Ray Bradbury Theater – The Long Years (S4E11)

bradbury02The Hathaways are the last people on Mars because they missed the last ship back to Earth.  They were in the mountains on an archaeological dig.  When they returned a week later, Mars had been evacuated.

John Hathaway stares at the stars each night hoping to see a rocket ship streaking among the unmoving stars.

One night, he takes his regular walk up to a hill where there are three graves.  In a quick pan, we see only the name Tom Hathaway (1988 – 2007).  At this point, we don’t know Tom is his son.  He asks their forgiveness for what he did.  He reflects on 20 years spent waiting for another ship from Earth.

rbtlongyears04Returning to his house, he sees a light moving across the sky.  He calls the family out and tells them, “We’re going home!”  To be sure they are spotted, Hathaway is able to remotely switch on every light in nearby New New York City.  In the short story, he just burns the city down.

Hathaway and his son take a golf cart to meet the ship.  The crew is descending the ladder, and hey — it’s Captain Wilder from And the Moon Be Still as Bright!  Hathaway takes them home to meet the wife and kids who they had last seen 20 years ago. Wilder comments that Cora has not aged a bit in 20 years.  Maybe it is just the way she is styled, but unfortunately the actress playing Cora doesn’t really look that much younger than Hathaway.

rbtlongyears05One of the other crewman knew the kids and comments they they also appear exactly as they had 20 years earlier on Earth.  Son Tom evens says he is “twenty-one” in his only dialogue in the episode.  He is in several scenes, but just stands there looking a lot like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, never uttering another word.

But he is positively loquacious next to the female crew member who gets not a single line of dialogue.  She is even seen speaking in a couple of scenes, but in the background where we can’t hear her.

As Hathaway visits the graves again, Wilder joins him.  Hathaway explains that a virus killed his whole family in a week.  So he built robots to recreate his family.

When Wilder tells Hathaway that they can only take him back to Earth, not his family, he tries to explain it to them.  “What is goodbye?” asks his robot wife in the sci-fi trope where a non-human speaks perfectly throughout an episode, but then doesn’t know a key common word.  What if they had been humans, would there still only have been room for Hathaway?

rbtlongyears10While he is trying to explain “going away”, he ironically does the big “going away” as he has a heart attack and dies.  They bury Hathaway next to his real family, and the crew leave them on Mars.  The episode has a much better ending, a great ending — the robot family uses the same tools which created them to create another John Hathaway.

In the last scene, they are all sitting at the dinner table and Cora has made John’s favorite chicken dish.  Although, I don’t know what he’s going to do with it as it was strongly suggested that robots do not eat.

In the short story, the robots are deemed too human to kill, so they are left to do the same repetitive mundane tasks forever.


  • First published in Macleans, September 1948.
  • Just to confuse things, in the episode, the father is John and the son is Tom.  In the short story, the names are reversed.  Also, the wife in the episode is named Cora instead of Alice, and they have an extra daughter in the short story.
  • Directed by Paul Lynch who also made Prom Night.

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