“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Rod Serling „
More Twilight Zone audio capers from 2010, this time an adaption of Rod Serling's classic 1961 episode The Odyssey of Flight 33. This can be purchased as part of a collection but is also available to download individually for £1.19 at the time of writing. The story is 37 minutes long and features Stacy Keach and Daniel J Travanti, Travanti an actor that all insomniacs who have watched Channel 4 at strange hours will know as Captain Furillo in the brilliant eighties police series Hill Street Blues. In The Odyssey of Flight 33, Captain Farver is in charge of Trans-Ocean Airways Flight 33 on a routine journey from London to New York. The Boeing 707 is one of many planes that make this trip each day but they are about to be plunged into a most extraordinary crisis. Fifty minutes from Idlewild Airport the plane picks up an unexplained tailwind that rockets them to incredible speeds and when everything has calmed down the crew are rather alarmed to find they can't make contact with anyone on the radio. 'Boston. Boston control, this is Global 33. Boston, please acknowledge. Idlewild. Idlewild, this is Global 33. Idlewild, do you read us? No soap. I can't raise anyone... ' A look below reveals the reason why. There is a Brontosaurus wandering around! Yes, Flight 33 has been catapulted back in time to the age of dinosaurs! With their fuel running dangerously low, Captain Farver must somehow find a way to get them back to the future...
The Odyssey of Flight 33 is a great example of The Twilight Zone at its best. The idea is incredibly simple - crew of a plane can't land and are low on fuel, AND trapped in the wrong time! - and creates a good deal of tension and a great mystery for the characters to solve. In the television version John Anderson was wonderfully stoic and calm as the Captain and here Daniel J Travanti is a decent fit for the update - Travanti another actor who is able to project a calm authority. The whole story here is set in the cabin of the plane as the crew try to make sense of this logic defying dilemma and it has a good atmosphere as an audio piece with the background noises of the plane's instruments, the winds whipping outside and the static of the radio communications. These are not straight transcripts of the television series and have been modified around the edges but not to any great detrimental degree. The idea is to capture the spirit of the original stories but not always stick to them 100%. Stacy Keach is a constant in the radio series and serves as host and supporting actor with various guest stars joining him throughout the adaptions. He and Travanti work well here together.
One of the strengths of The Odyssey of Flight 33 is that Rod Serling consulted his aviation engineer brother when he was writing it and therefore the technical banter between the crew sounds credibly authentic (to a layman like me anyway). 'Hold it a minute. Skipper, Loran indicates a ground speed of 830 knots. I never heard of a tailwind like that! 980 now. 1120. 1500. God in heaven, I can't even keep up with it!' I suppose the one drawback with this adaption though is that you don't get a glimpse of a wonderfully old-fashioned stop-motion Brontosaurus pottering about below! You can see the influence of The Twilight Zone (and The Outer Limits) in just about everything. Even the sixties Star Trek seemed heavily influenced by the show and I lost count of how many times I watched 'Lost' and recognised something they'd half-inched from Rod Serling. Here, the drama comes from the crew desperately running out of time and throwing their last reserves of fuel into a desperate attempt to pick up enough speed to get back to their own time. It's a rather daft mystery but all played wonderfully straight both in the television version and here, the story always intriguing and gripping. The Twilight Zone returned to the Time Travel well many times but this is probably the most accomplished example.
At 37 minutes this is slightly longer than the television version but doesn't outstay its welcome by any means. The intimate and atmospheric nature of the piece is perfectly suited for an audio adaption and the use of sound effects and music is nicely done without ever seeming gratuitous or overbearing. Stacey Keach handles the narration duties so famously established by the late Rod Serling and is a dependable presence throughout these adaptions. You should probably watch the television versions of these first but the radio adaptions are still fun for Twilight Zone completists and general fans of mysterious radio alike. If you've ever wondered what would happen if the aeroplane you were on was inexplicably catapulted back through time to an age of flying Pterodactyls then The Odyssey of Flight 33 will provide some of the answers you've probably never been looking for. I generally like these Carl Amari produced adaptions and the ones I've listened to so far have been perfectly competent and enjoyably spooky. They can't compete with the television series but they do serve as an affectionate off-shoot or riff on the sixties icon.
I enjoyed the audio version of The Odyssey of Flight 33 enough to listen to some more of these Twilight Zone adaptions and would certainly consider buying a collection of these. They make good old-fashioned late night fun and are not bad at all.