10 classic Twilight Zone episodes to watch before CBS All-Access launch

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Twilight Zone ‘The Odyssey of Flight 33’ – Image by CBS

7. The Odyssey of Flight 33

Originally aired: February 24, 1961 – Season 2, Episode 18

Written by: Rod Serling

Opening narration: “You’re riding on a jet airliner en route from London to New York. You’re at 35,000 feet atop an overcast and roughly fifty-five minutes from Idlewild Airport. But what you’ve seen occur inside the cockpit of this plane is no reflection on the aircraft or the crew.

It’s a safe, well-engineered, perfectly designed machine. And the men you’ve just met are a trained, cool, highly efficient team. The problem is simply that the plane is going too fast, and there is nothing within the realm of knowledge or at least logic to explain it.

Unbeknownst to passenger and crew, this airplane is heading into an uncharted region well off the beaten track of commercial travelers—it’s moving into The Twilight Zone. What you’re about to see we call “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”

Plot: A plane hits an unexpected jet stream and breaks through a barrier that sends them back in time. Their only hope of getting home is to try to break through that same barrier and hope it puts them back in the correct era. But things don’t quite work out for them.

Why it’s a classic: This is one of those that is a personal favorite more than anything else. Many of Serling’s episodes centered around the idea that these events could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Twilight Zone always has believable episodes, that’s part of the joy of the series—the fact that the Twilight Zone is anywhere and everywhere.

But, according to AV Club, Serling worked with his brother, an aviation reporter, and an actual pilot to make sure the dialogue in the cockpit of the plane was authentic. It’s an impeccably written episode that shows just how simply Serling could unsettle his audience.

Watching this as a child, it changed the way I looked up at planes when I went outside. After all, you never know which one is stuck trying to find its way home from another time. It’s the Flying Dutchman for the late 20th century.