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
Guest appearance(s)
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 The Twilight Zone episodes

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

Opening narration[edit]


A man is seen standing aboard the deck of a 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. He is staring into a thick fog when a man calls him to dinner. He enters the ship's dining cabin and joins the crew and passengers. The captain discusses German U-boats seen in the area and tries to reassure the nervous passengers that there is no sign that the ship has caught the attention of any lurking "wolfpacks." Lanser becomes annoyed and, displaying an unusually comprehensive knowledge of submarines, explains in great detail that a single ship would be of no interest to a wolfpack and instead would most likely be pursued by a single submarine. The diners ask Lanser about his profession and how long he has been in England. “Forgive me,” says the captain, “Mr Lanser, but you sound rather like a U-boat commander.” Lanser, startled, drops the cup he was drinking, spilling its contents on himself, and first with anger, then hesitantly, tells them that he has not been there long and that he was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Lanser appears confused, claims that he is ill and takes his leave.

While still on deck, he speaks to a female passenger whom he met at the dinner. Lanser explains to her that he has no memory of how he came aboard the ship – he knows who he is and finds each of the passengers and crew dimly familiar but can't recall specific details. His irritation grows and he begins to rant about impending doom. The captain, suspicious due to Lanser's claims of German nationality, sends an officer to escort him to the bridge. His suspicion is compounded when Lanser cannot provide details of his life and does not have his passport on hand to verify his identity. A steward is sent to Lanser's cabin. The steward finds the cap of a German naval officer among Lanser's possessions as he helps him unpack. Inspecting it in private, Lanser discovers that sewn into the lining of the cap is his own name. Disturbed, he leaves for the ship's bar.

On the bridge, the captain and first officer are faced with a dilemma posed by the ship's engines. They are long due an overhaul and cannot maintain top speed without generating noise and thus giving away their position to any lurking U-boats. Stopping for repairs will leave them without chance of escape should they be attacked. Down in the bar, Lanser is drinking but remarks to the bartender that the engines "don't sound right" and that they are laboring. The ship comes to a halt to effect repairs at 12:05 which causes Lanser to undergo a moment of realization. Despite the crew's reassurances, he becomes certain that the ship will be attacked and announces that they will all be killed at 1:15. Unable to convince the crew of the danger, Lanser runs throughout the vessel desperately trying to persuade the other passengers to abandon ship only to find the corridors and cabins now mysteriously empty. At 1:15, a searchlight illuminates the deck and Lanser watches in horror as a surfaced U-boat, commanded by a Captain lieutenant Carl Lanser, immediately begins shelling the British ship. Lanser and the other passengers, now having reappeared, are killed as the ship sinks, with Lanser suffering the agony of watching the innocent people die at precisely the time that he had predicted and being powerless to help them.

Some time later, Captain Lanser is in his cabin aboard the U-boat, recording that night's kill. With him is the second-in-command, Lt. Mueller, who is deeply disturbed by their merciless killing of civilians and speculates whether the crew of the U-boat are now damned. Unconcerned, Lanser replies they "most certainly are" in the eyes of the British, but Mueller fears they are now damned in the eyes of God. Despite Lanser's skepticism of the idea, Mueller believes that they may be condemned to relive the final moments of the passengers on the doomed ship for eternity. Mueller's fears are realized – the attacking U-boat and its crew are condemned to sink the defenseless vessel over and over, with Lanser as an unwitting victim among those slaughtered without mercy. The story thus recounts Carl Lanser's private hell as the former U-boat commander re-materializes on the deck of the ship and the nightmare begins again...

Closing narration[edit]

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.


  • 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]