Today, December 6th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1963 debut of "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms."
Given my interest in military history and tactics, I was always drawn to this quintessential Rod Serling time travel story in which an American tank crew on maneuvers in modern-day South Dakota passes through a warp and ends up on the Little Big Horn with General Custer. The crew of the M3-A3 Stuart tank (very low-tech for 1963) consists of Sergeant Connors (Ron Foster), Corporal Langsford (a wise-ass Warren Oates) and Private McCluskey (Randy Boone). Their commanding officer is Captain Dennet, portrayed by Robert Bray (who later did 104 episodes of Lassie as forest ranger Corey Stuart).
Future Mission Impossible veteran Greg Morris has a small part as Lt. Woodard.
Back in 1998, my good friend Rory Aylward and I decided to produce a remake of this episode as an experimental film. Rory had befriended Major Matt Morgan, the head of the L.A. film liaison office of the U.S. Marine Corps (he's now running for Congress in the upper peninsula of Michigan) and we received total USMC cooperation to film at Camp Pendleton. We put together a spirited cast, which included Michael Cole (the star of The Mod Squad). It was a total blast, and we used state-of-the-art equipment, including a Light Armored Vehicle (L.A.V.), Humvees and Marines from the Pendleton base. Matt and I updated the script, renaming it "Time Out for Bravo Seven."
But sadly, because we had no official rights, we never showed it – a total experiment, which led Rory and I down the film producing path (together we produced the 2002 World War II drama Silent Night for Hallmark Channel, which starred Linda Hamilton and was nominated for four Canadian Television Academy awards).
So let's raise a cold one to Serling and his spirited team who not only inspired us but notched another winner in The Twilight Zone ledger book.