Review: Twilight Zone’s Nightmare At 20,000 Feet


Maddy Hardy, Staff

Nightmare at 20,000 feet is a horror-story-turned Twilight Zone episode that first aired in October of 1963. The short story of the same title was written by Richard Matheson in 1961, and the show’s episode was directed by Richard Donner. William Shatner played the perturbed main character, Robert Wilson. Julia Wilson was portrayed by Christine White, and Nick Cravat played the Gremlin.

Set on a stormy plane ride, Robert Wilson is riding a plane for the first time since having a nervous breakdown 6 months prior (also on an aircraft). As he sits on the plane, he looks out the window and sees a terrifying creature tearing apart the wing. His attempts to alert the other passengers are fruitless, however, as his wife assumes he is simply uneasy and imagining things in his distress.

Robert Wilson is a salesmen in his 30’s who—prior to the episode’s events—had a nervous breakdown on an airplane and was sent to a sanitarium to be cured. As he is on a plane flying back home from the sanitarium, he begins to experience anxiety and what others within the story think to be irrational fears.

The dramatic music and sound effects whenever Robert Wilson sees the gremlin adds to the disquieting feeling as he is the only one who sees it. Richard Donner’s inclusion of the close up angles of Robert’s face during certain scenes allows the watchers to take in his expressions and his emotions easier, and also adds to the effect of his frenzied actions and thoughts.

I give “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet” a 5/5. The episode gives the watchers an uneasy feeling, as the story progresses and the main character suffers through the chaotic events. Throughout the episode, Robert Wilson seems to be paranoid, but the twist at the end will leave you with shocks and chills!