Twilight Zone Tuesdays – The Last Flight

The Last Flight

Lt. William Terrence Decker – Kenneth Haigh
Major General George Harper – Alexander Scourby
Major Wilson – Simon Scott
A.V.M. Alexander “Leadbottom” MacKaye, R.A.F. – Robert Warwick

Panning down from the Twilight Zone intro we pan down to see a fashionable guy in a scarf piloting a bi-plane.

Serling:
Witness Flight Leftenant William Terrence Decker, Royal Flying Corps, returning from a patrol somewhere over France. The year is 1917. The problem is that the lieutenant is hopelessly lost. Leftenant Decker will soon discover that a man can be lost not only in terms of maps and miles, but also in time. And time in this case can be measured in eternities.

During Serling’s monologue Lieutenant Decker seems to be lost in a fog and lands at an airport next to an Air Force jet. Then we see a sign that says ‘Welcome to Lafayette Air Base – Reims, France’. I’m guessing our pilot lost his way all the way to (Twilight Zone) present day. Guys with jeeps and guns hurry to the tarmac to scope out the intruder. He pulls over and they ask him to exit the aircraft. Guy in Charge wants to know where he’s from and asks what he means by landing his ‘antique’ on the runway. The pilot tells them that he’s English and he’s surprised by the base, he had no idea America was so advanced in their Air Force. They escort him to the Administration Building and to see Major General George Harper.

Lt. Decker approaches the desk and M.G. Harper wants to know what’s up. The escort says that Lt. Decker just landed his ‘ship’ there and starts to tell George Harper what exactly his ‘ship’ was. Does the Air Force really call planes ships? M.G. Harper asks who he is and Decker introduces himself as Second Leftenant, William Terrence Decker, sir, Royal Flying Corps.

Harper wants to know if there’s an air show in town but Decker doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Then Harper wants to know if they’re making a film and why he’s in that costume. Decker replies that it’s his uniform. Harper doesn’t really know what to make of the guy. Decker wants to know where he is and Harper comes back with “Where do you think you are?”

Decker says he thought he was landing at 56 Squadron, RFC. The escort looks confused and says that was…somewhere. He trails off. Then he asks Decker what the date is. Decker replies that it’s March the 5th, 1917. They don’t believe him but he insists it is. They tell him it’s March the 5th, 1959. We get a zoom-in on Decker’s somewhat surprised face. They don’ believe him but Decker swears it’s true. He is rather shocked as well. Decker goes to the window and sees some jet planes which throws him for a loop. He sees the big cloud he was passing through and says that it was like being swallowed by a vacuum. Decker a;so says that the same thing happened to another pilot, he just disappeared while flying.

They, somewhat understandably, don’t believe him. Why he would be messing with them is another matter. Why on Earth would someone land a Bi-Plane on an Air Force runway for a prank?

Decker says that he and Mac were on the same squadron…but here Harper interrupts him saying, “Captain Mackaye, Captain Alexander Mackaye?” Because there’s only one guy nicknamed Mac in the entire world, I guess. Decker wants to know how Harper knows Mac and Harper is now even more suspicious because Air Vice Marshall Alexander MacKaye is on his way there now for a base inspection. Decker says that’s impossible because Alexander Mackaye is dead.

Next scene Harper and Escort Guy are checking out Decker’s belongings. Escort Guy says it’s ingenious. That everything could be checked on. Harper doesn’t want to waste the time. Escort Guy says that if it’s a hoax then it’s certainly an elaborate one. Harper wants to know what he means by ‘if’. I get that it’s hard to believe but again, why?? What would be the point? Remember, this is in the era before security was insanely tight just at airports. Harper is suspicious because he thinks it has something to do with MacKaye.

The other Major who somewhat believes Decker goes back to see him. Decker wants to know why he’s being kept prisoner there. The Major replies that he’s not exactly a prisoner there but Decker says it’s pretty much the same thing. They’re not letting him leave which is the same thing. The Major wants to know why Decker’s so afraid of seeing MacKaye. Decker protests that he’s not afraid of seeing Mac or anything else. Methinks he doth protest too much. Finally he says fine, he’ll see him. The Major (who they still haven’t named) asks again about the cloud. Decker says that he’s told the Major everything he knows.

The Major says that pilots from 1917 don’t just land on Air Force bases in 1959 every day. Decker says that it happened today, tells the Major to leave him alone, he already said he’d see Mac. Major asks if Decker really knows Mac. Decker says of course he does. Decker used to call him Old Leadbottom because he took some German gunfire to the booty during a fly-over. Hence the nickname Old Leadbottom. It was a private joke and being proud, Mac wouldn’t like it if he knew Decker bruited it about.

Major wants to know why Decker’s so sure that Mac is dead. Decker says the last time he saw Mac he was surrounded by seven German planes. Decker claims that he couldn’t do anything about it because he was involved with three other planes at the time. The Major says Mac must have survived because he went on to become one of the biggest Blitz heroes and, obviously, is alive in their time. Decker doesn’t see how it could be possible. During the Second World War. Won a lot of medals and such. Big hero, long story short.

Decker freaks out and tries to make a run for it. They get him before he gets out the door. The Major wants to know what’s wrong and Decker says that he can’t see Mac. The Major wants to know why not. Decker yells because he’s a coward! Decker, not Mac.

He says he’s a coward and always has been. Trying to pretend to be a hero. That’s how he got lost in the cloud, he was trying to run away. He prattles on a bit about boys laughing and joking and turning into ice-cold killers in the sky. But not him. He and Mac were supposed to go on patrols together but Decker usually talked him into splitting up. Mac would hope to run into trouble but Decker would linger in the clouds. He thought about giving himself up because pilots get the best treatment (is that true?) but he was too chicken to do that, even. He couldn’t bear to be discredited. He’s actually even fired shots through his plane to make it look like he’d run into trouble. Major says it’s no crime to be afraid and Mac would understand.

Decker says he won’t because he ditched Mac and left him to die. The Major says he must not have because he’s coming that day. This makes Decker look up. He begins to beg the Major to let him go. To let him go back in time or Mac won’t be alive to come there. The Major thinks he’s crazy but Decker isn’t giving him long to think it over. Decker decks the Major and takes off for his plane. Decker gets his plane started and tries to take off. The Major catches up to him but Decker insists and the Major lets him fly off into the wild blue yonder.

 

Back at the Air Force Base Harper wonders why Major let him go. The MacKaye we’ve been hearing so much of finally arrives. They ask him about Decker and he says, yes, he knew him. During that dogfight he thought Decker was ditching him. But then he dropped down out of nowhere and saved him. Decker was killed. Harper asks if his personal effects were sent back and Mac says no, they couldn’t find them. Harper shows him the effects they gathered from Decker when he was there. Mac recognizes them, thus proving it was really Decker that was there. The Major has a little giggle to himself over the Leadbottom nickname which Mac recognizes.

Serling:
Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in Heaven and Earth and in the sky, that perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between Heaven, The Sky, The Earth lies the Twilight Zone.