Ray Bradbury Theater – Mars is Heaven (S4E1)

rbtmarsisheaven01Hal Linden (Barney Miller), or is it Barney Miller (Hal Linden)? No, it’s Hal Linden (Barney Miller), is the captain of a ship heading to Mars.

Linden, playing Captain Black, disembarks along with crew-members Henley and Larson to explore Mars.  After a few seconds, they determine that the atmosphere is “thin for breathing, but there’s enough oxygen.”  Showing the same scientific acumen as the crew of Prometheus, they take off their helmets.

Mars isn’t quite what they expect.  Their landing area is the expected barren red landscape, but then they hear a rooster crowing.  They hear birds.  After a short walk, they see trees, grass, tennis courts.  They’re in Club Red; except without the red.

rbtmarsisheaven02One of the men suggests they somehow landed back on earth.  Captain Black assures him, “we traveled 300 million miles, tracked by telemetry every inch of the way.”  As usual, no one could be troubled to pick up an almanac when this story was filmed.  When Mars is on the other side of the sun, it is still never 300 million miles away.  Even the original short story didn’t use this stat.

One man finds his old tennis racket, one sees his grandfather.  Black sees his younger brother and goes with him back to his parent’s house.  He is reunited with his dead mother and dead father.  It is revealed that the house he has come back to actually burned to the ground years ago, killing his brother.

In the short story, one woman — whatever the Martian equivalent of a blonde is, maybe a redhead — almost gives away the game when she threatens to have her husband come outside and “beat them with all his fists.”  Although, really, she could have meant all two of them.

That night, Linden finally begins to question what they have found on Mars.  He wonders if maybe the Martians knew they were coming.  That they may have used their minds to create this world for the humans.  To put them off-guard, to separate them so they could be picked off by people they trusted.

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For some reason, the astronauts wear ASA patches instead of NASA.

As Black leaves the room, an alien hand clasps his shoulder.  We then cut to caskets resting on the barren red Martian soil, 3 helmets atop them.

The idea of finding a replica on earth is old hat now, also having appeared on The Twilight Zone.  When it was published 1948, maybe it was new hat.  I guess the title Mars is Heaven isn’t really a spoiler since it is revealed to not be heaven.

In the story, the Martians inexplicably retain their human form even after the astronauts are dead, and give them a proper burial.  Equally inexplicably, in the episode, we see the coffins but they fade from the shot and disappear completely.

Post-Post:

  • Pointless Duplication:  In the story, Black’s brother died 26 years ago.  He is now 26 years old.  The townspeople say the year is 1926.
  • The short story Mars is Heaven was included in The Martian Chronicles as The Third Expedition.
  • Coincidentally, director John Laing is also credited on an episode of The Hitchhiker which I just watched.  The first disk of that series was so awful, I couldn’t bring myself to write about it.  His episode was probably one of the better ones, though.
  • For some reason, Bradbury alone among sci-fi writers is given license to have breathable air on Mars and other basic scientific inaccuracies.

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