The Twilight Zone's I Shot an Arrow into the Air debuted on January 15, 1960, with series creator Rod Serling narrating the episode. Edward Binns plays Colonel Donlin, the leader of a small band of astronauts who struggle to survive on what they believe is a desolate alien world. Dewey Martin, Ted Otis, Harry Bartell and Leslie Barrett also appear.
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone (1959-64) rates as one of television's most creative anthology series. The 1960 episode "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" features Edward Binns as the commander of a space mission whose ship crashes on what he believes to be a dusty, barren asteroid far from Earth.
The Twilight Zone's I Shot an Arrow into the Air: Cast & Credits
"I Shot an Arrow into the Air" is based on a story idea by Madelon Champion. Rod Serling penned the teleplay for his own Cayuga Productions Inc., with Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, The Drowning Pool, Voyage of the Damned, The Amityville Horror) directing the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:
- Narrator (Rod Serling)
- Corey (Dewey Martin)
- Colonel Donlin (Edward Binns)
- Pierson (Ted Otis)
- Langford (Harry Bartell)
- Brandt (Leslie Barrett)
L-r: Ted Otis, Dewey Martin and Edward Binns in "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" - CBS-TV
I Shot an Arrow into the Air: Episode Synopsis
The American space program launches into orbit a manned exploratory flight. Things quickly go awry, however, when the spaceship disappears from mission control's radar tracking stations. The ship has crash-landed on what the crew believe to be a dusty, desolate asteroid with no water or food supply.
When one crew member dies of his injuries, that leaves only three astronauts left: Colonel Donlin, Corey and Pierson. With Donlin still in command, the three set off in opposite directions in order to scout out the terrain and perhaps locate a water supply. Only Donlin and Corey rendezvous, with Corey reporting that Pierson is dead. Donlin sets out to find Pierson's body, discovering that he is still alive. Just before he dies Pierson manages to draw a puzzling diagram in the sand depicting a set of parallel lines.
Corey is now in full panic, having killed Pierson for his canteen. He and Colonel Donlin argue after the commander learns the truth of Pierson's death, with Corey murdering him as well with a spray of bullets from an automatic rifle. Now alone, Corey sets out over the ridge to check out what rests beyond it, only to discover a familiar site punctuated by several road signs.
I Shot an Arrow into the Air: Air Date & Network Competition
"I Shot an Arrow into the Air" was telecast over CBS on Friday night, January 15, 1960, in the 10-10:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (ABC) and The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (NBC). The Twilight Zone was followed on CBS that night by the popular interview show Person to Person.
I Shot an Arrow into the Air: Analysis & Review
"I Shot an Arrow into the Air" garners its title from the classic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). It's an appropriate title, as the Americans blindly launch a manned mission into space whereby they know "not where" it eventually falls.
Dewey Martin heads the cast as the evil Corey, one of four surviving astronauts who places his own well-being above the rest of the crew. "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" marks Martin's one and only The Twilight Zone appearance, although the actor did work extensively in episodic television during the era, guest starring on such TV fare as Lux Video Theatre, Climax!, Death Valley Days and The Outer Limits.
Rugged, craggy-faced Edward Binns (1916-1990) plays Colonel Donlin, the no-nonsense leader of the space probe. As the mission's commander, Binns' Donlin exhibits both toughness and compassion, demonstrating the latter when he continues to give precious water to a badly injured crew member. Many movie fans might best recall Binns' performance in the 1964 thriller Fail-Safe where he plays Colonel Grady, the veteran commander of a group of nuclear-armed Vindicators who errantly leads a bombing mission to Moscow.
Primarily filmed in the rugged terrain of California's Death Valley – the perfect setting for a desolate asteroid – "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" is one of many The Twilight Zone episodes focusing on space travel. The astronaut characters are dressed in the usual sci-fi movie hand-me-downs, complete with ball caps and dinky canteens. Not very convincing space outfits, but then The Twilight Zone never did allot that much money for props and costumes.
The famous Rod Serling twist to the segment comes at the end, where lone survivor Corey discerns the meaning of Pierson's mysterious drawing in the sand. He ascends the sandy ridge and discovers to his horror telephone poles, a four-lane highway and a pair of signs. One sign reads "Reno, Nevada, 97 miles" while the other advertises "Nelson's Motel Just Up Ahead, Gas-Oil-Eats." That's right, Corey and his crew had never left Earth, falling from orbit and crashing into the Nevada desert, where rescue was merely a few miles away.
"I Shot an Arrow into the Air" comes from The Twilight Zone's landmark first season and is episode #15 of 156 in the series. Look for this classic episode on The Twilight Zone The Definitive Edition - Season 1 DVD.
The Twilight Zone The Definitive Edition - Season 1 DVD - amazon.com
- Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone - Cayuga Productions Inc.
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.