I have long been fascinated by time travel. What would it be like to actually be able to go forward or backwards in time? What would you do, and where would go if time travel were a reality? Once you travelled through time, would you be able to return to your own time afterwards?
If you went backwards in time would you try to save loved ones from death? Would you try and stop things from happening that would cause misery and death to millions? Should you try and interfere in past events at all?(I don’t think you should, as you would end up changing the future and further negative things could occur because of what you did.) These are all big questions and that is why I love these types of stories so much because they really challenge you to think about what you would do if you were the character travelling through time.
I’ve decided to write about two of my favourite time travel episodes from the TV series The Twilight Zone. Long time readers of my blog will know of my great love for this series. I love the blend of genres found within it. I love the famous actors who agreed to guest star in it, and I love how the series makes you really think. My favourite stories from this anthology series are the horror and time travel ones.
The two time travel episodes I’d like to write about are The Odyssey Of Flight 33 and Once Upon A Time. Both take a very different approach to how they tell a story of time travel.
If you’ve not seen either of these episodes, then please don’t read on any further as there will be spoilers!
The Odyssey Of Flight 33 (Season 2, Episode 18)
There are no easy answers in this episode and I think that is precisely why I love this episode so much. The anomaly which causes the plane to move through time is completely unexplainable.
The anomaly is simply one of those weird things that exists in our world (like the Bermuda Triangle for example)and if you get caught up in it, then you will be in for a very weird experience indeed.
If you went through what the passengers and crew of this flight are about to, then I think you would be very scared and would be left speechless about the whole experience.
The episode begins up in the air mid flight. A passenger plane is on its way to land in New York.
Towards the end of the flight the Captain begins to feel a very strange sensation, it feels to him as though the plane has drastically increased its speed. He gets quite concerned about this weird sensation. At first the other crew members don’t feel it, but then they do and become convinced something isn’t right.
The flight crew can’t believe their eyes. Screenshot by me.
When the passengers and crew next look out of the windows they are not where they expect to be at all. The land they see down below is empty of all signs of human existence.
Then they see that a dinosaur is down there happily chomping on a tree. They all realise then that they have taken a very strange detour indeed.
Everyone panics. Some people refuse to accept what they are seeing. Then the plane speeds up again and everyone looks out and sees they are back in New York. The crew slowly begin to stop celebrating though when they can’t contact their destination airport on the radio. They also soon see down below them the 1939 World Fair. The plane has come home, but this is not their New York, it is the New York of over twenty years earlier.
They obviously can’t land here either. So, with fuel supplies running dangerously low, they keep on flying, desperately hoping to keep speeding up and hopefully finding themselves back in their own time period.
This episode is in my top 10 favourites from the whole series. I love the setup for the story and how it has a realistic look about it. There have been many stories and reports of planes vanishing. Many stories of pilots reporting seeing strange things while flying, or experiencing strange events mid flight. I think that those stories make you accept that this story is perhaps not so far fetched as it might sound.
I think that the actors all do a terrific job here. The ones playing the cabin crew all convince as pilots, navigators and radio operators who are all veterans of their jobs. Rod Serling’s brother Robert actually wrote several books on aviation, and he helped Rod write the cockpit dialogue and make it sound realistic.
John Anderson delivers my favourite performance as the calm and rational Captain Farver, who slowly begins to realise that he and his flight are trapped in something far beyond his control.
This episode always leaves me wondering what happened to the people on this flight. Will they ever make it back home? Or are they doomed to fly around the planet, moving between time for eternity? It’s almost like this plane could become an air version of the Flying Dutchman. Thought provoking and quite sad really.
Once Upon A Time (Season 3, Episode 13)
We now move on to a very different type of episode. This one is much less serious and I think it has an uplifting and warm feeling about it. This one also tells a time travel story, but it tells it in a completely different way to The Odyssey Of Flight 33.
The episode is basically there to grant Buster Keaton an opportunity to show us all that he still had his comic skills, and that he was still more than capable of performing stunts. The first time I saw this episode I was overjoyed to discover Buster was in it.
Buster plays Woodrow Mulligan, a grumpy caretaker who lives in 1890. A professor he knows has invented a helmet. This helmet has the ability to transport whoever wears it through time.
Trying on the helmet himself, Woodrow gets transported forward in time to the year 1960. He has no sooner arrived there when he quickly realises he wants to get back to his own time. He certainly marvels at what he sees in this new era, but he really misses his own time.
Woodrow meets Rollo, who is also a scientist and who is fascinated by the possibility of time travel. When the helmet gets damaged, Rollo and Woodrow work together to try and get it fixed. Once that’s done Rollo returns with Woodrow to 1890. When he arrives he soon wishes to be back in his own time too. He realises that his time is more advanced and therefore can better accommodate the sort of work he needs to do. So Woodrow helps send Rollo back to his own time.
I find that this episode makes you value what you have in the present. You may wish to visit another time but never forget that there is no place like home. The episode also shows you that technology may advance and change, but some things such as human behaviour and the need for money seldom ever change for the better.
The episode is also very funny with Buster getting to perform stunts (love the scene where he gets lifted up to put on some trousers in mid air) and make us laugh with his grumpy deadpan routine. He had still got his comic gift right up to the end.
I also love Buster’s performance in the scene where Woodrow sees a TV for the first time. At first he thinks it is a window, then when he turns it on, he thinks that the TV presenter is speaking directly to him and that the TV is a window and the guy is actually there. Buster is so funny in this scene.
Woodrow reacts to seeing a TV for the first time. Screenshot by me.
The 1890 sequences are filmed like a Silent movie, while the 1960 sequences are filmed in the normal sound era way. I really liked the decision to film the different time periods like that.
These two episodes also both serve to show you just how different this series could be each week. One week a story could be scary and thought provoking, the next it could be funny or moving. This is another reason why I love this series so much. You just never know where the zone will take you next.
Here are my picks for the five best time travel episodes from this series.
1- The Last Flight
2- The Odyssey Of Flight 33
4- No Time Like The Past
5-A Hundred Yards Over The Rim
If you have seen these episodes what did you think of them? What other time travel episodes of this series do you like?