On Rod Serling’s “The Odyssey of Flight 33”

“They don’t talk about the flight much anymore –at least the pros don’t.”

An anonymous narrator reflects on events which took place eleven months prior. Like the vanishing of Amelia Earhart over the Pacific, or the disappearance of two U.S. Navy AD6 Sky Raiders, or even the mysterious case of two British airliners suddenly slipping into a fog never to be seen again, on a quiet morning in 1961 Trans-Ocean Flight 33 took off from foggy London en route to Idlewild, New York when it suddenly encountered an extremely unusual phenomenon. Forty-five-year-old Captain William Farver and his co-pilot, Joe “Magellan” Craig, were enjoying a safe and scheduled flight when suddenly Captain Farver sensed something amiss with the flight’s speed. The plane’s acceleration had grown exponentially and it was followed by a blinding flash of light which rocked the whole airplane –almost as if it accidentally broke the sound barrier.

Moments later, the airplane stabilized and emerged from the clouds to find Manhattan Island, much to the relief of the crew –only this isn’t the Manhattan we all know, instead it is all overgrown, devoid of skyscrapers and cars. They shockingly spot a dinosaur poke its head above the trees! Almost as if a cruel practical joke, Flight 33 has traveled backward in time millions of years. Captain Williams does his best to express both honesty and steadfastness to the people aboard, the trials of leadership are many, and then he decides to head back upward through the cumulus clouds into the jet stream in the hopes of returning to the present day. Once again, the airplane hits record propulsion and passes through a blinding light only to emerge on the other side and find the skyline of New York intact.

The crew practically jumps for joy while Captain Williams hails for a “radar vector” to Idlewild, but the operator on the other line is unfamiliar with this terminology and he seems to know nothing about Boeing 707s. As Flight 33 begins to descend, they suddenly spot the World’s Fair in New York far below –meaning the year is actually 1939. They have traveled forward, somehow, but not far enough! The airplane dips back up into the clouds while scores of cosmopolitan people below gently peruse the World’s Fair which is filed with Italianate waterfalls, Polish pavilions, and Japanese artwork, unaware of the darkness about to befall the world.

This was the last known communication from Trans-Ocean Flight 33 as it entirely disappeared from recorded history following this strange anachronistic flight. It was never heard from again. However, if we happen to look up into the night sky and see a wandering airliner, lost and desperate, that would simply be Trans-Ocean 33 trying to get home from… The Twilight Zone.  

Serling, Rod. More Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.

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

Click here to read my review of The Twilight Zone episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”

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