"On Thursday We Leave for Home" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.
"This is William Benteen, who officiates on a disintegrating outpost in space. The people are a remnant society who left the Earth looking for a Millennium, a place without war, without jeopardy, without fear - and what they found was a lonely, barren place whose only industry was survival. And this is what they've done for three decades: survive, until the memory of the Earth they came from has become an indistinct and shadowed recollection of another time and another place. One month ago a signal from Earth announced that a ship would be coming to pick them up and take them home. In just a moment, we'll hear more of that ship, more of that home, and what it takes out of mind and body to reach it. This is the Twilight Zone."
Thirty years before, in 1991, an expedition to the hellish desert planet V9-Gamma was stranded, and the people had no choice but to begin their own small settlement there. The group's leader, Captain Benteen, has maintained a totalitarian grip upon the group; he believes that this strict discipline prevents them from giving up hope in the harsh, unyielding environment. When a rescue mission from Earth finally arrives, Benteen is at first as jubilant as the others, but then he begins to raise objections to his loss of control over them. When he realizes that the colonists do not want to stay in a group on their return to Earth, he tries to persuade them to stay. Everyone else chooses to return home, but Benteen announces that he will remain behind alone if he must.
On the day the people board the ship, the rescue mission's Colonel Sloane and Benteen's second-in-command, Al Baines, search for Benteen to give him one last chance to change his mind, but he is nowhere to be found. After they give up and leave, Benteen emerges from the top of the cave that had sheltered his people. As the ship prepares for takeoff, Benteen talks to his people as if they are still there. Then, remembering the beauty of Earth, he realizes that he is alone and wants to go home. He rushes out screaming for the ship to come back, but it is too late. He is now stranded on V9-Gamma for the rest of his life, completely alone in the barren, lifeless deserts.
"William Benteen, who had prerogatives: he could lead, he could direct, dictate, judge, legislate. It became a habit, then a pattern, and finally a necessity. William Benteen, once a god - now a population of one."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next on Twilight Zone, an exercise from the typewriter of Charles Beaumont, a sea voyage into the darker regions of the Zone. Our stars in alphabetical order: Gladys Cooper, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Cecil Kellaway, Lee Philips and Joyce Van Patten.
- Buzz Kulik's son Danny Kulick stars as JoJo.
- Director Buzz Kulik named the leader of the colony Captain William Benteen. This may have been an homage to Captain Fredrick William Benteen, one of Lieutenant Colonel Custer's officers at Little Big Horn. Captain Benteen is also mentioned in Twilight Zone: The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms (1963).
- When the rescue ship from Earth arrives, several colonists ask about various places on Earth during a meeting between the ship's crew and the colonists. One of the questions is about the Finger Lake District of New York. This area had a special significance to script writer Rod Serling. It is located close to his home town of Binghamton, he and his family vacationed there frequently, and Serling named his company that produced "The Twilight Zone," Cayuga Productions, after one of the lakes. He later taught at Ithaca College for the last five years before his death.
- Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series