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.
Hello everyone. As you read this I am in the air flying back to the East Coast for my long awaited trip. I will be gone until July 13th which means FOTD will be on hiatus after Friday’s column. I will resume my posting on July 13th Since I am flying today, I thought it appropriate to do a column on an aviation related works. When you think of aviation in science fiction/fantasy, I imagine most think of the classic Twilight Zone episode ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet” staring Mr. William Shatner. It is one of the top Twilight Zone episodes in the shows run, and still good to this day. Heck if for no other reason than to laugh at how relaxed aircraft flying was back in the 1960s, from the ease of boarding, to being able to smoke. There was a parody done by The Simpsons called “Terror At 5 1/2 Feet” that was part of Treehouse Of Horror IV
It was parodied on SNL with Jude Law playing the Shatner role
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about when the episode was both remade and parodied by the same actor.
Did you know that John Lithgow did a remake of this episode in the 1983 Twilight Zone movie, and then referenced the incident portrayed in an episode of Third Rock From The Sun?
The Twilight Zone Movie was an anthology theatrical release, consisting of three remakes of classic TZ episodes and a fourth original story. The segment that remakes Nightmare... was directed by George Miller (Yes THAT George Miller). The segment is pretty much the same as the original aside from some minor differences. Lithgow travels by himself, whereas Shatner traveled with his wife. Shatner’s character was named Bob Wilson, Lithgow’s was named John Valentine. And Lithgow’s segment begins with him already having a panic attack and having to be coxed out of the lavatory by the flight staff back to his seat, while Shatner boards fine and slowly starts to lose it as the flight goes on. But for the most part the story is the same.
Now let’s fast forward to 1999, to Third Rock From The Sun, The episode is “Dick’s Big Giant Headache” Episode 4x23. W William Shatner makes his first of several appearances on episode as the leader of the Solomon’s race simply called The Big Giant Head. . When they greet him at the airport he and Dick, played by John Lithgow, have this exchange.
Here is the entire scene.
I thought that was a pretty cool callback to a classic episode of one of the giants of science fiction television. I will close out the column with the closing narration that Mr. Rod Serling gave at the end of the episode. Have a good day and i’ll see you next time, here, at Fact Of The Day.
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.
Fact Of The Day is the daily column where RobGronkowski’sPartyBusDriver shares some random tidibt of science fiction, fantasy or horror knowledge. If there is a show or movie you would like to see done, leave a note in the comments below. You can see the full archive of past columns here.