Science Fiction Theatre – Spider, Inc. (05/28/55)

sftspider1We are told Joe Ferguson drives his wife crazy by spending most of his time downstairs; no, in his basement lab.  Ellie Ferguson arrives home in a great mood because she just learned she is pregnant.  She tries to tell Joe, but he is oblivious, staring into his microscope and talking about his great discovery.  She tells him he is so wrapped up in his work that he doesn’t know she is alive.  This being 1955 TV, I assume her husband knew her a couple of months ago — as opposed to, say, the milkman, TV repairman, or some other extinct species.  I guess today, they would be the delivery guy from Whole Foods or someone from Geek Squad; but are they really threats?

To be fair, when he realizes what she is yammering on about, he is elated.  Ellie brings him down when she mentions this will be a big responsibility, require money, and reminds him they are in debt.  Every time Ellie balances the budget, Joe finds another geologic specimen or scientific instrument to buy.  He decides to sell his microscope for $500.  If I can think of a Gift of the Magi reference by the end of the episode, I’ll be happy. [1]

While in the store, another item catches his eye — a piece of fossilized amber with a spider caught in it.  It has a $1,500 price tag, so Joe talks the clerk into letting him borrow it.  He says, “It has the potential to open up a whole new world for us.”  Yeah, Jurassic World.

sftspider2His buddy Frank identifies the creature as a wolf spider, maybe 100 million years old.  He says the amber is Joe’s area of expertise.  Although, as a geologist, I’m not sure how tree sweat falls in his bailiwick.  Maybe in the Petrified Forest.

Joe says his interest in the item is because his company is working on a new synthetic oil substitute.  Joe explains that in 1955, “The dwindling oil supply has become one of the greatest problems of our age.”  And Al Gore wonders why there are skeptics of anthropogenic global warming.  Joe believes the specimen can provide answers about how oil is created.

Ellie overhears this.  Then Joe inexplicably tells her he paid $1,500 for the specimen which is not even true.  He borrowed the item and left a $450 deposit — this guy makes his own trouble.  She says, “I’m not interested in Mother Nature — I’m interested in Mother Ferguson!”  Good one Ellie!  Sadly, this nice zinger is followed by some really hokey dialogue and Ellie runs from the room accompanied by the God-awful, overbearing SFT score.

sftspider3That night, the store-owner who sold him the rock drops by the house.  He has a buyer for the amber and wants to get it back from Joe.  He returns the money Joe put down, and Ellie gives him the specimen from the lab. When Joe gets home that night, he finds Ellie having tea with the store-owner and some other creditors. They’ve decided they will all be partners in Joe’s research venture which they have named Spider, Inc.

They all go down to the lab at his job to see his latest experiment.  The company president, who had earlier dismissed his ideas, walks in.  Joe tells him he believes a bubble in the amber could provide a sample of the earth’s atmosphere 50 million years ago.  Looking at the results, Joe believes he can use electricity as a catalyst to make oil much more quickly.  It works — he invented synthetic oil!  I expect a lot of lawsuits between Spider, Inc. and the oil company whose lab Joe used for the experiment.

What I was really left with from this episode was how Joe is getting screwed.  His employer would not buy him the proper equipment, and the President had written him off as a loon.  But as soon as there are billions of petro-dollars to be made, el Presidente pops in to collect his Soprano-esque piece of the action.

Similarly, Joe’s wife has traded debts on the refrigerator and sofa for partnerships in a company that will be worth billions.

And finally, Joe had Jurrassic Park in his hand and didn’t go for it.  Or rather, the writer didn’t go for it.  I’m sure insta-oil seemed amazing in 1955.  But DNA had been discovered, and tadpoles had been cloned 2 years earlier.  The lack of vision in this series is Amazing, Astounding, and Weird.

Another artless piece of dreck from SFT.  I rate it 2 legs.


  • [1] I’m not happy.
  • Gene Barry (Joe Ferguson) was in War of the Worlds both 3 years earlier and 50 years later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.