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The Twilight Zone

Season 5 Episode 3

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Aired Unknown Oct 11, 1963 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
219 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Mr. Wilson believes he sees a gremlin on the wing of the commercial aircraft he is taking back home... from the sanitarium, where he has been committed for six months after a mental breakdown during a similar flight.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
  • Flawed

    Entertaining but flawed. Depsite a seatbelt old Shatner would have been sucked out of the airplane
  • @Brian4663 - The Gremlin Looks Great???

    @Brian4663 - The Gremlin looks just as it is, a guy in a dime store teddy bear suit. It's the single worst special effect in Twilight Zone history! But, it's still one of the BEST episodes in Twilight Zone History BECAUSE of William Shatner's performance. Bottom line.
  • GRRR I'm a creature on the plane!

    Great episode but I wish someone besides William Shatner played the role. He did a good job but Shatner is the "Star Trek" man not the "Twilight Zone" man. The gremlin looks great but not as scary as Twilight Zone the movie in the 1980's. This overall might be the second scariest of the series. Behind "Eye of the beholder."
  • A paranoid masterpiece!

    This is perhaps one of the most fondly remembered episodes of The Twilight Zone. Anybody undergoing treatment for severe anxiety disorders had probably better skip this one! I wonder how many people actually canceled important business trips or long awaited family reunions after seeing this episode for the first time because they had to fly. It might be interesting to check the business records of all the major airlines at the time this episode first aired, and to listen in on some of the board discussions of some the major airlines generated by this one episode. "Gee, thanks a lot Rod you #@*^$#!"

    Fans of The Twilight Zone won out, however, and had something to talk about for years to come. What a great story!moreless
  • A businessman (William Shatner) on a red-eye flight sees a gremlin trying to destroy one of the plane's engines, but he cannot convince anyone else of the imminent danger.

    Out of 156 TZ episodes, there are a handful that seemingly everyone has seen at least once. This episode makes the short list. Between the original episode, the TZ movie remake in 1983 with John Lithgow, and various other homages in movies and TV (3rd Rock, Ace Ventura, etc.), this is one episode that, perhaps more than any other, has crossed over into mainstream cultural consciousness.

    The story, adapted by Richard Matheson from his own short story, is taut and suspenseful. While William Shatner falls into the same fraternity as Leslie Nielsen and Adam West in terms of overall talent (better suited to self-parody than serious acting), he actually does a pretty good job here of not overacting--quite a statement for him.

    I once read that Matheson was unhappy with how "fake" the gremlin looked, but considering that we're talking about early-1960s FX (and for TV, at that), it doesn't look bad. And the final shot of the wing leaves a lasting imprint. In all, this episode is well-deserving of its reputation.moreless
Ed Kemmer

Ed Kemmer

Flight Engineer

Guest Star

Asa Maynor

Asa Maynor


Guest Star

Nick Cravat

Nick Cravat

Gremlin (uncredited)

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Opening Narration
      Narrator: Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson, thirty-seven, husband, father, and salesman on sick leave. Mr. Wilson has just been discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last six months recovering from a nervous breakdown. The onset of which took place on an evening not dissimilar to this one on an airliner very much like the one in which Mr. Wilson is about to be flown home. The difference being that, on that evening half a year ago, Mr. Wilson's flight was terminated by the onslaught of his mental breakdown. Tonight, he's traveling all the way to his appointed destination which, contrary to Mr. Wilson's plan, happens to be in the darkest corner of the Twilight Zone.

    • Bob: Just a little... abject cowardice, that's all. I'm going to be all right. Had a teensy weensy breakdown. But now, I'm cured. Understanding--it's wonderful. It isn't the airplane at all. Overtension and overanxiety due to underconfidence.

    • Bob: It must have been awful for you. Taking care of the kids. Bearing the full responsibility.
      Julia: Well, everything is still intact.
      Bob: Except me.

    • Bob: I know I had a mental breakdown. I know I had it in an airplane. I know it looks to you as if the same thing's happening again, but it isn't. I'm sure it isn't. Look, the reason I'm telling you this... isn't just to worry you. You notice I didn't tell you before.
      Julia: I want you to tell me.
      Bob: I didn't tell you before because I wasn't sure whether it was real or not. But I am sure now. It is real. There's a man out there. Or a... a gremlin, or... whatever. If I described him to you, you'd really think I was gone.

    • Bob: Honey, you remember what I told you before about seeing something outside?
      Julia: Yes.
      Bob: Julia, there's a man out there!

    • Bob: I don't mean a man, I mean..I don't know what I mean. I mean, maybe a ... what'd they call them during the war? You know, the pilots? Gremlins! Gremlins. You remember the stories in the... Julia, don't look at me like that.
      Julia: Bob...
      Bob: I am not imagining it! I'm not imagining it! He's out there! Don't look. He's not there now. He... he jumps away whenever anyone might see him. Except me. Honey, he's there. I realize what this sounds like. Do I look insane?

    • Bob: It isn't there. It isn't there. It isn't there.

    • Bob Wilson: There's someone on the wing!

    • Julia: It's all right now, darling.
      Bob: I know. But I'm the only one who does know... right now.

    • Closing Narration
      Narrator: The flight of Mr. Robert Wilson has ended now, a flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer, though, for the moment, he is, as he has said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer, for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter as the Twilight Zone.

  • NOTES (3)