The Twilight Zone Episode Rod Serling’s Brother Inspired Is An All-Timer

By Douglas Helm | Published

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone has plenty of all-time great episodes throughout its lengthy run, but one of the best ones was made in collaboration with his brother, Robert Serling. The episode in question is “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” which Robert helped make more authentic with the cockpit dialogue between the pilots. According to Robert, Rod got the idea for the episode by looking at an American Airlines brochure of a 707-passenger cabin that was sent out to film production companies that wanted to use them for filming scenes (via Slash Film).

Rod And Robert Serling Conceptualize The Odyssey Of Flight 33

As Robert tells it, the two brothers were driving when Rod said, “’Bob, suppose you had a jet over the Atlantic and it picked up a freak tailwind of such velocity that its ground speed was something like eight thousand miles an hour, and it went so fast that it went through a time barrier, and…they were back in prehistoric times.”

Fans of The Twilight Zone episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” will be familiar with this premise, as that idea is exactly what happens in the episode. Captain Farver (John Anderson) notices that his routine flight from London to New York City suddenly experiences an unusual increase in ground speed, which causes him to learn the shocking fact that they were suddenly flying over a landscape filled with dinosaurs.

Accurate Dialogue

However, Rod Serling didn’t stop seeking Robert Serling’s advice after pitching The Twilight Zone episode concept. Robert, who was an aviation writer and had in-depth knowledge of aviation terms, helped Rod create the authentic cockpit dialogue used by the flight crew throughout the episode. They even practiced the dialogue with each other to make sure everything was as natural and seamless as possible.

An Iconic Episode

Their meticulous attention to detail paid off, as Robert revealed that Rod would get letters from professional pilots about how the episode was the most technically accurate airplane dialogue put to film. In addition to the great and technically accurate dialogue, “The Odyssey of Flight 33” is just a great overall episode of the series and incorporates many of the things that make The Twilight Zone such an indelible pop culture touchstone. Special attention was paid to the visual effects that sold the premise of the plane traveling through time.

Building A Prehistoric Landscape

For the dinosaur scenes, miniature landscapes and figures, along with stop-motion animation, were used to bring a Brontosaurus to life. When the crew of Flight 33 attempted to return to the present, the brilliant decision was made to use aerial stock footage from the 1939 New York World’s Fair to show that their attempt had failed. And, as many great episodes of The Twilight Zone do, the ending is left ambiguous so that viewers are left to ponder the true fate of Flight 33.

Stream The Twilight Zone

There are plenty of great episodes of The Twilight Zone out there, but “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. The dialogue, storytelling, and effects all come together to make something truly gripping. The series is streaming on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video if you want to check it out.