Rod Serling: It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears. Case in point, the scene you're watching. This is not a hospital, not a morgue, not a mausoleum, not an undertaker's parlor of the future. What it is is the belly of a spaceship. It is en route to another planetary system, an incredible distance from the Earth. This is the crux of our story - a flight into space. It is also the story of the things that might happen to human beings who take a step beyond, unable to anticipate everything that might await them out there... Commander Douglas Stansfield, astronaut. A man about to embark on one of history's longest journeys; 40 years out into endless space and hopefully back again. This is the beginning, the first step towards man's longest leap into the unknown. Science has solved the mechanical details and now it's up to one human being to breathe life into blueprints and computers. To prove once and for all that man can live half a lifetime in the total void of outer space, 40 years alone in the unknown. This is Earth. Ahead lies a planetary system. The vast region in between is the Twilight Zone.
In 1987, the astronaut Commander Douglas Stansfield is chosen for a 40 year round trip to a solar system 141 lightyears from Earth. However, a month before he is scheduled to depart, he meets and falls madly in love with Sandra Horn.
The Long Tropes:
- All for Nothing: Due to advances in technology, the space program was able to beat the astronaut Douglas Stansfield to the new planet and back, but because of a breakdown in communications, they couldn't find his capsule until near the end of the mission.
- Artificial Gravity: Stansfield's ship is equipped with an anti-gravity system.
- Downer Ending: Sandra Horn doesn't care and still wants to be with her beloved Douglas Stansfield, though he has aged. But he says he is too old for her now and walks away.
- Gift of the Magi Plot: Douglas Stansfield turned off his sleep chamber and aged, unwilling to be young while his sweetheart Sandra Horn grew old. Unknown to him, Sandra underwent an experimental hibernation experiment to wait for him. In the end, the exact opposite of what they dreaded happened.
- Human Popsicle: Stansfield is placed in suspended animation when he is sent on a mission to a solar system 141 lightyears from Earth.
- In Medias Res: The episode begins with Stansfield aboard the ship in his suspended animation chamber as the date changes from December 31, 1987 to January 1, 1988. It then flashes back to Dr. Bixler recruiting Stansfield for the mission the previous June.
- Inner Monologue: Stansfield's inner monologue while in suspended animation is heard throughout the episode.
- Love at First Sight: Stansfield and Sandra are both instantly smitten the moment that they meet. After knowing each other for only three and a half hours, they proclaim their love.
- Meet Cute: Stansfield and Sandra meet when she drops her papers and he helps her to pick them up.
- Stock Footage: Footage of the launch of a Mercury rocket is used to represent the launch of Stansfield's ship.
- Time Skip: The second act ends on May 31, 1988 and the third begins in 2027.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Stansfield's mission was launched on December 31, 1987.
Rod Serling: Commander Douglas Stansfield, one of the forgotten pioneers of the space age. He's been pushed aside by the flow of progress and the passage of years, and the ferocious travesty of fate. Tonight's tale of the ionosphere and irony, delivered from the Twilight Zone.