watching waiting

Judgment Night

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

Opening narration

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 this 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 somewhat nervous passenger by the name of Carl Lanser appears aboard a British ship in 1942. As the story opens, it becomes clear that Lanser has no idea of how he got aboard or who he really is. Gradually, through listening to fellow passengers discuss various topics related to the War, Lanser experiences a sense of déjà vu, as it becomes seemingly obvious that he is, unbeknownst to the others, a German submarine officer. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the crew that they will soon be under attack, Lanser must suffer the agony of watching the passengers be killed. At precisely the hour that Lanser predicts, the freighter is sunk by a German U-boat commanded by a Kapitan Leutnant Lanser.

Later, we see Lanser in his cabin on the U-boat, recording that night's kill. When his second-in-command asks Lanser if they might be judged according to the way they attacked the defenseless ship, he replies only that the British will surely judge them. The first mate questions Lanser on whether God might also be judging them, condemning them to relive the final moments of the doomed ship. With this thought left open for debate, we learn that the First Mate's fears are realized: The attacking U-Boat and crew are condemned to sink the freighter over and over, with Lanser being an unwitting passenger among those killed without mercy on the ghost ship. The episode thus recounts Carl Lanser's private hell.

Closing narration

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 of that 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 Leutnant, Navy of the Third Reich, this is the penalty. This is the justice meted out. This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone.

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next week, three men return from a flight into space, only to discover that their nightmare has just begun. Rod Taylor, James Hutton, and Charles Aidman appear in "And When the Sky Was Opened." What happens to these men once they're picked up in the desert - (Serling disappears) Well, that gives you a rough idea. You'll see next week on The Twilight Zone. Thank you and good night.

Episode notes

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, 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."


  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links

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