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The Twilight Zone: King Nine Will Not Return

A shot down bomber pilot crash-lands in the desert. After regaining consciousness he finds that his crew members have disappeared.

Episode Info  

Episode number: 2x1
Production Number: 173-3639
Airdate: Friday September 30th, 1960

Director: Buzz Kulik
Writer: Rod Serling

Guest Stars
Bob CummingsBob Cummings
As Captain James Embry

Co-Guest Stars
Gene LyonsGene Lyons
As Psychiatrist
Paul LambertPaul Lambert
As Doctor


In Africa in 1943, Air Force Captain James Embry wakes up next to King Nine, a medium bomber that has crashed in the Tunisian desert. He vaguely recalls the bomber going off-course after a hit and crashing in the desert. However, he can't find any of the other crew even though he's sure they were all aboard when the bomber crashed. He calls out for the crew but gets no answer. He tries to piece together what happened in the crash and concludes that he was thrown clear during the crash and was knocked out. He assumes the others started walking to civilization, but can't figure out why they didn't take him...

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Episode Notes
Filming location: desert near Lone Pines, CA

The inspiration for this episode was an actual, real-life event where a B-24 heavy bomber lost its course during a raid in Italy and crashed in the desert. The plane's crew were not found until 15 years later. Parts from the plane were recovered and used in other aircraft - these aircraft were later lost in other accidents, lending to stories of the plane being haunted.

First episode in which Rod Serling appears onscreen at the beginning of an episode to introduce it. He appeared in "A World of His Own" but that was at the end.

This was the first episode to feature the familiar theme music by Marius Constant.

Episode Quotes
Season two intro: You're traveling through another dimension--a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead: Your next stop, The Twilight Zone.

Opening Narration
This is Africa, 1943. War spits out its violence overhead and the sandy graveyard swallows it up. Her name is King Nine, B-25, medium bomber, Twelfth Air Force. On a hot, still morning she took off from Tunisia to bomb the southern tip of Italy. An errant piece of flak tore a hole in a wing tank and, like a wounded bird, this is where she landed, not to return on this day, or any other day.

Doctor: You're all right, Mr. Embry. You're in a hospital. We'll look after you.
Captain James Embry: Crazy dream. Crazy dream. I went back... I went back to the desert.
Doctor: That's all right, Mr. Embry.
Psychiatrist: No, no, no, no, no, no. It's all right, Mr. Embry. You went back to the desert. Then what?
Captain James Embry: I went back to my plane. I was looking for the fellows. I looked everywhere for them. I saw Blake but it was a mirage, an illusion. He wasn't there. None of them were there.
Doctor: It was an illusion, Mr. Embry, but you're out of it now. You're going to be all right.
Captain James Embry: I should have been on the plane. I should have gone on that mission. I chickened out!
Psychiatrist: You didn't chicken out. You had no way of knowing that plane wasn't going to come back. And now you realize it more as time goes by and you'll feel better for it. It's out in the open now. You don't have to hide it in a pit deep inside of you. That's what's been hurting you all these years.
Captain James Embry: Another crazy thing. An illusion or a dream or whatever. I was out there in the desert and above me in the sky - jets. Jets. Isn't that wild? 1943, African desert, and jet planes overhead. Just as if I'd... just as if I had gone back there today. Did I? Did I go back? Did I go back to my plane?
Psychiatrist: In your mind. That's how you went back. Only in your mind.
Captain James Embry: Only in my mind.
Doctor: Go back to sleep now, Mr. Embry. You're going to be alright.
Psychiatrist: I think the worst part of it is over. At least the guilt is out in the open and he knows what it is.
Doctor: That illusion certainly seems real to him.
Psychiatrist: Well, a couple of days, a week, it'll lose all reality.
Nurse: Doctor, these are Mr. Embry's clothes. You left them in the examination room.
Doctor: Put them on the desk here, Nurse. I'm going back in the room. I'll take them in.
Psychiatrist: Yeah, I'd like to talk to him in a day or so.
Doctor: Fine, I'll run a check on him.
Nurse: What's that?
Psychiatrist: It's sand...

Closing Narration
Enigma buried in the sand, a question mark with broken wings that lies in silent grace as a marker in a desert shrine. Odd how the real consorts with the shadows, how the present fuses with the past. How does it happen? The question is on file in the silent desert. And the answer? The answer is waiting for us in the Twilight Zone.

Other Episode Crew

Executive ProducerRod Serling
CastingEthel Winant
Set DecoratorH. Web Arrowsmith  |  Henry Grace
Director of PhotographyGeorge T. Clemens
Art DirectorGeorge W. Davis  |  Philip Barber
Production ManagerRalph Nelson  |  E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Sound EditorCharles Scheid  |  Franklin Milton
Main Title ThemeMarius Constant
Assistant DirectorKurt Neumann
ConductorFred Steiner
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