Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Episode 9: Quantity: Unknown - 3/7/67

A private plane is sailing through a clear blue sky with its engine sputtering. It makes a turn and flies into a hillside, erupting in a fiery explosion.

Workers are sifting through the smoking wreckage. One of them comments to another that there was no record of the flight and no bodies were found. The other opens a box that contains a metal cylinder and asks what he thinks it is, since he's never seen anything like it before. His buddy notes that it's practically weightless and tells him to get it to Sperrick labs.

The package makes its way to Sperrick Laboratories on a mail truck and encounters a road block. Two uniformed officers walk side by side up to the mail truck while the mail carrier sticks his head out the window to ask why there's a roadblock. One opens the truck door and the other points a gun at him. As he exits the vehicle, the other officer holds a metal disc to his neck and he goes down. They run to the back of the truck and begin searching it.

A car screeches to a halt on the other side of the roadblock and two real officers get out and start shooting it out with one of the alien officers. One of the human officers is shot and falls to the ground. The other human officer shoots the alien, sees him fall, glow red and vaporize. As he goes to check on his partner, the other alien creeps out of the truck and shoots him as he is stepping over the barricade. The alien hears another screech of tires and runs off into the bushes as more security officers drive up. They go to the fallen officer who tells how he got one of them, that he started to glow and burned up. The alien officer pokes his head out of the bushes to watch them and decides to run up the hillside.


Starring Roy Thinnes as Architect David Vincent

Guest Stars:
 James Whitmore as Harry Swain

William Talman as Colonel Frank Griffith

Milton Selzar as A.J. Richards

and Special Guest Star:
Susan Strasberg as Diane Oberly


Written by:

Directed by:

Act I

A small, private plane crashes, leaving no trace of its victims. A mail truck is attacked - two security guards killed. A killer disappears in a burst of flame. News items too incredible to be taken seriously, except by one man. David Vincent's only possible conclusion: the killers had been aliens, and for reasons of their own, might even be attending their victim's funeral. 
David Vincent watches a funeral from afar and is spotted by one of the mourners, who points him out to another man. As they leave, they wonder who he is, noting he'd been at the hospital. Back at Sperrick Laboratories, he introduces himself to them at the gate, asking to see Mr. Richards. They won't allow him in without an appointment, until he says he has information about the attack on the mail truck, and open the gate for him. David trades a suspicious glance with one of the security guards.

Mr. Richards wants to know David's interest in the mail truck attack and belabors the point rather loudly about how much he cares for his employees that are now dead. He demands to know who David is and what he knows. He tells him he heard there was a strange, weightless cylinder on the truck, that he believes the people responsible for the attack were after it, and he asks to see it.

Mr. Richards asks Miss Oberly to show him the cylinder. She unlocks a safe and removes the container holding the cylinder. David examines it and asks if she's been able to determine what it's made of and where it's from. She says she's been too busy working on government contracts to get to it. David tells Richards that the people who are after the cylinder will stop at nothing to get it. He suggests they set a trap by allowing them to take the cylinder and then catch them. He asks Miss Oberly how long it would take her to duplicate it. She weighs it in her hand and says it will take a couple hours.

They plant a story in the newspaper about the cylinder being transferred. Mr. Richards takes the duplicate from Miss Oberly and gets in the car, informing his security man, Frank Swain that Lt. Farley is going to follow in the car and yada, yada, yada, he'll tell him the rest on the way.

They drive to the airport and Mr. Richards hands the package to the baggage man, who places it on a cart within easy reach, while the conspirators watch as people file past. The William Talman alien sits in his car next to a telephone booth and gets out to answer the phone when it rings. A matronly alien is also watching from her car, while an alien couple stares at the package, ready to switch an identical package. The alien on the phone shakes his head at them and they walk past and get in the car with the alien lady.

Lt. Farley gives David a hard time about how the phony cylinder made it safely to Cleveland. He informs him that he spent his afternoon checking up on him and read the medical reports. He tells the other two that he's a crackpot and sees alien invaders everywhere. They turn their backs on him and he leaves. Miss Oberly catches him at the elevator and tells him she'd hoped it would work out for him the way he wanted. He asks her to do him the favor of running more tests on the cylinder, while Harry Swain listens from around the corner. She says she doesn't want to get involved.

David gets in the elevator and Swain follows him in. When the doors close, he points his gun at David's head and tells him he knows who he is. David determines that he thinks he's an alien and Swain asks him to tell him he's not.

Why are aliens flying around in a small plane with this special cylinder when they have fast spaceships? Why does Harry Swain suspect David Vincent is an alien after hearing him ask Miss Oberly to run more tests on the cylinder? Could it be that Harry Swain is an alien up to alien tricks? If you're a Twilight Zone fan, then you already know that security guy, Walt (Barney Phillips), is an alien from Venus. I must also note the appearance of my favorite DA from Perry Mason, William Talman, who makes a great alien.


Act II

Swain gets David under a bright light and orders him to "bend 'em!" Fortunately, David realizes he's talking about his fingers, and he demonstrates that he has no pinky finger abnormalities. It leads Swain to believe they gave him the advanced humanoid likeness and he throws him against a metal "live steam" container. David asks why he thinks he's an alien and Swain cites his presence at the officer's hospital room, the funeral, and now at the lab to try and get the cylinder.

David asks how he knows so much about the aliens, and as Swain gets distracted by the elevator doors closing, David uses the opportunity to release some steam into his face and disarm him. He asks again how he knows so much about aliens and Swain shows David a photo of his wife and child, and tells how he saw the aliens kill them a year ago. David tells him he's sorry and Swain realizes he can't be an alien since they never use the word sorry. Swain says he's also been ridiculed and needs somebody who knows about the presence of Invaders and can help. David invites him to meet him in his hotel room at 7 o'clock and returns his gun.

He's lounging on the bed when he hears a knock at his door and Diane Oberly walks in. She tells him she ran more tests on the cylinder and is frightened since the metals are not like anything on Earth. She says she also has the feeling that she's being watched whenever she's anywhere near the cylinder and she's too scared to work on it. He asks who's watching her and she says she doesn't know, that it's just a feeling she has. She asks what they could possibly want of her and requests he give her some evidence.

The phone rings and it's a bloodied Swain, who says they're on to him and that they cornered him in an alley with discs. He says he fought them off and got away. He says he can't come to David's hotel room, but will wait in a booth at a bar. He tells Diane that he has to go, but will call her later. She asks if Harry Swain is a friend of his. She notes he is very interested in the cylinder, that he came to work for them 3 months prior and never talked to her, but suddenly wants to be her best friend and know all about the cylinder. She says she believes he's lying to her.

At the colorfully lit bar, David finds Swain in a booth, who tells him that whatever they're planning is going to be soon, possibly that night. David asks what's so important about the cylinder and Swain says it's important enough for them to kill to get it. David suggests they move tonight to steal the cylinder before the aliens do. Swain says if they could get the cylinder to a Colonel Griffith, he'd give it priority at the Pentagon. They hatch a plan to get inside and steal it. David says they need to get Oberly out so she won't be harmed. Swain doesn't understand why he's concerned about one girl when the entire human race is threatened and David says they can't allow themselves to become as bad as the aliens. Eventually he agrees to put her at risk for the sake of humanity and they walk out of the bar past the William Talman alien.

Miss Oberly is on the phone as she watches the cylinder bobbing up and down in some murky liquid. She says she's working on it and should have something by the time the caller gets there.

Will the real alien please stand? Swain seems almost sure to be an alien and Miss Oberly is acting mighty suspicious herself. We are still no closer to knowing what is so important about the cylinder.


Swain and David are hiding in the bushes near the gate while Swain details the movements of the guards and hands David contact information for Colonel Griffith, in case they get separated. Harry unlocks the gate and they both enter. Swain enters and tells his partner, Walt, a lie about how he cut his face and says he left his wallet in his locker. Walt opens up for him and Swain clubs him unconscious and then waves David Vincent in, handing him his gun, while he drags Walt behind the counter.

David sneaks through the lab and hears a high pitched sound as light blinks in the lab. He goes to the safe where the cylinder is kept and notes that it's open, and the box it was in lies empty. He covers his ears and approaches the room where a bright light flashes, and the shrieking sound intensifies. He enters and sees Oberly with a hood on her head and bright lights flashing around her as she makes the earsplitting sound with a laser on the cylinder.

She turns around and asks what he's doing there and he explains that he's there for the cylinder. She says they may have the evidence he needs in a day or two and that she just called Richards, who is on his way over to look at it. David apologizes for having to disappoint Mr. Richards and takes it from her.

Richards enters and sees that the gate is not locked. Swain sees him approach and pretends to be working behind the counter. Richards comes in and informs him the gate is open and asks him to take care of it. He says he's going up to the lab to see Miss Oberly and Swain tries to tell him she's not there, but Richards waves him off, saying he just spoke to her.

David is dipping the cylinder into the murky liquid as Diane pleads with him, saying he's making a mistake. He wipes it off and places it back in the container as she tries to get him to look at her reports. He tells her the people after the cylinder will blow the lab up just to get it and he doesn't want her there when it happens.

They hear a gunshot and find Swain in the hall, standing over a bleeding Richards with his gun. He says it was an accident and he was just trying to keep him away. David says he could die and tells Diane to call a doctor. Swain yells no and runs after her as she hurries to the lab to make the call. He grabs the phone and demands to know where the cylinder is. He sees it in the box and throws her to the floor and grabs it. David rushes in and Swain says she's okay and runs off, with David taking off after him. She goes back to the phone to call for help.

Another security guard races to the door and heads up the stairway. Swain hears him coming and hands David he cylinder and directs him to another way out. Diane runs out of the lab screaming, "David, don't!" As the security guard reaches the floor and comes into the hall, Swain shoots him. He trades gunfire with more security guards, who shoot at him in the lab, causing chemicals to catch fire. The guards grab Diane and lead her out of the burning lab while Swain remains trapped inside.

The cylinder remains a mystery. Has David Vincent been fooled by an alien again, or has he craftily found a way to turn the tables? Act IV had better be good after all this build up.

Act IV

David Vincent goes to Colonel Frank Griffith's office with the box containing the cylinder, and we learn that Col. Griffith is the William Talman alien we've seen throughout the show. We also find out that Harry didn't make it out of the burning lab. Griffith says it's best this way since he would have been held for murder if Richards should die. David notes that the papers mentioned they found no trace of his body, which reminded him of a plane crash that happened a few weeks prior.

Griffith laughs and asks if he's suspicious of Harry Swain. David says he was at first, and Griffith remarks that he mustn't be anymore since he brought the cylinder, and he holds out his hands to receive it. David hands it to him and is about to say there's something he should tell him, when Harry Swain enters the office behind him, saying he doesn't have to tell them anything. He explains that it got pretty hot, but he made his way to a window.

Col. Griffith says he should be proud that they changed their plans just to include him when he showed up at the plant. Swain says he made it easy for them and Griffith says they enjoyed using him, of all people, to help them. Swain explains that the cylinder contains instructions from their planet about the takeover, and he thanks him for helping them to get it. Griffith opens the box and is peeved to see that it's empty, while David pulls a gun out and shoots him. He tosses Swain over the desk and runs out of the building.

He rummages around the base of some bushes and grabs the cylinder just as Swain catches up to him. He begins to chase him up and down stairs all around the complex. Swain finally corners David with his lighted disc at the ready, but he finds away out a gate next to the waterfall. The cylinder slips from his fingers and they fight at the edge of the waterfall. David manages to toss him over, but he survives the fall and floats toward the cylinder. He begins to glow red on and off and touches the cylinder just as the red glow takes over and both he and the cylinder vaporize.

Too bad David Vincent could only shoot one alien, allowing the other one to reach the cylinder in time to disintegrate it as he died. The only thing that remains for me to wonder is why the aliens would put their plans on paper and stuff them into a metal cylinder. They've got all kinds of advanced technology. You'd think they could do better than that. Perhaps this is why they have been so unsuccessful in taking over Earth. It's interesting that they have not come to Earth already knowing what the plan for takeover is, though I suppose they may have left their dying planet in a hurry. 


David calls Miss Oberly on a payphone to ask how Richards is and she says he's going to be alright. He says he read the report in the newspapers and he thanks her for what she didn't tell them. She asks if Harry Swain was one of them and he says he was. She asks if she'll see him again and he says he hopes so.
For David Vincent, every friend is a potential enemy. His enemies understand this. Someday, perhaps, his friends will, too. 

  Barney Phillips as Walt Anson
Douglas Henderson as Lt. Farley

Ernest Sarracino...Leo Rinaldi
Byron Keith...Air Crash Investigator
Michael Harris...Mail Truck Driver
Raymond Guth...Guard #2
Melville Ruick...Minister
Ron Doyle...Rescuer  

Director of Photography:
 Andrew J. McIntyre

Music by:

More alien subterfuge, all for a primitive set of plans detailing the takeover of Earth, that ended up being destroyed in the end. Rather than just kill David Vincent, the aliens thought it would be more fun to trick him into doing their dirty work for them. For a group of beings that are mostly devoid of emotion, these guys seem to truly enjoy tormenting David Vincent. Once again, they leave no evidence of their existence at episode's end. I've got to wonder if the aliens we've seen so far are representative of all beings on their planet. If so, it would explain why their planet was dying.

The question that needs to be addressed: Is David Vincent an alien? It's possible he could be, which would explain why the aliens never kill him, how he knew so much about the regeneration tubes after seeing them for the first time, and why he never gets involved with human females, but has gotten close to alien females. As I said in Episode 4: Genesis, he could be an alien who does not support the invasion and is trying to sabotage their plans. I'm not entirely convinced that he's an alien, but it's an interesting idea to entertain.

Look for Dabney Colman, William Smithers, and the fabulous Michael Rennie, in the next episode.

1 comment:

  1. Although the denouement that the mysterious cylinder only contains some plans is weak, the cylinder is a good "McGuffin" for this episode. It's obviously important to the aliens, and hence to David Vincent. I thought they did a pretty good job of hiding James Whitmore's identity as a alien, and I think that was due to Whitmore's consummate skill as a actor. He convincingly played a man in torment and pain and guilt over the loss of his family. I seem to remember thinking he was human when I first saw this episode; and decades later, after I'd long forgotten plot details, he convinced me again he was a "real person"! Susan Strasburg and her boss were naturally suspect, and turned out to be human. The thing that surprised (and annoyed) me is that Vincent, who's gone thru so much to obtain the cylinder, would have such a slip-shod plan when handing it over to the "Army". Okay, at least he thought to remove it from the box when he arrived at the colonel's office, but in the bushes? He'd of been better off simply running past it, then later coming back for it. It was well hidden, and the alien had no way of knowing it was in that bush. Personally, I'd of put it in a safety deposit box and made sure of this Army colonel's credentials before I even considered handing it over. Since this colonel had been recommended by Swain, he obviously suspected something, or he wouldn't have removed the cylinder from the box in the first place. All and all a good episode, though.