Science Fiction Theatre – The Strange People at Pecos

Son of a bitch!  Just one day after I complain about episodes that have a father and son with the same name, here come Jeff and Jeff, Jr.

We are told that Radar Operator Jeff Jamison — and we don’t know whether he is Jeff or Jeff Jr. — is an essential part of the Pecos Rocket Testing Ground.  He’s not such a big shot at home, though.  He can’t tell his wife Celia what he does at work, and he has two incredibly loud, obnoxious kids of the type I thought did not exist in the 1950s.  They want to know if the rockets he works on are as good as flying saucers.  As he is leaving for work, he meets a little girl at the door.

She is new in town and has come to meet the boys.  They should get along great because they something in common — an inability to believably deliver a single line of dialogue.  Jeff asks where she is from and she says “The 3rd planet from the sun, but as my father says, we’re all really from the same galaxy.”  Jeff retorts, “Yeah, sure,” ceding this round to the 8 year old.

At work, Jeff is tracking the “Big SAM” rocket (Surface-to-Air, although it is unclear which is big, the surface or the rocket).  He calls Dr. Conselman over to look at his radar scope.  Big SAM has been joined by two companion blips.  Conselman suugests they are cosmic clouds.  Jeff disagrees because 1) they are moving too fast, and 2) there is no such thing as a cosmic cloud. [1] He jumps to the next logical conclusion that they are flying saucers.

Back at the house, the kids are playing ball.  Jeff Jr. (I’ll assume, since there is no Jeff III in the cast) and Terry are using the standard tossing approach.  The new girl, Laurie Kern, has a better idea — use telekinesis.  She mangles the pronunciation, but she’s just a kid.  Then Celia also mangles it.

For his crazy flying saucer talk, Jeff is sent home.  While he and Celia are talking, they hear brakes squealing.  They run outside and see that Laurie has been hit by a car (driven by Green Acres’ Fred Ziffel).  Laurie wakes up on the Jamison’s couch and is ready to jump up.  They convince her to wait for the doctor.  Inexplicably, Jeff decides to treat her wound before the doctor arrives.  He warns her it will hurt when he pours iodine on her wound, but she doesn’t feel a thing. [2]  She has no pain at all from the accident, so gets off the sofa and goes home.  This is astounding to everyone; and Ziffel has seen a pig answer a telephone.

Jeff Jr. goes to Laurie’s house and eavesdrops on Mr. Kern recording a podcast (or maybe just recording on that big reel-to-reel).  He says, “The people of Earth can’t and won’t understand that our arrival from space could never be a hostile invasion.  We’re that far ahead of them.  In so many thousands of light years, we have learned to live at peace with ourselves and our neighbors in the universe.”  Yeah, but at least we know that light year is not a unit of time, brainiac.  Maybe he meant parsecs.  When Jeff Jr. sees Laurie and her father launch an anti-gravity toy, he writes “Martians Go Home” on their sidewalk and runs home.

Jeff Sr. goes to the sheriff to complain about this “Baby Einstein” who feels no pain.  He also tells about the recording Jeff Jr. heard Mr. Kern making.  Then . . . wait — why does the sheriff of Pecos County, New Mexico have a picture of J. Edgar Hoover on the wall behind his desk?  This might be the creepiest thing yet.

The sheriff says, “in this country, a man has the right to face his accusers” and suggests Jeff go see Mr. Kern.  Coincidentally, Mr. Kern then comes in to complain about the little shit who peeked in his window and vandalized his sidewalk.

Jeff accuses Kern and his daughter of being aliens.  Kern replies that he is a science-fiction writer, and they they moved to New Mexico from Chicago to help his daughter’s condition.  Brain damage has caused her nerve endings to malfunction so she feels no pain.  Jeff asks why he says they are from Chicago when his daughter says they are from the 3rd planet from the sun.  Kern tells him, “The 3rd planet from the sun is the Earth you’re standing on.”  That’s just embarrassing.  To make it worse, Jeff counts them out to himself, “Mercury, Venus . . . Earth.”

Back at home, the Jamison boys are bullying Laurie about being a Martian and having no feelings.  Jeff even throws her to the ground.  She runs home, hopefully to get a death ray.  Laurie is briefly reported missing, but is found in seconds.

Really, nothing is resolved.  I think we’re supposed to wonder whether the Kerns are aliens or just misunderstood, but that anti-gravity toy makes it pretty clear.  Also Kern tips his hand when he says advanced races would be more peaceful than savage humans.  That is straight out of the Star Trek snotty alien handbook.

Just as the ending resolves nothing, the introduction also sets up a plot-point that is dropped.  Host Truman Bradley gives a demonstration (that they admirably admit is trick photography) of teleporting a weight from one bell jar to another like Brundlefly.  He then says, “Teleportation is an important word in the story we are about to tell.”  Yeah, there is not one word about teleporting in the episode. [3]

Despite abysmal performances from all 3 kids, it is OK.  The premise is good, if underdeveloped and the adult actors are solid.  Commenters at IMDb are probably right that Rod Serling would have beat this story like a drum.  Sure, the cold war, xenophobia, and racism angles could have been emphasized more, but we’re just trying to have fun here.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Hmmm, I guess there is such a thing.  But that kind of makes Conselman’s remark even dopier.
  • [2] I didn’t even know you could put iodine on a wound.  My parents put some orange stuff on a cut when I was a kid and the sound I made has traveled farther than Voyager.
  • [3] You’re saying maybe Laurie teleported into the path of the car that hit her.  No, Fred Ziffel specifically said she ran in front of the car; not that she suddenly appeared.  Besides, she was playing with the boys and they would have ratted her out.
  • Hair Commentary:  Celia Jamison’s hairdo was fabulous!  Laurie Kern grew up to play a one-shot character on Star Trek.  I think I only remember her because of her hair in the episode.
  • Non-Hair Commentary:  Mr. Kern could easily have been a young Johnny Sac from The Sopranos.

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