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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 1 E 10 Judgement Night

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Rod Serling: Her name is the S.S. Queen of Glasgow. Her registry: British. Gross tonnage: five thousand. Age: indeterminate. At this moment, she's one day out of Liverpool, her destination New York. Duly noted on this ship's log is the sailing time, course to destination, weather conditions, temperature, longitude and latitude. But what is never recorded in a log is the fear that washes over a deck like the fog and ocean spray. Fear like the throbbing strokes of engine pistons, each like a heartbeat, parceling out every hour into breathless minutes of watching, waiting, and dreading. For the year is 1942 and this particular ship has lost its convoy. It travels alone like an aged blind thing groping through the unfriendly dark, stalked by the unseen periscopes of steel killers. Yes, the Queen of Glasgow is a frightened ship, and she carries with her a premonition of death.
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Air date: December 4, 1959

A man named Carl Lanser (Nehemiah Persoff) finds himself on a cargo liner named the S.S. Queen of Glasgow without anyone he knows, as well as without any knowledge of how he got there or who he is. But somehow he knows something horrible is going to happen, although he doesn't know what or why, only when it will happen: exactly at 1:15 a.m. Further compounding Lanser's worries is his seemingly firsthand knowledge of the hunting tactics of German submarines, as well as the realization that he was born in Frankfurt, Germany, which raises suspicion from the ship's captain. Further worry and confusion is raised when upon searching his cabin, Lanser finds a Kriegsmarine officer's cap among his possessions, with his name written upon the inside.

At 12:05 a.m., the Glasgow's overworked engines break down, forcing the captain to stop the ship dead while repairs are made. This brings Lanser's distress to a boil, unable to shake the feeling of impending doom in his mind. As 1:15 approaches, he snaps and begins running through the ship's passageways in a panic, shouting an alarm that a German U-boat is about to attack, but the ship suddenly seems to have become deserted. Finally happening upon a group of passengers, he attempts to warn the passengers in a near-mad, fervent state to abandon ship, but the passengers just stare at him silently before vanishing. Running back up on deck, Lanser spots to his horror the surfaced U-boat off the ship's side, and is even more horrified to see, upon looking through a pair of binoculars, none other than himself, in Kriegsmarine officer's attire, sitting in the U-boat's command tower, right as he gives the order to fire upon the Glasgow, exactly at 1:15 a.m.

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Lanser experiences the horror of the attack firsthand as the ship is relentlessly bombarded by the sub's mounted guns, thrown overboard into the sea and drowning as the ship swiftly sinks below the waves. Later, aboard the U-boat, in the captain's quarters, Kriegsmarine Captain Carl Lanser cheerfully remarks on the success of the sinking to his second-in-command Lt. Mueller, who, unlike Lanser, seems to be uncomfortable with the manner of the sinking. When pressed by Lanser to express his worries plainly, Mueller expresses a fear that for sinking an unarmed, disabled ship carrying many innocent men, women, and children aboard, that they're likely to now be damned in the eyes of God for their crime, forced to relive that night endlessly in their own private hell after their own deaths, a supposition that brings a degree of fear and worry into the formerly jubilant Lanser's eyes...

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Rod Serling: The S.S. Queen of Glasgow, heading for New York, and the time is 1942. For one man, it is always 1942 - and this man will ride the ghost ship every night for eternity. This is what is meant by paying the fiddler. This is the comeuppance awaiting every man when the ledger of his life is opened and examined, the tally made, and then the reward or the penalty paid. And in the case of Carl Lanser, former Kapitänleutnant, Navy of the Third Reich, this is the penalty. This is the justice meted out. This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone.

Tropement Night:


  • Another Man's Terror: Lanser's punishment is being in the place of the people he killed, forever and ever.
  • Asshole Victim: Lanser is revealed to be a pretty awful person in the grand scheme of things. He may seem meek and frightened in the afterlife, but it turns out to all be justified retribution towards the arrogant, cruel U-boat commander he was when he was alive.
  • Dead All Along: Lanser is actually in the afterlife at the beginning of the episode.
  • Death Equals Redemption: After being damned for sinking the ship, Lanser finds himself onboard the doomed Queen of Glasgow and interacts with the passengers with nothing but care for them in contrast to the heartless sub captain he was. Though by the time he shown his compassion, it was too late for him.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: When swimming in the wreckage of the S.S. Queen of Glasgow, Lanser finds the doll he gave to the little girl earlier, signifying her death.
  • Flying Dutchman: A variation of this where the ship and all its passengers are ghosts, doomed to wander the seas and be sunk repeatedly for all of eternity as Lanser's punishment for sinking the ship without warning.
  • Foreshadowing: When someone mentions the creepiness of being stalked by a uboat beneath the surface, Lanser says they won't torpedo them; it would suit their purposes better to surface and sink the ship with other ordinances. Someone answers that Lanser's knowledge makes him sound like a U-boat captain. He is, and that is how the Queen of Glasgow was (and continues to be) sunk.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: By the time he wants to redeem himself for sinking the ship, Lanser is already forever damned.
  • Heel Realization: After interacting with the passengers and realized he was the one who sunk the ship, Lanser felt nothing, but regret and horror at being the instigator of this atrocity as he experienced being on the receiving end this time.
  • Here We Go Again!: Because Lanser is in an endless loop of experiencing that same night.
  • I Hate Past Me: Lanser is killed by his past self, a U-Boat captain.
  • Ironic Hell: Lanser has to relive being frightened and killed, as his victims were, over and over again.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Every night, all Lanser can remember is being born in Germany without any other details of his life.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A Nazi captain is forced to relive the sinking of a ship from the position of one of the passengers.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The amnesiac Lanser actually connects with the passengers and is horrified to see them killed. His past self has no such regrets, possibly due to dismissing them as targets instead of people.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Lanser during the sinking likely thought this way when he realized he was the cause of this disaster after interacting with the passengers.
  • Nazi Protagonist: Lanser was a U-Boat captain serving Nazi Germany.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Someone talks about how they'd rather that the Nazis sent a ship after them, rather than a submarine that lurks invisibly miles beneath the surface.
  • Ominous Fog: The doomed ship is surrounded by fog.
  • Pet the Dog: Lanser returns a doll to a little girl passenger, a surprising moment of compassion from someone who we later learn seems to have none.
  • Stock Footage: Footage of the titular ship from the 1959 film The Wreck of the Mary Deare is used to depict the S.S. Queen of Glasgow.
  • Tempting Fate: When Lieutenant Mueller nervously asks him whether he thinks they might be eternally condemned, Lanser scoffs at it. Guess who's right?
  • Title Drop: In the closing narration: "This is judgement night in the Twilight Zone."
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Lanser eventually realized his past self is responsible for the sinking.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In his afterlife, Lanser is a bit more compassionate and polite, as opposed to the heartless U-boat commander he was in life. Justified, as the amnesia about his identity clouds any of the personality that come with it.

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