|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2011)|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||John Brahm|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||December 4, 1959|
Nehemiah Persoff: Carl Lanser
|List of Twilight Zone episodes|
A nervous passenger, Carl Lanser, appears aboard a British passenger liner in 1942. It becomes clear that Lanser has no idea of how he got aboard or who he really is. He is standing on deck when a man calls him to dinner. He enters the dining cabin and joins the crew and passengers. The captain discusses German U-boats seen in the area. Lanser seems annoyed and explains in great detail how one would not be aware of the presence of a U-boat. The diners ask Lanser what his profession is and how long he has been in England. Lanser explains that he has not been there long and that he was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Lanser appears confused, explains that he is ill and retires to his cabin.
While still on deck, he speaks to a female crew member but his irritation grows and he rants about impending doom. He explains that he knows who he is but can't recall specific details. The captain asks to see Lanser again. He is suspicious because Lanser claims he was born in Germany but cannot provide details of his life and does not have his passport on hand to verify his identity. The captain sends a steward to Lanser's cabin where he finds the cap of a German naval officer. While inspecting it in private, Lanser discovers the cap bears his own name on the inside. Lanser leaves and goes to the ship's bar.
Lanser becomes increasingly panicked while listening to fellow passengers discuss the War. He experiences déjà vu and believes it obvious that he is, unbeknownst to the others, a German submarine officer. Lanser is now certain that the ship will be attacked. The engines halt at 12:05. Despite the crew's reassurances Lanser panics, announcing that they will be killed at 1:15. Unable to convince the crew that they will soon be under attack, Lanser must suffer the agony of watching the passengers killed at precisely the time that Lanser predicted. The freighter is sunk by a German U-boat commanded by a Captain Lieutenant Lanser.
Later, Lanser is in his cabin on the U-boat, recording that night's kill. When his second-in-command asks Lanser if they might be judged according to the way they attacked the defenseless ship, Lanser replies that surely only the British will judge them. The first mate questions whether God might also be judging them, condemning them to relive the final moments of the doomed ship. The First Mate's fears are realized: The attacking U-Boat and crew are condemned to sink the freighter over and over, with Lanser as an unwitting passenger among those killed without mercy. The episode thus recounts Carl Lanser's private hell. Lanser instantaneously reappears on the deck of the ship, and the nightmare begins again.
In the first 18 episodes, Serling only had one minor conflict with CBS regarding episode content. In an interview with Mike Wallace on September 22, 1959, Serling said, "We changed, in eighteen scripts, Mike, we have had one line changed, which, again, was a little ludicrous but of insufficient basic concern within the context of the story, not to put up a fight. On a bridge of a British ship, a sailor calls down to the galley and asks in my script for a pot of tea, because I believe that it's constitutionally acceptable in the British Navy to drink tea. One of my sponsors happens to sell instant coffee (Sanka), and he took great umbrage, or at least minor umbrage anyway, with the idea of saying tea. Well, we had a couple of swings back and forth, nothing serious, and we decided we'd ask for a tray to be sent up to the bridge. But in eighteen scripts, that's the only conflict we've had."
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0