The Twilight Zone 5.3 – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

In 1983, there was a film of The Twilight Zone, and the accompanying novelization was the first bit of the program that I ever encountered. I must have read it seven times before the movie came on HBO, and teenage me enjoyed each segment more than the previous one. The remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which starred John Lithgow, was my favorite, in part because of how “cool” the gremlin on the wing was. I saw the original a few months later and scoffed at the TV show’s gremlin, which was just some dude in a teddy bear costume.

But, oh, to be seven. To be sure, when I stopped being a teen idiot and became instead an ordinary idiot, I grew to enjoy this segment greatly. It’s just so darn fun. But I never enjoyed it half as much as I did tonight, when the gremlin scared the almighty heck out of our son. When William Shatner pulled that curtain back, our kid jumped out of his skin.

It has been so fun to enjoy all the programs and movies that we’ve watched together before he starts becoming jaded by dated special effects. He didn’t see anything threadbare in this adventure. He took this at face value and babbled to make himself brave and hid behind his balled-up security blanket.

And speaking of face value, the flight engineer, played by Edward Kemmer, fibs to his frantic passenger and tries to reassure him by saying the pilots are aware of the beast and wish that he would please keep it down and not cause a panic. Our son concluded that gremlins can’t be seen by women, since this one only jumps away when a woman looks out at the wing. We still had to give him an after-show explanation of what a gremlin is. And speaking of movies from 1983-84, he’s far too young to meet Gizmo and Stripe, so we left those gremlins out of the explanation!

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