Fritz Weaver: Will Sturka
Joe Maross: Jerry Riden
Edward Andrews: Carling
Denise Alexander: Jody Sturka
"Third from the Sun" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is based on a short story of the same name by Richard Matheson.
Will Sturka, a scientist who works at a military base run by the government, has been producing a great number of H-bombs in preparation for imminent nuclear war. Sturka realizes that there is only one way to escape—steal an experimental, top-secret spacecraft stored at the base. He plans to bring his co-worker Jerry Riden, along with their wives and Sturka's daughter Jody. The two plot for months, secretly supplying the ship and making arrangements for their departure.
When production of the bombs increases, Sturka realizes that time is running short. He and Riden decide to put their plan in action—take their families to the craft to tour it, and then overpower the guards and take off. Unfortunately, Sturka's superior Carling overhears the two men talking. Later that night, everyone gathers for a game of cards, where Riden reveals that he's found a place to go—a small planet 11 million miles away. During the game, Carling unexpectedly appears at the door; though he smiles and acts polite, he makes it clear that he knows what the group is planning. He also hints at trouble: "A lot can happen in forty-eight hours." After he leaves, Sturka and Riden inform the women that they must leave that very night.
When the five arrive at the site of the spacecraft, Sturka and Riden spot their contact, who flashes a light. When the contact steps forward, though, he's revealed to be Carling, armed with a gun. He forces Sturka and Riden away from the gate and prepares to call the authorities. The women, who've been waiting in the car, watch in horror as Carling orders them out. Jody suddenly throws the car's door open, knocking the gun from Carling's hand and giving the men enough time to overpower him. The group rushes into the ship, fighting off the guards that rush them.
Later that evening, the group has safely escaped their doomed planet and are on course. Riden comments that he can't believe that there's a planet full of people like themselves. Sturka smiles as he points out on the ship's viewer their mysterious destination, 11 million miles away—the third planet from the Sun, called "Earth".
The experimental spaceship shown is the saucer-shaped cruiser seen in MGM's 1956 film Forbidden Planet. For the episode, the full-size lower underside with retractable stairs was modified, along with a smaller command/pilot center, surrounded by wall elements of the Krell laboratory from the film. The ship was also used in several subsequent episodes.
Director Richard Bare & his cameraman lent an other-worldly take on just ordinary settings with the use of wide-angle lenses, odd camera angles, and futuristic prop set pieces. It was especially noticeable with the very low shot under the glass coffee table, and the low external shot of the futuristic car (with turbine sound), as the five drive to the spacecraft's hidden base.
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