"The Coward"

(Original air date 4/19/74)


Following the discovery of a old World War II plane that was piloted by his father, Steve travels
to the Himalayas to unravel the mystery behind his death.


Writer: Elroy Schwartz

Director: Reza Badiyi

When a meteorological satellite locates the debris of a World War II DC-3, Steve is called into Oscar's office. He tells Steve that the supply aircraft was sent on a special mission with on board top secret documents. Unfortunately, a fighter squadron near the Chinese border shot down the plane baptised “My Little Girl”. They had lost trace of it until recently. The government believes that the papers are still aboard the aircraft and asks Steve to travel to the Orient in order to retrieve them before they fall into enemy hands.

Before leaving, Oscar informs Steve that the plane's pilot was none other than Captain Carl Austin, Steve's biological father. It was reported that he abandoned his crew by jumping off the doomed plane and therefore, was branded a coward.

Steve goes to his mother Helen's (Martha Scott) house and questions her about the father he never knew. She refuses to believe that her husband could have forsaken his crew, men he respected and admired. If he had, if wouldn't have been able to face his family and especially his son. Steve admits the possibility that if his father did indeed jump off the plane, that he could still be alive and hiding somewhere in the Himalayas.


Since it is virtually impossible to attain those mountains by helicopter on account of the strong winds, Steve begins training with expert climber Chin-Ling (George Takei). Oscar begins having second thoughts about sending Steve on this delicate mission, but Steve insists that he must unravel the mystery and, hopefully, clear his father's name.


Steve and Chin-Ling parachute down near the Chinese border where they are welcomed by a group of buckskinned natives. The leader, Queng-Dri (Ron Soble) orders his followers to apprehend to two men. Steve uses his powers to escape but Chin-Ling is not so fortunate and is gunned down as he tries to run. Steve hides from the hunters but is soon spotted by one of them, who, surprisingly, is an American called Garth (George Montgomery). He offers Steve shelter in his cabin.


Steve explains that he's here to attain the debris of an old WWII plane that was shot down in the mountains. Garth offers to help a fellow American but his wife, Marnu (France Nuyen) is against the idea. She is deeply troubled by Steve's presence she believes will stir up trouble for them. That if Queng-Dri should find out, he will have them killed.


During the night, Garth experiences nightmares about the plane and wakes up in a cold sweat. He looks at Steve sleeping across the room. Who is he?


The next morning, Marnu pleads with Garth one last time not to accompany Steve on this journey and even threatens to reveal Garth's true identity. Garth insists that he must go and brings with him an army dog tag kept in a box.

Steve and Garth start up the mountain. Halfway up, they stop to rest. Steve is asked about his mission and tells Garth that he's trying to locate his father who was the pilot of the DC-3. Does he expect to find his remains? Steve doesn't really know.


They continue their arduous journey up the mountain and finally reach the top. Steve hurries toward the plane severed in half and goes to the cockpit. Sitting in the co-pilot chair is a human skeleton. Steve reaches for the dog tag. It says Christopher Bell, who was the co-pilot. Tears start flooding his eyes when he comes to the realization that his father did indeed abandon his crew.

With a heavy heart, he buries the remains. He and Garth start their journey down.


Having been informed by Marnu that Garth was apparently compelled to accompany Steve up the mountain, Queng-Dri stands ready with his troop at the bottom of the hill.

As soon as they set foot on solid ground, the natives corner Steve and Garth.


Steve stands alone against the men while Garth hides behind rocks. Once he realizes that Steve is fighting a losing battle, he dashes to his aid but gets fatality wounded.

Before dying, Garth asks Steve to reach into his pocket for his father's dog tag. He tells him that his real name is Christopher Bell, the one witnesses say they saw jumping off the plane. He remained in hiding all these years for he didn't want people to find out that he was THE coward. Even though Carl was injured, he wouldn't abandon the plane and he crashed with it. They had switched seats before he jumped and that explains why Carl's remains were found in the co-pilot seat. Later, Christopher went back to the plane and switched the dog tags in case anybody found the plane. Steve unknowingly buried his own father.


Following a ceremonial burial in honor of Carl Austin, Steve returns home with his mother. Helen is grateful to her son for having redeemed his father's name. Before leaving, Steve gives her the dog tag but gives it back to him, saying that his father would have wanted him to keep it.


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