Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, September 22, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the original premiere of “The Arrival" on this day in 1961. While the world mourned the plane-crash death of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, which had taken place four days earlier, television audiences were treated to another form of air incident.
In “The Arrival,” a commercial DC-3 airliner, inbound from Buffalo, New York, has landed at this eastern airport without crew, passengers, or luggage. Federal Aviation Agency investigator Grant Sheckly (Harold J. Stone) is sent in, but nothing seems to make any sense until Sheckly begins to wonder if the airplane, itself, is real.
Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling was a news junkie – always reading the newspaper, always keeping up on current events, always keeping an eye open for mysteries. He seemed to be particularly fascinated with disappearances. And since he was also an aviation enthusiast who built model airplanes in his spare time and whose brother, Robert, was the aviation editor for United Press International, it wasn’t surprising that he came up with the mystery depicted in this episode. It is sadly ironic that the director of this episode – Boris Sagal – was killed in an incident involving a helicopter in 1981.