The Twilight Zone

Season 5 Episode 3

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Aired Unknown Oct 11, 1963 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (10)

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  • 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.