After a brief diversion to CARE last week, we are back to being sponsored by wrist-band king Jacques Kreisler. Featured this week, the men’s Monte Cristo which is packaged in the barrel of a gun, perfect for air travel (and fabulous served with red currant jelly). For the ladies, they feature the Flirtation — styled “from the times of Madame Pompadour” so you too can look like an 18th century French whore.
CEO Wayne Crowder is arguing with company controller Davis about his expensive plan to build a spaceship. He shows this detailed map of his route to Davis and displays a Sharptonesque grasp of the written word, “what we’ll do on the first test flight, break out of the . . . the . . . this . . . into the stratosphere.” Really, he couldn’t have just guessed either “troh-po” or “trop-po”? Or showed up sober for rehearsal?
Eager to show off how how much better his SAT math score was than his verbal, he pulls out another chart that maps his planned Velocity per Second versus Light Years. The trip to Mars is is about 34,000,000 miles, and one light year is 36,000,000,000,000 miles. I’m no Norman Einstein, but I’m not sure why he has scaled the chart to 11 Light Years. And how that would only take 7 seconds.
His chief engineer tells him the initial costs for the rocket will be over $500 million. And this is in 1952 when $500 million meant something. We get stock footage of production, scrap metal being salvaged, trains running. Crowder places an ad in the paper: “$100,000 for man to fly me into space.”
After $20M is spent and he still doesn’t have an engine for his rocket, Davis tells him that he should think what will happen to the smaller stockholders. Crowder gives his detailed plan of how he will pull off this amazing feat of engineering: “I’ve never failed and I won’t start now.” This guy should be running for president.
The engineer then brings in Mr. Wilkins, a man who can design the engine for his rocket. Wilkins has brought no blueprints or designs. He says his concept will use magnets. Opposite poles attract, similar poles repel. The Roarkian designer is less interested in being paid than being able to build the spaceship. He does however insist on a few things. There will be no questioning of his design, and he gets to be on the flight.
As Crowder builds his rocket, the press labels it Crowder’s Folly and his company’s board tries to stop the project. When Wilkins tells Crowder that he will need $100M of Mercurium to fuel the ship, Crowder vows to get it.
Eventually, the ship is completed. On the day it is to lift off, the newspaper headline is WALL STREET LABELS ROCKET “CROWDER’S FOLLY” which is exactly the same headline it had months before. Or maybe the paper has just been laying around for a few months. Crowder admits that to fund his folly he fraudulently “over-subscribed the stock” and stupidly paid with a credit card so the subscription automatically renewed.
Wilkins and Crowder board the ship and strap into chairs in the absurdly cavernous cockpit — the engineer in Alien had a tighter capsule. Once they are in the stratosphere (having passed that other sphere) Wilkins gives the OK to unfasten the safety belts and move freely about the cavern. This was, after all, only the titular test flight. Crowder proclaims it a success and tells Wilkins to head back to Earth so he can start work on another $500M ship capable of reaching Mars even though he has committed stock fraud, and pissed away more of other people’s investments than the Clinton Foundation. Wilkins informs him that this ship is going to Mars.
Crowder overpowers Wilkins and tries to change course. Wilkins has frozen the controls and says that he is “going home to Mars.” Crowder wanted to build an empire on Mars, Wilkins just wanted to go home. As Crowder watches, Wilkins transforms into an alien. Well, technically he was an alien the entire time; now he no longer species-identifies as a human.
A little disappointing as the world was not destroyed as it was in the first 2 episodes. Still, for all the hammy acting, live TV mishaps, cheap sets, and cheesy organ music it is very enjoyable.
Test Flight is a success.
- Lee J. Cobb was #3 of the titular 12 Angry Men. I’d like to see a sequel called 1 Happy as Shit Man starring the clearly guilty psychopath that Henry Fonda is responsible for setting free to terrorize his neighborhood and those who testified against him. Snitches get stitches, bitches.
- I’m not sure if Mercurium is a real thing. The only other reference is in Star Trek Voyager, also as a spaceship fuel.