Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Twilight Zone: The Last Flight

Time travel stories often deal in paradoxes, and "The Last Flight," written by Richard Matheson, constructs its entire conflict around one and makes it a story about redemption. It's a neat, clever episode about how some people are destined to be heroes.

Kenneth Haigh plays Lt. Decker, a British pilot in World War I who somehow lands at an American Air Force base in France 42 years into the future. The American officials don't believe him; how could they? But a visiting RAF general, who served in the same unit Decker claims to be in, should be able to clear things up.

How the time travel occurs - flying through a mysterious cloud - is not the important issue. What is important is what Decker does with the knowledge he acquires from his journey to the future. It turns out, the reason he got lost and ended up flying into the cloud is because he fled a dogfight, leaving a comrade surrounded by the enemy. But Decker learns that the RAF general is the same wingman he left to die, and he somehow got away, and if that general is to show up now, someone must save him.

The fantasy elements of the episode are downplayed, and there aren't any elaborate special effects sequences. The time travel element in this story is more of a puzzle than an adventure: the right object revealed at the right time ties it all together, demonstrating the veracity of a seemingly impossible claim and proving Decker, in the end, made the right choice.

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