I Shot an Arrow into the Air

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"I Shot an Arrow into the Air"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 15
Directed byStuart Rosenberg
Story byMadelon Champion
Teleplay byRod Serling
Featured musicStock from "And When the Sky Was Opened" by Leonard Rosenman
Production code173-3626
Original air dateJanuary 15, 1960
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Third from the Sun"
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"The Hitch-Hiker"
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) (season 1)
List of The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) episodes

"I Shot an Arrow into the Air" is episode 15 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Opening narration[edit]

Her name is the Arrow 1. She represents four and a half years of planning, preparation, and training, and a thousand years of science, mathematics, and the projected dreams and hopes of not only a nation, but a world. She is the first manned aircraft into space and this is the countdown. The last five seconds before man shot an arrow into the air.


A manned space flight with eight crew members crash lands on what the astronauts believe to be an unknown asteroid, with an area of desert and jagged mountains. Only four of the crew survive the crash: the commanding officer Donlin, crewmen Corey and Pierson, and a crewman named Hudak who is badly injured and barely alive, and the chances of rescue or survival are bleak. After they bury the dead men, Donlin and Pierson concern themselves with taking care of Hudak, but Corey, who is only concerned with saving himself, declares that sharing their limited supply of water with Hudak will reduce the chances of survival for the rest of them. This sets Corey at odds with both Pierson and Donlin, who insist that they will care for Hudak and share their water with him for as long as he does survive. Hudak dies a short time later; after they bury him, Donlin has Corey and Pierson trek out into the barren desert to see if there is anything that might improve their chances of survival.

Six hours later, Corey returns alone, claiming not to know where Pierson went. Donlin calls Corey out on having more water in his canteen now than he had when he left, and demands to know where Pierson is. Corey claims that he found Pierson dead and took his water. Not believing this account, Donlin wants to see for himself and forces Corey at gunpoint to lead him to Pierson's body. When they reach the spot Corey claims to have found Pierson, the body is not there, nor is there any evidence that backs Corey's claim, leaving Donlin more dubious. They later find Pierson near the edge of a mountain, alive but severely wounded. Donlin drops the gun and rushes to Pierson, who wordlessly gestures that he climbed the mountain and saw something. With his last bit of strength, Pierson draws a primitive diagram in the sand with his finger (two parallel lines intersected by a perpendicular line), and then dies. Meanwhile, Corey grabs the dropped gun, and confesses that he attacked Pierson earlier. He then shoots and kills Donlin and sets out alone, confident that he will survive longer now that he has all of the water for himself.

Now you make tracks, Mr. Corey. You move out and up like some kind of ghostly billyclub was tapping at your ankles and telling you that it was later than you'd think. You scrabble up rock hills and feel hot sand underneath your feet and every now and then, take a look over your shoulder at a giant sun suspended in a dead and motionless sky...like an unblinking eye that probes at the back of your head in a prolonged accusation.

Mr. Corey, last remaining member of a doomed crew, keep moving. Make tracks, Mr. Corey. Push up and push out because if you stop...if you stop, maybe sanity will get you by the throat. Maybe realization will pry open your mind and the horror you left down in the sand will seep in. Yeah, Mr. Corey, yeah, you better keep moving. That's the order of the moment: keep moving.

Corey climbs a mountain and sees a sign for Reno, along with telephone poles, which was what Pierson had attempted to draw before he died. Realizing that they had in fact never left Earth and that he had killed his partners for nothing, Corey breaks down weeping and begging his deceased crewmates for forgiveness.

Closing narration[edit]

Practical joke perpetrated by Mother Nature and a combination of improbable events. Practical joke wearing the trappings of nightmare, of terror, and desperation. Small, human drama played out in a desert 97 miles from Reno, Nevada, U.S.A., continent of North America, the Earth and, of course, the Twilight Zone.

Episode notes[edit]

I got 15,000 manuscripts in the first five days. Of those 15,000, I and members of my staff read about 140. And 137 of those 140 were wasted paper; hand-scrawled, laboriously written, therapeutic unholy grotesqueries from sick, troubled, deeply disturbed people. Of the three remaining scripts, all of clearly poetic, professional quality, none of them fitted the show.

Despite this, Serling did end up producing an idea from an industry outsider when he paid Madelon Champion $500 for the idea on which this episode was based, an idea that came up in a social conversation between the two.[1] Though Serling was frequently approached with suggestions for the series, such a purchase was never repeated.
  • Much of this episode was filmed in Death Valley National Monument (now a National Park), particularly around Zabriskie Point.[1]
  • In addition to the usual opening and closing narration, this episode features a rare bit of narration from Serling in the middle of the show—after Corey kills Donlin, Serling narrates Corey's travels through the desert landscape. This was the last use of mid-show narration until season three's "I Sing The Body Electric".
  • The title of the episode comes from the opening line of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Arrow and the Song": "I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to Earth I knew not where." Serling also used this title for a prospective Twilight Zone pilot episode that was eventually shot, in modified form, as "The Gift".[2]
  • The plot idea of astronauts thinking they had crashed on an unknown planet, only to discover that in fact they had been on Earth all along, would be adapted by Rod Serling in his work on the initial screenplay of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes.
  • This is one of several episodes from season one to have its opening title sequence replaced with the opening for season two. This was done during the summer of 1961 in order to match the re-running episodes of season one to episodes of the second season.


  1. ^ a b Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd ed.). Hollywood: Sillman-James Press. p. 98.
  2. ^ Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd ed.). Hollywood: Sillman-James Press. p. 277.

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