pee (which MCluskey mistakenly calls a wigwam), they hear a series of whooping war cries, and spot a lone horse. When they report back to Capt. Dennet (Robert Bray), Sgt. Connors wonders if they may have stepped back in time. However, Capt. Dennet has no time for such outlandish theories.
The next day, the same three men attempt to radio to Capt. Dennet but their communication is cut short. One of them, Pvt. McCluskey, has been shot in the back with an arrow. As they start to witness the true Battle of Little Bighorn (1846) raging below, they abandon their tank and brandish their modern weaponry as they charge down the hillside to join in the battle.
In an epilogue of sorts, Capt. Dennet and a fellow soldier, Lt. Woodard (Greg Morris) search for the three missing soldiers but to no avail. When they look upon the memorial monument to the Battle of Little Bighorn Lt. Woodard spots three names listed among the deceased: Sgt. William Connors, Pvt. Michael McClusky, and Cpr. Richard Langsford. Realizing something supernatural has occurred, Capt. Dennet mutters to himself about how the tank would have helped.
“Sergeant William Connors, Trooper Michael McCluskey, and Trooper Richard Langsford, who, on a hot afternoon in June, made a charge over a hill—and never returned. Look for this one under ‘P’ for phantom, in a historical ledger located in a reading room known as the Twilight Zone.”
“The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms” is another accidental time travel episode in The Twilight Zone series. It shares certain themes with “Walking Distance,” “A Stop At Willoughby,” “Back There,” “A Hundred Yards Over The Rim” among others. It was a bit amusing to note the three soldiers somehow possess intimate knowledge of the Battle of Little Bighorn, along with the distinctly obvious California oak-studded hillside topography which is intending to portray Montana. While this isn’t an essential episode I found it to be enjoyable all the same. In The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree highlights how this episode has aged poorly by employing certain “Cowboys vs. Indians” stereotypes.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Each of the lead actors in this episode were established television actors and had appeared in a wide variety of Westerns by this point.
- The tank used is an M3A3 Stuart light tank.
- Captain William Benteen, who is mentioned several times, previously served as the namesake of James Whitmore’s character in the Season 4 classic “On Thursday We Leave for Home.”
- This episode takes place on June 25, 1876 and June 25, 1964.
- In a factual error, apparently soldiers were never equipped with live ammunition during training exercises and thus would have been much help during the battle. There are a few other subtle mistakes which have been noted by military experts.