Director: William Claxton
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Kenneth Haigh, Alexander Scourby, Simon Scott, Robert Warwick, Harry Raybould, and Jerry Catron
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/5/1960
Production Code: 173-3607
After traveling through a mysterious cloud, Lt. William Terrance Decker (Kenneth Haigh)—a World War I British fighter pilot who abandoned his friends during a deadly skirmish with enemy bombers—lands on an American air base and finds out that 42 years have passed since fleeing from battle. During his interrogation, Decker discovers that former comrade Alexander “Leadbottom” Mackaye (Robert Warwick) has not only survived his encounter with the Germans, but is now an air-vice marshal in the Royal Air Force.
“The Last Flight” tells an inspiring, if fantastic, tale of a man who exhibits courage and heroism when faced with insurmountable odds. While certain historical inaccuracies could have been avoided if more extensive research had been completed prior to filming, this episode will nonetheless appeal to those enjoy The Twilight Zone for its occasionally uplifting subject matter.
Similar to the Star Trek: The Next Generation classic entitled “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “The Last Flight” centers upon a scenario in which one or more characters must travel back in time to cause rather than prevent an incident of great historical significance—a unique and compelling twist on the temporal displacement trope. The above premise is made credible by the perplexed manner with which the protagonist and his interrogators respond when confronted with inexplicable anachronisms, though it should be noted that Major Wilson (Simon Scott) gives Decker the benefit of the doubt and therefore provides him with an anchor in time despite an initially incredulous reaction.
Many inaccurate details concerning World War I are present (e.g. Decker’s Nieuport 28 fighter plane had not been commissioned until one year following his disappearance, the United States had not declared war against Germany at the time of Decker’s flight, etc.).
“The Last Flight” serves as a testament to the notion that an absence of fear is not necessarily tantamount to bravery; rather, the actions taken by Decker indicate that apprehensiveness may evolve into sheer cowardice only if allowed to act as a guiding force instead of a natural but negative emotion to be suppressed whenever possible. Though Decker’s heroic transformation is conveyed too suddenly, the inspirational message underlying Richard Matheson’s narrative demonstrates that even the weakest among us can easily overcome their insecurities if prompted by the sacrifice of another.
Its abrupt conclusion notwithstanding, “The Last Flight” puts a clever spin on one of the most overused plot devices in science fiction. Also worth mentioning are the realistic performances of Kenneth Haigh and Alexander Scourby, which make realistic an otherwise extraordinary concept.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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