Judgment Night (The Twilight Zone)

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"Judgment Night"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 10
Directed byJohn Brahm
Written byRod Serling
Featured musicStock
Production code173-3604
Original air dateDecember 4, 1959 (1959-12-04)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"Perchance to Dream"
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"And When the Sky Was Opened"
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series, season 1)
List of episodes

"Judgment Night" is episode 10 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Opening narration[edit]

Her name is the S.S. Queen of Glasgow. Her registry: British. Gross tonnage: five thousand. Age: Indeterminate. At this moment she's one day out of Liverpool, her destination New York. Duly recorded on the ship's log is the sailing time, course to destination, weather conditions, temperature, longitude and latitude. But what is never recorded in a log is the fear that washes over a deck like fog and ocean spray. Fear like the throbbing strokes of engine pistons, each like a heartbeat, parceling out every hour into breathless minutes of watching, waiting and dreading... For the year is 1942, and this particular ship has lost its convoy. It travels alone like an aged blind thing groping through the unfriendly dark, stalked by unseen periscopes of steel killers. Yes, the Queen of Glasgow is a frightened ship, and she carries with her a premonition of death.


A man is seen standing aboard the deck of an isolated British cargo liner crossing the Atlantic in 1942. The man's name is Carl Lanser and he appears disoriented, with no idea of how he got aboard or who he really is. Later, sitting with the captain and several passengers, Lanser dismisses fears of the ship being hunted by a U-boat "wolfpack" with an unusually-comprehensive knowledge of submarine warfare tactics, saying only one U-boat would be necessary and it would not bother using a torpedo on the ship. He is unable to explain how he knows any of this and recalls only that he was born in Frankfurt, but says that he finds the ship, its crew and passengers oddly familiar. When called to the bridge by the captain he cannot provide proof of his identity. Still confused, Lanser is sent back to his cabin with a steward, where he finds a Kriegsmarine officer's cap among his possessions with his name written on the inside.

The captain is forced to stop the ship for repairs when the overworked engines break down at 12:05. Lanser becomes increasingly restless, haunted by an inescapable sense of impending doom. Convinced that everyone aboard the ship will die at 1:15, Lanser eventually panics and runs through the passageways, attempting to raise an alarm. He suddenly finds the ship is mysteriously empty and when he finally locates some of the passengers, they silently stare at him as he desperately implores them to abandon ship until they suddenly vanish. At exactly 1:15, as a searchlight illuminates the ship, Lanser watches in horror as a surfaced U-boat, commanded by a Captain lieutenant Carl Lanser, opens fire with its deck cannon and machine guns. The ship quickly sinks, leaving no survivors.

Some time later, Captain Lanser is in his cabin aboard his U-boat, recording that night's kill. His second-in-command, Lt. Mueller, is deeply troubled by the vicious and cruel actions they have undertaken, not warning the people on board the ship before firing upon them, and wonders "if we are not all damned now". Lanser dismissively says he is sure the British Admiralty thinks so, but Mueller clarifies that he meant damned in the eyes of God. Despite Lanser's skepticism and sarcasm, Mueller grows more convinced that the crew of the U-boat may one day answer for their crime by reliving the act for all eternity. Granted his own private hell as the man who ordered the massacre, the former U-boat commander returns to the deck of the ship as the nightmare begins again.

Closing narration[edit]

"The S.S. Queen of Glasgow, heading for New York, and the time is 1942. For one man it is always 1942—and this man will ride the ghost ship every night for eternity. This is what is meant by paying the fiddler. This is the comeuppance awaiting every man when the ledger of his life is opened and examined, the tally made, and then the reward or the penalty paid. And in the case of Carl Lanser, former Kapitan Lieutenant, Navy of the Third Reich, this is the penalty. This is the justice meted out. This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone."

Episode notes[edit]

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."

In the 1960 issue of Broadcasting, Serling complained: "You can't 'ford' a river if it's sponsored by Chevy; you can't offer someone a 'match' if it's sponsored by Ronson lighters." The Twilight Zone Companion joked that it was a good thing the sponsor did not realize that people could drink water, or else the episode would have happened on dry land.

See also[edit]


  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 ISBN 0-553-01416-1 (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
  • Broadcasting (1960) Broadcasting Publications pg 42

External links[edit]