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"King Nine Will Not Return" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

From the CBS Video Library cover:


Episode Details

Title Sequence

Opening Narration

"This is Africa, 1943. War spits out its violence overhead, and the sandy graveyard swallows it up. Her name is King Nine, B-25, medium bomber, Twelfth Air Force. On a hot, still morning, she took off from Tunisia to bomb the southern tip of Italy. An errant piece of flak tore a hole in the wing tank and, like a wounded bird, this is where she landed, not to return on this day, or any other day."

Episode Summary

The World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber King Nine has crashed in the desert. Captain James Embry finds himself stranded, alone except for the wreckage and the mystery of what happened to his crew, all of whom have disappeared. The movement of the plane in the wind and his visions of the missing men serve to heighten Embry's disorientation.

Embry finds the grave of one of his crewmen and sees, in the sky, Navy F9F Cougar jets, impossible for the time. He collapses in the sand, and we discover that he is actually suffering hallucinations from a hospital bed, 17 years after the crash.

Confident that Embry will recover, two doctors discuss that Embry's suffering has been triggered by a newspaper headline. The paper has reported the desert discovery of the long-lost King Nine, which had not returned to base from a mission during the war. Having come down with a fever just before he was to board the ill-fated flight, Embry had been replaced on the mission by another captain. Embry's sight of the headline has triggered survivor guilt, in which, we are to understand, he has imagined himself at the crash site.

The doctors assure Embry he has returned to the site only in his mind. However, a nurse, handling Embry's clothes for the doctors, discovers his shoes are mysteriously filled with sand.

Closing Narration

"Enigma buried in the sand, a question mark with broken wings that lies in silent grace as a marker in a desert shrine. Odd how the real consorts with the shadows, how the present fuses with the past. How does it happen? The question is on file in the silent desert, and the answer? The answer is waiting for us - in the Twilight Zone."

Preview for Next Week's Story

Inside this curio shop, next week, from amidst this old-school Rococo and some fusty moth-eaten antiquary will emerge a bottle - this one - and from it will step a genie to give Mr. Luther Adler four wishes, but he'll discover, as will all of you, that there's an economics to magic, a high cost of wishing. Next week, a most intriguing tale, "The Man in the Bottle". Thank you and good night.


Critical Response

Background Information


  • Robert Cummings as Captain James Embry
  • Paul Lambert as Doctor
  • Gene Lyons as Psychiatrist
  • Jenna McMahon as Nurse


  • Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
  • Buck Houghton (producer)
  • Del Reisman (associate producer)
  • George T. Clemens (director of photography)
  • Bill Mosher (film editor)
  • Ethel Winant (casting)
  • Philip Barber (art director; credited: Phil Barber)
  • George W. Davis (art director)
  • H. Web Arrowsmith (set decorator)
  • Henry Grace (set decorator)
  • E. Darrell Hallenbeck (production manager; credited: Darrell Hallenbeck)
  • Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
  • Kurt Neumann (assistant director; credited: Kurt Neumann Jr.)
  • Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
  • Charles Scheid (sound)
  • Scott Lawson (colorist; uncredited)

Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1960) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
  • Image Entertainment (2010) (USA) (Blu-ray) (DVD)


  • Kuppenheimer (Mr. Serling's wardrobe)
  • Pacific Title (titles and optical)

Home media release

This episode is included on the Image Entertainment Vol. 7 DVD along with "Perchance to Dream", "The Hitch-Hiker" and "Shadow Play".


  • This is the first episode of The Twilight Zone to feature the legendary theme music, composed by Marius Constant. This tune would stick with the show for the remainder of its run. It's also the first episode to feature the on-camera narration of Rod Serling.
  • The original score by Fred Steiner would later be used in additional episodes.
  • The episode was based on a real event - the discovery of the B-24 Liberator four engine bomber Lady Be Good. The plane lost course during a WWII raid over Italy in 1943, and crashed deep in the Libyan desert. In 1959, a team of British geologists stumbled upon the wreckage -- discovering that while the supplies were intact, the nine-man team were nowhere to be found. In the episode, the marker of a grave of a member of the crew of King Nine is dated "5 April, 1943," the day on which the Lady Be Good was lost.
  • The bomber aircraft used in this episode was a North American Aviation B-25C-10NA 42-32354, which still exists in storage with Aero Trader, Borrego Springs, California. The plane was bought from the air force for $2500 (rather than the original cost -- $345,000). It was disassembled, flown to set, and reassembled there.
  • Production manager Ralph W. Nelson arranged for a DC-3 to land on the highway beside the shooting location -- allowing the cast and crew to be transported more swiftly.
  • With the exception of the final scenes, the episode was filmed entirely on location in the desert near Lone Pine, California.
  • The monologues perfromed by Cummings were pre-recorded at the MGM lot, and played back during filming. This allowed Cummings to react to the speech.

Cast Connections

Memorable Quotes

Notes and References

  1. CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #? "?/?"; UPC: ?, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)

External Links