Director: Don Medford
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Jack Klugman, Ross Martin, Fredrick Beir, Mary Webster, Ross Elliot, Sara Taft, and Tammy Marihugh
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/7/1963
Production Code: 4850
In the year 1997, the Space Cruiser E-89—crewed by Captain Ross (Jack Klugman), Lieutenant Mason (Ross Martin), and Lieutenant Carter (Fredrick Beir)—lands on an extrasolar planet. While surveying the environment, Ross and the others discover a crashed flying saucer of Earth design—with a familiar group of passengers.
Providing a sci-fi twist on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, “Death Ship” will appeal to both supernatural horror buffs and fans of classic science fiction. This episode should also be noted for its creepy overview of a destroyed spaceship, which may evoke images from Planet of the Vampires and the first Alien movie.
“Death Ship” deserves recognition for its haunting performances, especially from Jack Klugman, Ross Martin, and Fredrick Beir. Specifically worth mentioning are the puzzled, frightened, and incredulous reactions of each crew member upon entering the wrecked E-89 spacecraft, adding realism to the concept of three astronauts encountering dead versions of themselves. On a more poignant note, Lieutenants Carter and Mason eventually suffer an emotional breakdown while experiencing previews of the afterlife—heart-wrenching displays that compel the viewer to sympathize with both men, who, in contrast to Captain Ross, wish to embrace the inevitable and prepare for death.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
After traveling back into outer space, Captain Ross decides to return to the planet in order to gather plant specimens. Of course, viewers may question why Ross, Mason, and Carter fail to collect samples—supposedly the main objective of the E-89 mission—during their initial visit to the planet.
“Death Ship” contains a powerful commentary on people who refuse to accept mortality, even when confronted with certain doom. Captain Ross, for example, refuses to acknowledge the only fate awaiting him upon leaving the planet, choosing instead to prolong his own torment along with that of his fellow expedition members—a statement on the human capacity to deny unpleasant or terrifying truths about reality.
“Death Ship” is a spooky, ominous entry of The Twilight Zone. Sci-fi/horror enthusiasts will therefore enjoy this episode, which benefits from topnotch acting, eerie subject matter, and claustrophobic tension among the E-89 crew members.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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