Ray Bradbury Theater – A Sound of Thunder (S3E6)

The arrogant Mr. Eckels steps off the elevator into the lobby of Time Safari Inc.  Maybe part of his superior attitude is that he sees the lunkheads at RBT have pluralized safari with an apostrophe — SAFARI’S.

He hands over his ticket and is introduced to safari guide Travis, the poor man’s Muldoon.  Eckels hands him a data card which provides Travis with biographical info.  He is a big game hunter who has “shot everything.”  His quickness to hand over payment tells us maybe he is a bored rich-boy content to let his guides do the heavy lifting until he can get out of the air-conditioned Jeep and plug the animals.

Once they are suited up and armed, they march through a needlessly smokey corridor to the time machine.  As they go, Eckels quotes extensively and grandiloquently from the company’s brochure.  Bradbury did not have Serling’s weakness for padding out scenes with extended monologues, but he never quite mastered the difference between writing for the page versus the screen.

Out of chars and ashes, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, will leap.  Roses sweeten the air, white hair turns black, wrinkles vanish.  All, everything flies back to seed.  Flee death.

That’s great on the page, but not so much on screen; and also probably not so much in a company brochure.  Travis, appropriately, snorts in Eckels’ general direction.

rbtsound02They materialize 60 millions years in the past.  A silver anti-gravity walkway extends from the ship, into the jungle.  The group is warned to stay on the path.  The death of even a single roach or flower or blade of grass could have catastrophic effects millions of years in the future.

Eckels does turn out to be a panicky Pete.  When the T-Rex comes into view, he is clearly terrified — bug-eyed and quivering.    As it draws closer, we get another classic Bradbury better-on-the-page exclamation from Eckels, “My God, it could reach up and grab the moon!”

rbtsound04In awe of the creature’s size, Eckels fearfully says, “No one can kill that.  It can’t be killed.”  Travis orders him back to the ship, but he is frozen in fear.  He begins backing away and steps off the pathway.  Travis and the rest of the group shoot the dinosaur.  Eckels joins the fun by firing wildly at the animal.  As punishment, Eckels is made to dig the bullets out of the carcass — pack it in, pack it out.

They return to the future, but find differences ranging from subtle to horrific.  Travis examines Eckels’ boots and sees that when he fell from the platform, he killed a butterfly, setting in motion a series of changes which millions of years later would catastrophically result in an Ashton Kutcher movie.

Given the budget and the chowderheads producing this series, they did about as good a job as could have been expected.  I’m on the fence about Kiel Martin as Eckels — either he perfectly personifies Eckels’ fear-cloaked-in-arrogance, or he is just a complete ham.  John Bach is great as the guide.  Yeah, the effects are not Jurassic Park, but you work with what ya got, and they seemed to make the most out of what they had.

The last frame of the episode contains a shock even if you know it is coming.  Congrats to RBT for getting surprisingly dark.  In the context of the series, I’d have to say this was a success, one of the best.

rbtsound08Post-Post:

  • This is arguably Bradbury’s most famous story.  At one time, it was the most frequently reprinted story in history.  Naturally, it is not in the “100 Most Celebrated Tales” collection that I have.
  • First published in Collier’s Magazine in 1952.
  • NZ-LOTR Connection:  John Bach played Madril in 2 movies.  Director Costa Botes (who also directed The Dwarf) was a cameraman on the 1st one.
  • The story pre-dates the Chaos Theory concept of the Butterfly Effect, and I don’t see any evidence that it was named after the story; but that’s a pretty big coincidence.

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