Twilight Zone, Season 1 Episode 15, “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air"
A spacecraft, the Arrow One, crash lands after going out of sight from the space institute that launched it, leaving the crew unaccounted for and unaware of their surroundings, except that they appear to have landed on a very hot, dry asteroid of some sort. Initially, only four of the crew are alive, with one gravely injured. Hostilities erupt when one crew member, Corey (Dewey Martin) objects to sharing the limited remaining water to the injured man he sees as a lost cause, but the commanding officer, Colonel Donlin (Edward Binns) insists, until the man indeed dies.
Intent on trying to find resources, Donlin sends Corey and the other remaining crewmember, Pierson (Ted Otis) into the desert at night when the heat is more bearable. Corey returns, alone and Donlin becomes suspicious when Corey appears to have more water than when he left. Corey admits to taking Pierson’s water but insists that he found Pierson’s body already dead and merely took the water from it. Donlin forces Corey at gunpoint to take him to Pierson’s body, which is not where Corey last saw it. When the two finally locate Pierson, the revelations begin which may destroy the fragile sense of order remaining.
The best examples of the Twilight Zone, in my opinion, provide not only the series’ unexpected twist endings but also that deep look into the human spirit. Like “The Shelter” and “The Monsters are Due on Marple Street”, this episode looks at the nature of humanity in adversity. Unfortunately, while the premise is sound, the way the characters are acted and written doesn’t live up to the potential. These men are trained astronauts and while it’s true that they are in a dire crisis situation, their intellectual and moral capacities seem immediately impaired upon the crash. Not only do they overlook several clues about what went wrong with their trip, but from the moment we see him, Corey’s self-serving nature appears overwhelming, with no sense of regard for his fellow men. He would rather live for ten days as a thief and murderer than die in five with nobility, which may be the sort of illogical thinking one expects after days of hunger or thirst, but not directly following a crash that space pilot training certainly would have prepared them for the possibility of.
Those fascinated by the desperate nature of men short on water and what they’ll do about it might be better served by the season 2 episode “The Rip Van Winkle Caper, which paints a more realistic portrayal, as well as offering a more unexpected ending.