"Picture of the spaceship E-89, cruising above the thirteenth planet in star system fifty-one, the year 1997. In a little while, supposedly, the ship will be landed and specimens taken, vegetable, mineral and, if any, animal. These will be brought back to overpopulated Earth, where technicians will evaluate them and, if everything is satisfactory, stamp their findings with the word 'inhabitable' and open up yet another planet for colonization. These are the things that are supposed to happen. Picture of the crew of the spaceship E-89: Captain Ross, Lieutenant Mason, Lieutenant Carter. Three men who have just reached a place which is as far from home as they will ever be. Three men who, in a matter of minutes, will be plunged into the darkest nightmare reaches of The Twilight Zone."
The Space Cruiser E-89, crewed by Captain Paul Ross, Lt. Ted Mason and Lt. Mike Carter, is on a mission to analyze new worlds and discover if they are suitable for colonization by Earth. Their mission has thus far been routine, but while investigating an uninhabited world, Mason sees a metallic glint in the landscape. He excitedly conjectures that this might be a sign of alien life, but the pragmatic Captain Ross disagrees. Nevertheless, the Cruiser prepares to land next to the mysterious object.
After landing, the men are astounded to see that the gleaming comes from the wreck of a ship exactly like their own. Ross urges caution and restraint but is ignored; the trio heads over to the wreck to investigate it. They soon see that it is indeed the same model of ship as the E-89. Making their way into the interior of the craft, they discover their own lifeless bodies in the wreckage. Mason and Carter are numb with shock as Ross furiously struggles for a logical explanation. He finally decides that they have bent time in such a way as to get a glimpse of the future. All they have to do to avoid their grisly fate is stay on the ground and keep from going back up into space, therefore avoiding the accident. Mason is skeptical and Carter seems disoriented, but they agree with Ross' assessment.
Soon, Carter seemingly finds himself transported back to a pleasant country lane on Earth. There he encounters figures from his past who are dead. He runs to the house that he and his wife shared, and finds it empty except for a telegram notifying Mary Carter that her husband has died in the line of duty.
Carter is wrenched from his vision by Ross, who says he is suffering a delusion. If so, it is a delusion Mason shares. He has just had an emotional reunion with his dead wife and child. When Ross pulls him back to reality, Mason strikes his Captain in rage. Ross, though, now has a new theory of what is going on: He believes the planet is inhabited by telepathic aliens who are using the humans' fear of death to keep them away from their world. Ross says that if they take the E-89 back up to space, that should break the spell.
The men take E-89 back in orbit without a hitch. Mason and Carter grudgingly admit that Ross may have been right about the aliens, but are stunned when Ross says they are going to land the craft again to gather foreign samples to bring back to Earth. After all, now that they know what is going on, what is there left to fear?
The crew lands again, only to discover the wreck of their craft is still present. Confused and fearful, Mason and Carter come to the one and only conclusion left: that they have crashed and are dead. Ross refuses to accept the truth, his stubborn will holding sway over the troubled crew. Ross exclaims that they will go over it again and again until he figures it out. Suddenly, the episode cuts back to Mason's discovery of the glinting object on the planet. "I don't see anything," Ross shrugs.
"Picture of a man who will not see anything he does not choose to see - including his own death. A man of such indomitable will that even the two men beneath his command are not allowed to see the truth; which truth is, that they are no longer among the living, that the movements they make and the words they speak have all been made and spoken countless times before - and will be made and spoken countless times again, perhaps even unto eternity. Picture of a latter-day Flying Dutchman, sailing into The Twilight Zone."