William Sturka works as a hydrogen specialist in a highly secure plant. Conditions are tense and there are constant rumors of war. The latest is that it's going to happen in the next 48 hours. Unbeknownst to his wife Eve and daughter Jody, he and his friend Jerry Riden have been planning an escape of sorts for themselves and their families. Jerry is a test pilot and they plan to steal the government's latest spacecraft heading off to a planet they believe may sustain life. Their biggest challenge is Carling, a security officer who seems to be onto their plan.Written by
The background noises heard aboard the ship in the final scene were later reused in Star Trek (1966). See more »
We're told that the spaceship "could" go beyond the planet's atmosphere. That's not the same as being capable of interstellar travel. See more »
Rod Serling - Narrator:
Quitting time at the plant. Time for supper now. Time for families. Time for a cool drink on a porch. Time for the quiet rustle of leaf-laden trees that screen out the moon, and underneath it all, behind the eyes of the men, hanging invisible over the summer night, is a horror without words. For this is the stillness before storm. This is the eve of the end.
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Third From The Sun is a tense early entry in the at the time (1959) fledgling Twilight Zone series, and it's as good an example as any as to what made the show tick, why so many occasional viewers became regular ones, as it channels thoughts, feelings and behaviors that appear normal on the surface which the viewer soon learns is actually a subtext. pointing to larger themes of great significance; and what may well be the sooner than expected end of the world. The Twilight Zone may be, of the TV series of the Cold War era, the one that dealt most often with the prospect, fear and at times the consequences of nuclear mass destruction.
The plot is simple and melodramatic, as the story revolves around defense workers in what at the time must have felt like a foregone conclusion was postwar U.S.A. Indeed, the casting, the behavior of the people in the episode and how they handle the Cold War stress of what feels like impending nuclear holocaust was a worry on many people's minds back then. We feel this most strongly in the early scenes, and especially the build-up of tension when a man named Carling appears to be dropping in on the main character with alarming regularity, as if he knew what they were up to; and as a government security man he was determined to stop them. Or perhaps he was intending to join them in their planned escape from their doomed planet.
The the phones they use, the artwork on the walls, the odd, unfamiliar furniture, the interior decoration of the suburban home of the family the episode focuses on, these and other things suggest that the episode is set in an indeterminate future , likely not too far off in the future. Yet the nuclear family survives, as the main characters live as so many Americans did back sixty or more years ago, with dread, anxiety, an uncertainty regarding what the future holds. The threat of nuclear war was on the minds of many if not most Americans back then, and in this Third From The Sun is true to life.
How the story ends should be a big surprise for the first time viewer. It would be downright cruel to give it away. Although there are hints here and there as to what's rally happening in the episode, not much is made clear. It plays as a near fever dream, thus it has, by virtue of this, an internal logic; on the one hand earnest and concrete in presentation, and yet, on the other hand, intelligent and playful enough as to suggest that what's transpiring could well be the ravings of a lunatic locked away in an asylum. Or could it all be a shared collective nightmare of s group of Fifties era suburbanites on a warm summer night when things look and feel just a little bit too good to be true.
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