Twilight Zone Tuesday – I Shot An Arrow Into The Air

I Shot An Arrow Into The Air

Colonel Bob Donlin – Edward Binns
Corey – Dewey Martin
Pierson – Ted Otis

Trigger Warnings (highlight to see): Images of dead bodies (in the show and in this post), someone getting shot and a murder with a rock (offscreen) 

After the introduction we see a rocket and someone securing a lox tank. What is securing a lox tank on a rocket? I’m sure it can’t be the fish. Maybe it’s Locks Tanking? I dunno.

Her name is the Arrow One. She represents 4 1/2 years of planning, preparation and training and 1,000 years of science and mathematics and the projected hopes and dreams of not only a nation but a world. She is the first manned aircraft into space and this is the countdown, the last 5 seconds before man shot an arrow into the air.

There’s a countdown from 3-2-1 and then back up 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. It looks like real lift-off footage. There’s shots of a rocket and guys in a room doing rocket-y science stuff. But even with all of the machines flashing and blinking they still lost track of the rocket. Way to go NASA.

They’re off the radar screen and off their vector (whatever that is). Head Honcho wants to know when it happened. The Bald Gnome says that there was interference and then it was gone. In other words they have no idea where the Arrow One is or why. Head Honcho stares outside at the fake twinkling stars and quotes a nursery rhyme: “I shot an arrow into the air, it landed I know not where.” He says “God help them” and then looks very sad.

There’s a guy writing on a metal-covered pad of paper. The first entry of Arrow One. So, we know at least one guy survived. It’s Commander Donlin and he’s looking a bit sweaty. He says they’ve crashed on what appears to be an uncharted asteroid and wherever it is it looks hot and dry. He doesn’t know why they crashed. There was an explosion and their electrical systems went out. That’s all they remember. The rest of them being Corey (who’s looking around suspiciously), Pierson (who’s putting a pillow under the head of someone) that someone being their Navigator, Hudak. The rest of the crew is dead. Their aircraft is destroyed and most of their supplies were destroyed in the crash. He doesn’t know if base knows where they are or anything.

Corey’s tired of looking around suspiciously and comes and yanks the pad out of Commander Donlin’s hand and yells that they don’t have time for jotting down their memoirs. Commander Donlin says that as long as they’re a crew they’ll go by the book. Then he snatches his pad of paper back and tells Corey to sit down.

Corey whines that it’s hot and hard to think. Apparently, because if they were thinking straight they’d take off their damn jumpsuits and scarves. Corey tells the Commander to put his brain to work figuring out a way to get them out of there or finding a way to let Home Base know where they are.

Pierson and the Commander go to check on Hudak and give him some water. Corey goes off to pout by a cliff. Commander Donlin wants to know if Pierson was with Corey when they crashed. He wants to know if anything happened to Corey during the crash. Pierson can’t figure out why Corey is being a grouch ether. So apparently Corey wasn’t a raging douche-nozzle before they crashed.

Corey notices them giving the injured Hudak some water and wants to know how much they have. Donlin says they have a 5-Gallon can and what they have on them. He then yells at them for wasting it on Hudak. He says Hudak won’t make it through the afternoon so why bother. Donlin says if it were Corey lying there he’d want the water , 5 gallons left or not. Corey grouses that Hudak’s going to die anyways and Donlin comes back with “If he dies he dies but nobody’s going to get behind him and give him a push”. If Hudak wants water “they’ll give him water, if he’s hot they’ll move him into the shade and if he goes they give him a prayer or two.” Donlin orders Pierson to start digging graves and he’ll relieve him in 5. Now, giving water to Hudak is one thing. That’s necessary and humane. Expending energy on digging graves does seem slightly stupid to me. Call me insensitive but move them to the side and carry on with your day. Especially if it’s hot and water resources are limited.

Pierson points out that the size of the sun is exactly the same so the asteroid they’re on must be in the same orbit as Earth. Anyone science out there? I have no idea if that would be true or not. Donlin says it’s good that the air is clean with no radiation. Then he has to go and bring everyone down by saying that the Arrow One is the only rocket of it’s kind and it took 4 1/2 years to build. So, even if they’re discoverable by base they will have to wait 4 1/2 years to build another ship. Although, logic would dictate that since they already have the plans for the Arrow One to work from it shouldn’t take that long. Donlin goes back to poking in his box and Corey decides to chug some water to celebrate the depressing fact.

Pierson is hanging out by Hudak, Corey and Donlin are just returning from over the ridge. Pierson wants to know if they saw anything and Corey snarkily replies that they saw rocks and more rocks. He also tells Pierson that it’s hot. Um, I think Pierson probably noticed already. Pierson says at night, if there is a night on whatever they’re on, he’ll look in a different direction. Donlin goes to give Hudak some more water but Corey flips out about it. He tells Donlin not to give Hudak anymore of his water. So, of course, Corey knocks the canteen out of Donlin’s hand, spilling some of the precious, precious water. They have a tussle over it that only ends because Pierson realizes that Hudak passed away. He tells Corey that he’ll be happy to know that Hudak won’t be taking anymore of his water. While Donlin and Pierson are looking sad for Hudak, Corey thinks it’s a good time to snag Hudak’s canteen.

Pierson catches him and tells Corey that although he wants the three of them to stay alive if he catches Corey filching water again he’ll kill him. Donlin breaks it up and says that after dark they’ll split up and look in all four directions (with three people) for anything that will help them because this is their home from now on.

We get a pan over some mountains that look a bit fake to me but they have shadows so maybe I’m wrong. It turns to evening. Donlin is sitting by a little sterno fire thingy and standing guard with a rifle. He hears footsteps and gets all up in arms. He calls for Pierson and Corey. Corey walks up and flops by the fire and chugs a bit more water. He says he walked at least 12 or 15 miles and didn’t see anything. Ok, this is just me but if they’re no longer tied to one spot by the injured man wouldn’t it make more sense to travel by night and move camp? They hardly have anything to carry, there’s three of them to carry it and they could cover more ground. It makes more sense to me but oh well, they’re the courageous astronauts and I’m not.

Anyways, for being so concerned about water usage Corey certainly chugs it down. Corey says he tried to get a fix by the stars but it’s overcast. Donlin asks about Pierson. Corey asks what about him? Donlin says he and Pierson were together so Corey should know where he is. Corey looks a bit evasive and says that Pierson went West while he went…somewhere, towards…nothing. Sounds legit.

Donlin’s a bit miffed because he told them to stay together. Then he notices the water Corey’s guzzling down and starts getting a bit suspicious. And Corey is committing one of the greatest movie and television sins in my book: He’s oh-so-thirsty, water is scarce, let’s guzzle it and let it run down the chin and waste it. Aaaah! Ok, over that pet peeve. Moving on.

Donlin asks Corey, again, whether or not he heard Pierson. Corey repeats that they split up. Which, in a quiet desert area means all sound is cut off I suppose. Not. Donlin grabs Corey’s canteen and says that it’s hot, huh? Corey says he’s getting used to it. Donlin says he wants to know why Corey went out for six hours and came back with more water and less Pierson. He shakes Corey a bit and wants to know what Corey did to Pierson. Corey suddenly remembers that he did see Pierson after all! Silly him! He just forgot! He claims that he saw Pierson face-down and that he must have fallen and hit his head. Pierson is at the foot of a mountain and said he had to change courses coming back. And, I guess, it just slipped his mind that he found Pierson’s body.

Donlin doesn’t believe him and Corey whines that he knew Donlin wouldn’t believe him so that’s why he said he hadn’t seen him. Donlin grabs the rifle and says they’re going to go get Pierson. Corey dramatically throws himself to the ground and says I’m dead and it’s at least eight miles back. Donlin sternly grabs him by the collar and says, “Not quite dead yet”. The menace of Donlin’s threat is a little undercut by his face. He loks to nice and always seems to be on the verge of smiling. and not a ‘cold, sterile smile’ but just friendly little smile. Donlin and Corey move out in search of Pierson’s body. I really can’t blame Donlin for being suspicious. Donlin also takes Corey’s sidearm and they march off. we’re left with a lingering shot on a significant pile of black rocks. Okey dokey.

Donlin marches Corey across a ridge. After a while of crossing rocks and what looks like more desert. Corey begs for rest and then takes another drink that he carelessly dribbles down his chin. Grr. Then he eyeballs Donlin taking a nice, tidy sip from his canteen. Corey looks like he’s getting some evil water thieving ideas in his head. Corey pretends to retie his shoes but he’s really checking out the rocks. I’m going to take a wild guess and say he’s not into geology but wants it for some nefarious purpose. He changes his mind and they walk some more. Donlin always behind Corey with a rifle. They keep walking and I’m starting to get flashbacks of The Lord of the Rings and Frodo and Sam’s interminable mountain climbing.

Finally they come to the place where Pierson supposedly fell. Corey swears it’s the place but Pierson’s body isn’t there. Donlin keeps saying that Corey was so sure that Pierson was dead. Corey says he must have been wrong and points at some tracks as though some Pierson had crawled away, perhaps.

Donlin wants to know if Corey even checked out Pierson or if he just stole his water and hauled buns back to camp. Corey insists that Pierson was dead and he starts whining that he was sooo thirsty that his tongue was swelling. Which I don’t see how since he had half a canteen. But with the sloppy way he drinks (idjit) he probably wasted that as well. Also, they’re still wearing their jumpsuits which have to be broiling in the sun.

Donlin looks pretty disgusted at Corey and starts calling for Pierson. Donlin follows the crawl trail further down the gulley. Corey eyes Donlin from behind and looks like he’s feeling for the sidearm that Donlin took. As though he’s thinking about shooting Donlin in the back.

They find Pierson half alive and bleeding from the head, obviously dying. He’s trying to speak…oh goody. Charades. Pierson mumbles something about C…and then motions with his head to the mountains. With the last of his energy he draws a little doodle in the sand. Two lines with one across. Donlin sets about trying to decipher it.

Donlin foolishly leaves his rifle and goes rushing up the mountain that Pierson indicated. Of course, Corey picks it up and goes after Donlin. He says that two men can live for five days with the water they have and one man can live even longer. Donlin says Corey is mad and realizes that his suspicions were correct, Corey did kill Pierson. I guess Donlin forgot about the pistol he took from Corey because he doesn’t draw on Corey. Corey shoots Donlin in cold blood. Of course it’s Donlin’s fault for getting shot for daring to go by the book where they are. Irony of ironies, Corey shot Donlin right in the canteen so his water is gone.

Corey continues to gloat/lecture over Donlin as he takes his sidearm back. He says it’s a jungle where only the strongest survive (looks more like a desert to me but the analogy still stands, I suppose). He goes on to tell that Donlin was looking for morality in the wrong place. Well, if I might counter-argue, Donlin wasn’t looking for morality per se. He was just trying to keep what was left of his crew alive.

Corey goes hill-climbing to see what Pierson might have been doodling about what he saw over the mountains. He spares one “dumbasses” look at the bodies he’s left behind. While Mr. Serling narrates Corey climbs. A lot.

Now you make tracks Mr. Corey. You move out and up like some kind of ghostly billy club was tapping at your ankles and telling you that it was later than you think. You scrabble up rock hills and feel the hot sand underneath your feet. Every now and then take a look over your shoulder at a giant sun suspended in a dead and motionless sky. Like an unblinking eye that probes at the back of your head in a prolonged accusation. Mr. Corey, last remaining member of a doomed crew, keep moving. Make tracks Mr. Corey. Push up and push out because if you stop-if you stop maybe sanity will get you by the throat. Maybe realization will pry open your mind and the horror you left down in the sand will seep in. Yeah, Mr. Corey. Yeah. You better keep moving. That’s the order of the moment. Keep moving.

All the walking has made Mr. Corey thirsty and now he’s being very cautious with his water. He keeps moving across a ridge and up more mountains. He sees something and calls for Pierson. Then starts to laugh and sob hysterically. Now he realizes what Pierson was trying to tell them. Telephone poles. There are also signs for Reno and a sign for a motel.

They weren’t tracked in space because they crashed right back to Earth. Although I could argue that if they’d been real scientists they should have been able to track them re-entering the atmosphere. I would also like to point out that if Pierson had just continued walking he could have gotten them help and saved himself a cracked skull and Donlin from getting shot. Corey’s getting a bit of a guilt washing. He cries, “What have I done!”. I’ll tell you what you’ve done. You’ve acted like a psychopath.

Practical joke perpetrated by Mother Nature and a combination of improbable events. A practical joke wearing the trappings of a nightmare, of terror, of desperation. a small human drama played out in the desert, 97 miles from Reno, Nevada, USA. Continent of North America, Earth. And, of course, The Twilight Zone.

This particular story has been used quite a lot, mostly for comedic purposes. I’m not sure how many times before this particular episode or the short story it was based on. I’ve never been all that thrilled about this one. Fortunately next week’s episode is better.

So, join me for next week’s episode: The Hitch-Hiker