Twilight Zone – Death Ship

★★★★★ Febraury 7, 1963 Season 4 Episode 6

If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.

This is one of my favorite episodes of the 4th season. All three main actors bring something to the table. This one shows denial from the three main characters and the will to go on. They see a spaceship (their spaceship) has crashed and they see themselves dead. How is this possible? Are they really dead or is it just an hallucination? They spend the episode investigating different reasons as Captain Ross pushes the other two to the brink. 

Jack Klugman plays Captain Ross and he is great as always and he would appear in 4 Twilight Zones. Ross Martin appears as Lt. Ted Mason and Martin would have 130 tv credits in the 60s and 70s. He was turned down in starring roles  because of a heart condition and studios were afraid to take a chance on him in starring roles. He had mostly had guest appearances and was a great character actor. Fred Beir as Lt. Mike Carter had over 100 screen credits to his name.

This episode is quite creepy and the twist at the end is good…even if you guess it before hand. The hour long format works well in this episode. You get background information on each character. 

The special effects were really good for this one. Included in Death Ship are a number of futuristic props, including the spaceship itself (a leftover from the movie Forbidden Planet) and an on-bridge device that scans the planets surface. Realistic paintings show the wrecked spaceship and the exterior of a house back on Earth. Also worth noting are the day and night shots of the spaceship landing and taking off.

Russ Martin who was separted from his wife and daughter: I had found that certain personal things with regard to my own daughter motivate me or drive me or move me. Years ago, I was in a class taught by Marty Ritt, who is now a brilliant director, and one of the exercises we had was to move a distance of something like eighteen feet in three steps and sit in a chair. I mean, just move, three steps and youre sitting in the chair. And I said, Tt just cant be done. He said, You give yourself something thatll make you do that.

So I pictured my daughter under certain circumstances. Now, its horrible to me even now, as I mention it but the truth is that I pictured her at a window, inside a burning building, calling to me in near panic, Daddy! Daddy! And I took those steps! It was effortless to stride the length of a mans body. It was almost as though I had been shot out of a cannon, but that was because that was meaningful to me. And I used similar circumstances involving my own daughter, in my mind, in preparation for that scene, so that when I turned and saw her my heart just broke. The joy, the joy at seeing her!

Special effects supervisor Herbert Hirschman :  I supervised the construction and told them what I wanted. We built a miniature to show the ship landing and taking off. It was on a table with sand and little plants. The ship was suspended from invisible wires. And as the ship was slowing in the descent, I wanted to see the sand billowing up. It was very expensive, but I felt that it was essential to the credibility of the show. The attention to detail was well worth the effort; its a beautiful effect. It was an awful lot of fun, says Hirschman, I kept asking for more and they kept doing it.

IMDB: The story proposes that 1997 is the year that spaceships are being sent from an overpopulated Earth to find planets suitable for colonization. A similar notion was later used as one of the main premises of Lost in Space (1965), a series which starred many Twilight Zone alumni.

Of the three main actors, Jack Klugman (Captain Ross) was the only one who lived to see the actual 1997.

The spaceship E-89, is the same miniature prop that was originally created as the saucer-shaped United Planets Cruiser C-57D for the 1956 MGM science fiction classic Forbidden Planet (1956). The external set of the ship and its staircase, and the crew uniforms, are also from the same film. “The Twilight Zone” was able to make extensive use of props and costumes created for “Forbidden Planet” (including Robby The Robot) thanks to the fact that it was regularly filmed at MGM Studios, which kept all these items in storage in its prop department for many years.

This show was written by Rod Serling and Richard Matheson

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

Picture of the spaceship E-89, cruising above the 13th planet of star system 51, the year 1997. In a little while, supposedly, the ship will be landed and specimens taken: vegetable, mineral, and if any, animal. These will be brought back to overpopulated Earth, where technicians will evaluate them, and if everything is satisfactory, stamp their findings with the word ‘inhabitable’ and open up yet another planet for colonization. These are the things that are supposed to happen.

Picture of the crew of the spaceship E-89: Captain Ross, Lieutenant Mason, Lieutenant Carter. Three men who have just reached a place which is as far from home as they will ever be. Three men who in a matter of minutes will be plunged into the darkest nightmare reaches of the Twilight Zone.

Summary

In 1997, the spaceship E-89 arrives at the 13th planet in star system 51. Their mission is to collect plant samples to take back to an overpopulated Earth so it can be determined if the planet could be colonized. What they find however is a crashed spaceship of Earth design. Inside the ship they discover three dead crew members – but the dead are their duplicates and the crashed vessel is the E-89. The captain refuses to accept that they might be dead and explores several possibilities to explain what has happened including the theory that they may have time-traveled. The two crewmen hallucinate and come to believe they are already dead but the captain refuses to accept that and intends to prove that they are very much alive.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

Picture of a man who will not see anything he does not choose to see, including his own death. A man of such indomitable will that even the two men beneath his command are not allowed to see the truth; which truth is, that they are no longer among the living, that the movements they make and the words they speak have all been made and spoken countless times before, and will be made and spoken countless times again, perhaps even unto eternity. Picture of a latter-day Flying Dutchman, sailing into the Twilight Zone.

CAST

Rod Serling … Narrator / Self – Host (uncredited)
Jack Klugman…Capt. Paul Ross
Ross Martin…Lt. Ted Mason
Fred Beir (as Fredrick Beir)…Lt. Mike Carter
Mary Webster…Ruth Mason
Ross Elliott…Kramer
Sara Taft…Mrs. Nolan
Tammy Marihugh…Jeannie Mason

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

8 thoughts on “Twilight Zone – Death Ship”

  1. I think the longer episode length worked in this one’s favor, as it gave them a chance to do detailed mystery solving. It had me on the edge of my seat wondering what the truth of the situation would be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is me also. I was wondering what the heck was going on…and it ended up being a big circle and they keep repeating until someone breaks it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great episode! Reminded me of a Star Trek NG episode where they were locked in a time loop doing the same thing over and over again and not knowing it until somehow they broke out – can’t remember the details but it had to do with Data ( the android). Do you remember that one? Did you watch that ?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I believe I do remember that one…”Cause and Effect”….that could be it. Any time loop or travel…I’m in.
        Yea I really liked this one.

        Liked by 1 person

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