The Twilight Zone season 1 episode 6 recap: Six Degrees of Freedom

1 of 2

“Six Degrees of Freedom” — Pictured (l-r): Jessica Williams as Rei Tanaka; Lucinda Dryzek as Katherine Langford; Jonathan Whitesell as Casey Donlin; DeWanda Wise as Alexa Brandt of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Photo Cr: Robert Falconer/CBS © 2019 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

The Twilight Zone joins a mission to Mars where things doing go as planned before they even leave Earth.

For this episode of The Twilight Zone, you need to understand two general things: the Great Filter theory and the chaos around the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.

The latter, pretty easy, Orson Wells adapted and broadcast the H.G. Wells story The War of the Worlds about Martians invading earth. There were no commercials for (at least) the first 30 minutes and the radio drama was so convincing that some people who tuned in and missed the intro started to believe the story. It wasn’t real, but it was incredibly convincing.

More. The Twilight Zone season 1, episode 5 recap: The Wunderkind. light

More from Show Snob

Now, the Great Filter theory. In its most simple terms, the theory states that intelligent life in the universe is rare because there’s a great filter that weeds out lower life forms. It’s a complicated theory with many different ideas of where humanity sits (before or after it), but this episode of The Twilight Zone puts humans right up against the Great Filter.

The episode focuses on a five person crew on the first manned mission to Mars. The Twilight Zone joins them on the launch pad, strapped in, about 10 minutes before liftoff.

Everything looks great, so the crew, led by Alexa Brandt turns on blasts some music while the ground command center does final checks. But as they’re dancing, they hear one person over their radio calling for a stop to the launch.

Radio communications go back and forth as people work to confirm that, yes, there has been a nuclear launch and there are missiles inbound. Missiles are on their way to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities. The United States is retaliating sending missiles of their own. Nuclear war is breaking out. More importantly for the crew, there’s one headed right for them.

They have to think quickly, either they take off early to avoid the missile strike or they try to make it out of the ship and to the ground before it gets there.

Given how much time they have, they estimate that they’ll likely not make it to the ground in time. Brandt calls for a vote and pilot Casey Donlin, medic Katherine Langford and mission specialist Jerry Pierson all vote to launch. Engineer Rei Tanaka is the only one to resist.

It’s Brandt’s mission to command, though, so she tells the crew to take off.

Once they make it out of Earth’s atmosphere, the crew is faced with another decision: continue on their mission, or stay. The thing is, to protect the crew from radiation on their mission, there are no windows in their ship, only external cameras. Once the cameras go out, there’s no way for them to know how extensive the damage to Earth is.

If they stay by Earth, they could try to return to the surface, but the ship is built to land in water. If there’s no one to pick them up, they’ll drown and die. They could stay in orbit and wait til the dust settles. But they could potentially run out of food or run out of fuel, fall out of orbit and die on reentry. Then, of course they could go on to Mars alone. If anything goes wrong, though, they’ll be completely out of luck. There are no good options.

Pierson then, quietly, talks about the Great Filter theory, saying that the test is whether or not lifeforms can make it to another planet before destroying themselves. Most life fails. But this crew has a chance to complete that mission and make it through the Great Filter.

The deciding factors wind up being the fact that they had all worked for four years to make it to this mission and sacrificed marriages and families to do this and the idea that crew has a chance to be a beacon of hope for anyone alive back on Earth. Despite Tanaka’s protests, the rest of the crew agrees to continue on the mission.

From here on, this episode of The Twilight Zone details the crew’s journey toward Mars.

The most important moments from the journey are when tensions boil over between Brandt and Tanaka. First we see Brandt ban anyone from trying to contact Earth after finding Tanaka trying over and over again to get someone on Earth to answer her phone call to no avail.

Still, even after this ban, Brandt herself sneaks into the control room to try a phone call. It’s clear that the uncertainty surrounding what happened on Earth is eating at her too and she’s scared that everyone they know is dead. But it’s her job to keep everyone focussed on the mission.

That job again comes to a head with Tanaka when Brandt catches Tanaka and Donlin having sex. Langford and Pierson side with Brandt when confronting Tanaka and Donlin. They can’t afford an accidental pregnancy when their food supply is so tight and they know the won’t be able to receive any help if they need it.

This doesn’t play well with Tanaka. Still, we later see Tanaka work with Langford to put together a makeshift slide whistle to play a song while the crew sang for Brandt’s birthday.