The Last Flight (The Twilight Zone)

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"The Last Flight"
The Twilight Zone episode
Twilight Zone The Last Flight.jpg
Scene from "The Last Flight"
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 18
Directed byWilliam Claxton
Written byRichard Matheson (based on the short story "Flight")
Featured musicStock from "Where Is Everybody?" by Bernard Herrmann
Production code173-3607
Original air dateFebruary 5, 1960
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Fever"
Next →
"The Purple Testament"
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) (season 1)
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"The Last Flight" is episode 18 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Part of the production was filmed on location at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California; the vintage 1918 Nieuport 28 biplane was both owned and flown by Frank Gifford Tallman, and had previously appeared in many World War I motion pictures.

Opening narration[edit]

Plot[edit]

Flight Lieutenant William Terrance "Terry" Decker of 56 Squadron Royal Flying Corps lands his Nieuport biplane on an American airbase in France, after flying through a strange cloud, he is immediately accosted by provost marshal Major Wilson who is dumbfounded by Decker's archaic appearance. Decker, likewise is baffled, but by the unexplainable large modern aircraft "We had no idea you were so advanced!" He is then taken into custody and questioned by the American base commander, Major General Harper, and Wilson. Decker snaps to attention, identifying himself as being from the UK's Royal Flying Corps (the predecessor of the modern Royal Air Force); this puzzles Harper and Wison. Harper, seeing Decker's antique uniform, queries Decker if there is a vintage air show nearby, or if he is making a film - Decker has no idea of what he is asked, he then asks Harper: "Excuse me Sir, but where exactly am I?" Harper sarcasticly responds "Where exactly did you think you were?" to which Decker says "Well, I thought I was landing at 56th Squadron RFC." "56th Squadron RFC? Wasn't that..." Wilson replies. Further confounded, Wilson asks Decker "What's today's date?", to which Decker answers "March the 5th". "What year?" "Why, 1917, of course." "1917?!", Harper incredulously says. "Yes, that's correct...well, isn't it?" "It's March the fifth, 1959, Lieutenant". Decker is almost speechless. Naturally, neither Harper nor Wilson believe Decker is truly from 1917.

Decker tells the officers he and his flying partner Alexander Mackaye were fighting seven German aircraft; Mackaye was shot down and Decker escaped into a cloud; the Americans, to Decker's astonishment, inform him Mackaye is alive and is an Air Vice Marshal in the Royal Air Force, a war hero from World War II who saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives by shooting down German bombers over London. The American officers add that Air Vice Marshal Mackaye, in addition to being alive and well, is coming to the base that very day for an inspection. Decker says that is impossible, as Mackaye is dead. Harper, at this time, confiscates Decker's pistol and personal effects. Later, Wilson and Decker are alone in a small room, Major Wilson tries to help Decker remember what happened. Decker finally confesses that he has consistently avoided combat throughout his service, and that he deliberately abandoned the greatly outnumbered Mackaye when the two were attacked by the German fighters. "I'm a coward!" Decker blurts. He refuses to believe that Mackaye somehow survived against such odds.

When Wilson suggests that someone else helped Mackaye, Decker realizes that he has been given a second chance, he tells the American officer that there was no one within fifty miles who could have come to Mackaye's aid, so if Mackaye survived, it had to be because Decker went back himself. Knowing he cannot have much time to go back to 1917, Decker pleads with Wilson to release him from custody; when Wilson refuses, Decker assaults him and a guard and hurriedly escapes (without his badge and personal items). Running outside, he locates his plane, punches a mechanic who tries to get in his way, and starts the plane's engine, he is about to take off when Wilson catches up and puts a pistol to his head. Decker tells Wilson he will have to shoot him to stop him, as he would rather die than remain a coward. After hesitating, Wilson allows him to escape and Decker flies his plane into white clouds and vanishes.

Major Wilson is rebuked by Major General Harper for believing such a fantastic story and for allowing "that madman" to escape; when Mackaye arrives and takes a seat, Wilson asks him "Sir, did you ever know a man named William Terrence Decker?" Mackaye is surprised: "Terry Decker?! Oh I should know him - he saved my life". Mackaye proceeds to recount how he and Decker were attacked by seven German aircraft while out on patrol. Decker, in his fit of cowardice, flew away, disappearing in a cloud, with Mackaye thinking at first that Decker had abandoned him. Suddenly, "from out of nowhere it seemed", Decker came diving out of the cloud with his aircraft guns blazing, and proceeded to shoot down three of the German planes before being shot down himself. With Decker's unbelievable story now corroborated by Mackaye, Wilson comes to believe what Decker had told him. "Then he DID get back," he says to himself. Mackaye does not understand why Wilson said this. General Harper, now also beginning to believe Decker, asks Mackaye if the Germans returned Decker's personal items, to which Mackaye responds no. Baffled, Harper then shows Mackaye the confiscated identification photo card and other personal effects of his young friend Decker who sacrificed his life for Mackaye, startling him; when Mackaye reverently asks, "Where in Heaven's name did you get these?", Harper responds, "They're his?" "Yes," Mackaye softly says, then sternly demands, "Now what the devil is this all about?!" Major Wilson then suggests "Maybe you'd better sit down, Old Leadbottom", shocking Mackaye further with that nickname known only to him and Decker, from over 42 years earlier. "What did you call me?" he incredulously asks.

Closing narration[edit]

Episode notes[edit]

This was the first episode of The Twilight Zone scripted by Richard Matheson. Rod Serling had previously adapted the episode "And When the Sky Was Opened" from a short story of Matheson's.

Inaccuracies[edit]

The United States Air Force major general repeatedly refers to Mackaye as "sir", and suggests that he is a superior officer inspecting the air base. However, Mackaye is ranked as an air vice marshal, which is a Royal Air Force rank equivalent to major general, thereby making the two officers equals – unless, perhaps, the American general was junior in rank by date of commission; the Royal Flying Corps never flew the Nieuport 28, which also did not enter service until 1918. The death of Georges Guynemer is mentioned by Decker but Guynemer died in September 1917, six months after Decker's last flight. Finally, 56 Squadron was not deployed until April 1917, at which point it flew the S.E.5 aircraft. The rank of flight lieutenant existed in the Royal Naval Air Service and later in the RAF but it never was used in the Royal Flying Corps. However, the only reference to "flight lieutenant" is during Mr. Serling's introduction; during the episode itself, Decker refers to himself as "Second Lieutenant", which is the correct rank for the RFC. However, "Second lieutenant" the most junior commissioned officer rank is equal to a "Pilot Officer" in the RAF. Flight Lieutenant is equal to the Army rank of Captain.

Further reading[edit]

  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]