Science Fiction Theatre – Beyond (04/09/55)

This might not last long.  How do make science-fiction dull?  You have the entire known universe at your disposal.  If that isn’t quite enough, you can make a new universe designed to your specs.  You can people it with plants, you can plant it with monsters, you can faun over the flora, be floored by the fauna, you can have it be devoid of life or have snotty omniscient beings.  How do you take this canvas and come up with a Rothko painting? On the very first episode of a new series?

After the overbearing orchestral score dies down, the series opens with a shot of an empty leather office chair.

“How do you, do ladies and gentlemen?  My name is Truman Bradley.  At the moment you can’t see me.  Why?”

Interesting.  Is he invisible?  Is he dead?  Is he in another dimension?  Did he teleport? I bet he teleported!

“Very simple.  The camera is not pointed in my direction.”

Are you shitting me?

He walks into the shot and assures us that this is a work of fiction.  Wow, they must have a real mind-bender for us tonight!  “But the big question is, could it have happened?”  Truman tells us that somehow this misdirection is a metaphor for tonight’s story.  Actually, if that had been a director’s chair, I would have agreed.

sftbeyond15We open with shots of experimental aircraft and the voice-over tells us we are in the California Desert.  Hot damn — Edwards Air Force Base! This series immediately bought a ton of goodwill.

The FA-962 (code-named the XF because FA-962 is just too descriptive for a secret aircraft) is testing out a new fuel that should allow it to go unimaginably fast.  Major Fred Gunderman will be yeagering this test flight.  As Gunderman is flying a record-breaking 1,650 MPH, he sees another craft keeping pace with him. [1]  

Gunderman reports that it looks like a missile or torpedo.  As it draws closer to the XF, he launches his ejection seat and allows $750,000 of taxpayers’ cash to crash and burn. In the hospital, the other officers question his health, any double vision, nausea, anything that might have caused him to panic.  He is adamant that there was another craft.  He is not afraid to suggest, “it could have been a flying saucer.”  But one of them missile-shaped saucers, I guess, as he describes it as cylindrical, silver, and twice the length of his ship.  Sadly, it was not tracked on radar, but Gunderman is smart enough to suggest maybe it was invisible to radar, which might have sounded crazy at the time.

Just the kind of accurate, to-scale picture a professor of astronomy would have on their wall.

A board of inquiry is assembled to investigate the crash.  Men are subjected to the same stresses as Gunderman to see if they dream of long cylindrical objects.  Gunderman takes a polygraph.  After a week, and despite a fact-finding trip to Hawaii at taxpayer expense, the board comes up with nothing.

They finally allow his wife to visit and even she is skeptical at first. Gunderman sends her to Cal-Tech to talk to professor Samuel Carson about UFOs.  Luckily, she arrives during his 1:00 – 1:15 bi-weekly office hours.  He is mostly useless, but does give some exposition about the size of the universe and how many planets could be sending ships here.

The board’s final conclusion is that Gunderman saw his own fountain pen floating weightless in the cockpit.  They suggest he “assumed it was a large object outside the plane instead of a small object inside the plane.”  They all have a good laugh and the Gundermen go home.

Another officer comes in, though, and shoots holes through that theory like so much swamp gas.  First, radar determined the XF was never weightless.  Second, the XF’s debris is now magnetized after being close to “an airship flying on magnetic power.”

So Gunderman thought he saw something — which we didn’t see.  Then the government comes up with a ludicrous explanation — which was wrong.  Then Gunderman is vindicated because an officer knows the effects of a magnetic power source — which they have never heard of.

I’m a sucker for 1950s – 1960s air & space tales, so I will take this as an introductory episode; a pilot episode, if you will where they are working the kinks out.


  • [1] This would indeed have been a record in 1955.  A faster speed was not achieved until 1962.  Kudos to the show for getting this right.  It is hard to believe the silly Tales of Tomorrow aired only 3 years earlier.
  • Later in the episode, we are shown mice on a rocket floating weightless.  An officer says this is due to the thrust of the rocket.  Unless the rocket was thrusting back toward earth, I’m going to have to deduct a kudo.
  • Title Analysis:  Didn’t work for Star Trek Beyond [2] and doesn’t work here.  Again, I will charitably take it as a gateway to the series.
  • [2] And beyond what, BTW.  Same for Star Trek Into Darkness — what darkness? Isn’t 99.999999% of space dark?  Lets go back to Roman numerals and colons in titles; you’re not fooling anyone!
  • Available on YouTube.  Kind of fishy that a 1955 TV show is letter-boxed, though. However, they were an early adopter of color.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.