Director: Alan Crosland Jr.
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Ron Foster, Warren Oates, Randy Boone, Greg Morris, Jeffrey Morris, Wayne Mallory, and Robert Bray
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 12/6/1963
Production Code: 2606
While participating in a war game, National Guard soldiers William Connors (Ron Foster), Richard Langsford (Warren Oates), and Michael McCluskey (Randy Boone) are teleported back in time to June 25, 1876. Upon arriving in the past, Connors and his men partake in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
A ghost tale with historical basis, “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms” may appeal to fans of supernatural horror. Nevertheless, this episode is marred by copious exposition, weak character development, and a predictable ending.
Despite never producing an actual ghost, this offering employs the power of suggestion to create a spooky and suspenseful atmosphere. Specific tropes featured in this episode include a horse with no rider, an eighty-year-old canteen filled with fresh water, and the chilling cries of an unseen Indian army—all fear-building devices of a subtle, ambiguous variety.
When describing the Battle of Little Bighorn, the main character relies on tedious, academic-style monologues to keep the audience informed—an aspect that severely detracts from the haunting realism of this episode.
After being shot with an arrow, Private McCluskey climbs to the top of a hill, makes casual conversation with his commanding officer, and provides a lucid report of the Indian camp before collapsing. Though included for shock value, McCluskey’s death scene deserves criticism for its silly, unrealistic execution.
“The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms” offers a harrowing look at how ideas, beliefs, and suggestions can alter the perception of an otherwise rational, intelligent person. (Rod Serling’s commentary might, however, have delivered a more profound impact if Connors, Langsford, and McCluskey had fed into each other’s paranoia, allowing the “delusion” of Indian attackers to reach a critical point.)
Those who enjoy the Western/horror crossover genre may appreciate this episode, which employs a clever and disturbing concept. Critical viewers of The Twilight Zone, in contrast, may wish to avoid “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms,” which suffers from narrative clichés, wooden dialogue, and plot twists of an unimaginative nature.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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