Original Story by Greg Bear
Teleplay by Alan Brennert
Directed by Paul Tucker
Original Airdate - February 21, 1986
Steve Railsback - Johnny Davis
John DeLancie - Dispatcher
Barry Corbin - Pete Siekovich
Ebbe Roe Smith - Gary Frick
James Lashly - Merle
Paul Jenkins - Trucker #3
John D. LeMay - Gay Man
Ritch Brinkley - Middle-Aged Man
Brent Spiner - Draft Dodger
Nancy Lenehan - Woman Addict
Howard Mungo - Employee #2
Gertrude Flynn - Elderly Woman
David Wells - Bald Man
Pat Ast - Fat Woman
Brian Libby - Employee #1
Brad Fisher - Ferret
Jimmie F. Skaggs - Mean Looking Man
Andy Landis - Young Woman
John Barlow - Trucker #2
Virginia Lantry - Young Girl
Donna Lynn Levy - Woman #2
Greg Wagrowski - Man #2
Lisa Cloud - Woman #1



Johnny Davis is a long haul trucker with insurance and safe driving issues.  He's had so many accidents that he's uninsurable and can't earn a living doing the only thing he knows how to do, which is over-the-road hauling.  He goes to his late father's friend, Pete Siekovich, to ask for help; Johnny's father had always said that if he was in a tough spot, that Pete was the man to talk to.  Pete tells Johnny that there is a company that will insure him, if he drives exclusively for them, as Pete does.  Happy to have a job, Johnny agrees. 

The job Pete offers him is driving the dead to Hell, in cattle-car trailers, a rather Machiavellian occupation that pays well.  Pete has made good money doing this, since he was uninsurable at one time as well.  Johnny has no choice, so he goes along with Pete on his first trip.  When they reach Hell, the guards seem to be all the same, dressed in grey uniforms with a kind of whip-like stun gun.  They handle the dead roughly, and Johnny tries to stop the guard, who turns on him.  Pete intervenes, giving the guard a cigarette, which he tells Johnny are good to use as bribes.  Pete shows Johnny that the dead, who look like living zombies, are past hurting, so what the guards do to them is of no consequence.  Johnny is not convinced. 

During dinner at a truckstop, which is on the road to hell and used only by those truck drivers, Johnny finds out that these disturbances, or "trouble among the dead," are growing.  The other drivers talk about it, and one of them even stomps out, saying he's done with taking people to Hell who don't deserve to be there because he might end up there himself because of it. 

On the next stopped there is a fight going on in Hell, between the guards and the dead.  Johnny is cornered by several of the dead, who say they weren't bad enough to be sent to Hell.  One says she was a drug addict, but didn't hurt anyone but herself.  Another blames her upbringing on her faults.  Johnny gets away and helps the guards, but another of the dead stops Johnny, a man named Gary Frick, who tells him he used to be in the management ranks of Hell and didn't do anything bad enough to be sent there.  Gary feels that people are being sent to Hell that shouldn't be; they aren't truly bad, or didn't really sin.  It's just corporate ineptitude and cost-cutting measures that are sending the wrong people to the "low road," as they call the run to Hell.  He asks Johnny to intercede, and help the dead that should go to the "high road" get there.

Johnny is rewarded for helping the guards.  One of the higher ups in Hell's management, a Dispatcher, asks to see him, to thank him.  Johnny mentions he saw one of Hell's former executives in Hell, and the Dispatcher is surprised to hear that Gary had gotten the low road.  He makes it seem like Hell would like to promote Johnny to a management position.  Johnny is non-commital

The next trip to Hell, Johnny stops the truck at the junction between the high and low road.  He questions the dead in his truck, several of whom say they killed people.  Others turn out to be gay or drug addicts, and Gary lets three of them out of the truck, pointing them towards the high road.  They thank him, and he feels he's done the right thing.



Here the new Twilight Zone is back on track, with a unique, complicated story that is well handled and well cast.  "Dead Run" is based on a short story by Greg Bear, and adapted for the NTZ by Alan Brennert.  It's the story of an average person who feels he can make a difference, an underdog who has a chance to redeem himself, albeit on a grand scale:  Making the choice for someone between Heaven and Hell. 

Steve Railsback can assume any kind of character, and here he plays a man who has sunk to the bottom.  He begins to feel he's sinking even lower than that, when he's reduced to driving the damned to Hell, but as the story progresses he feels he's being given a second chance to do some good.  Railsback has always had an intense, hypnotic stare, and he puts it to good use here when he's talking with the other truck drivers, with the dead who surround him, and with the Dispatcher in Hell.  He's the perfect choice for this role and he's excellent in it. 

Barry Corbin plays his friend Pete, and no one plays laid-back and charming better than Corbin.  His character has driven the road to Hell for years, and he's accepted the consequences of that and isn't going to endanger himself by sticking up for the dead.  He's charming but uninvolved in their plight.  Both Railsback and Corbin have an easy camaraderie that shows on the screen.  The metaphysical talks they have as they drive to Hell play against the idea that truckers don't think deep thoughts.  I would imagine that with all the time truckers have while driving to think, they might think deeper thoughts than most of us.

This episode also has several actors who later became much more famous. Brent Spiner, who went on to"Star Trek: The Next Generation," plays a draft dodger being sent to Hell. John DeLancie plays the Dispatcher in Hell, and he went on to considerable success as "Q"in the same Star Trek spinoff. John D. LeMay, who went on to star for three years in the "Friday the 13th" series, is the gay man Johnny saves at the end, along with Spiner's character. Nancy Lenehan, who had a role in every TV series since 1980, I think, plays the drug addict saved with them.

The dead are handled especially well.  They all have white faces accentuated by dark-rimmed eyes.  The guards in Hell were grey uniforms and helmets with visors, making them look rather like the Combine in Half-Life 2.  They're able to light cigarettes with their palms, a neat special effect which enhances the segment; the waitresses at Hell's truck stop (a great name for a diner, by the way) appear to be of the same ilk.  The view of Hell from far away looks like what we've come to think of an Hell, red-tinged and fiery.  However, the inside of Hell looks like an industrial complex; steel and dark corners predominate. 

All in all, this is an evocative and thoughtful attempt to try and explain how souls end up in Hell, filtered through a corporate view, which is an intriguing idea.  Corporations are rather like that, consigning some workers to Hell and others to Heaven, depending on their job duties.