Tales of Tomorrow – Ahead of His Time (07/18/52)

ttdestinationnightmare07Sam Whipple is reading a newspaper with the headlines KOREAN TRUCE NEGOTIATIONS STALLED and LIVING COSTS ZOOM UP.  He comments that things are a mess, then turns to the camera and breaks the 4th cardboard wall.

He tells us he is just a regular Joe, other than inventing a time machine. He starts the story off on June 30, 2052 in the New York office of scientist Dr. Jarvis.  Jarvis and his hot daughter are hard at work to find a solution to the rising radioactivity that will destroy the world.  And since they are working on Sunday, we can conclude 1) the end of the world is imminent, and 2) this is not a government project.

For some reason, it is Jarvis who has to break this news to the people of earth.  He addresses the world, “In a few hours, you and I, all our loved ones, the whole earth will be dead.”  He tells them that 100 years ago, a scientist named Thorne placed an element into a cyclotron causing a chain reaction.  An error in his calculation caused radiation to increase constantly for a century until it was just now noticed, hours before destroying humanity.

ttdestinationnightmare17Jarvis and his daughter Mary are able to observe the past on a TV screen.  They actually witness the scientist making the faux pas that doomed the earth.  Mary suggests time-traveling back to 1952 to stop this catastrophe, but Jarvis says that is impossible. Only someone from that prehistoric era can affect the past.

Jarvis remembers amusing himself by watching Mr. Whipple on the magic TV.  They tune in and catch Whipple working on his time machine.  Amazingly, at just that second, Whipple perfects his time-travel vest.  Even more amazing, it transports him to the very second Jarvis is watching him.  Most amazingestly, it brings him into Jarvis’s living room.

Whipple mentions needing money for tuition.  Jarvis says, “That is not necessary.  The government takes care of everyone’s tuition.”  There is no war, and cancer has been cured.  He wants to stay in this time, but Jarvis explains the facts of half-life to him.

ttdestinationnightmare23Whipple agrees to go back to 1952 and stop Dr. Thorne from making his fatal mistake.  In the past, Whipple is able to burn Thorne’s notes which apparently contained directions and all known copies of plans for the cyclotron.  He goes back home and straps on the time-vest. Unfortunately his sister has smashed the machine so he will stop acting like a kid.

Whipple gives a firehose of exposition as he explains what would have happened if this episode were an hour long. First, I would have jumped off a bridge.  Second, he describes how he changed after this adventure.  He did not rebuild the time-vest, he became more outgoing, and probably left his sister in a shallow grave.

He even met a girl named Ruth, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Mary Jarvis.  I guess it is supposed to be Mary who has come back in time to be with the irresistible Whipple.  As they each drink a soda-pop, I think she is trying to give us a wink, but can’t quiet pull it off.

ttdestinationnightmare28Paul Tripp, who appeared as Whipple also wrote the script.  Even aside from the 4th-wall bits, the episode gets a little meta.  Mary Jarvis is played by Ruth Enders, who was married to Tripp for 53 years. When he introduces his new girlfriend at the end, he says her name is Ruth.

Objectively, the episode is terrible. Within the context of the era and other episodes of the series, though, it stands out.  Whipple certainly is a chirpy fellow but, surprisingly, is not grating.  The science and logic is ludicrous, but Tripp is so likable that it doesn’t even matter.  It is just a fun little romp.

This is the end of Volume 2.  The prices for these DVDs has skyrocketed.  The Tale of my Tomorrows does not include a $43.90 Volume 3.

Post-Post:

  • Unfortunately, most of the time, Whipple’s time-vest looks like he is wearing  toilet seat around his neck.
  • Available on YouTube.

Tales of Tomorrow – The Duplicates (07/04/52)

Calvin Bruce Bruce Calvin is sitting at home wearing a necktie as unemployed men are wont to do. He is checking the want-ads when he sees this item.  He calls and is offered an interview that same day even though it is already 7:30 pm.

Bruce still can’t figure out why he was let go from his previous employer after eight years.  His wife is about as sympathetic as an Alfred Hitchcock Presents spouse (and by spouse, I mean wife).  She nags him for not having a job, having to scrimp on paying bills, and having a conspiracy theory on why he was terminated.  Maybe he took her to the office Christmas Party — that would be my guess why they canned him.  She continues berating him for falling behind their friends, and calls him a failure.  And that is just the abuse in the living room!

He storms out to meet Mr. J in Room 34.  He is actually Dr. Johnson from the Atomic Energy Control, so it should have been Dr. J.  He asks Bruce to volunteer for an experiment.  It will cause him no harm, take about 3 weeks, and is worth $250,000. Bruce figures it is worth paying that much to get away from his awful wife for 3 weeks so will rob a bank and — oh wait, they’re paying him — maybe he can get away from her forever!

ttduplicates18Bruce recognizes that this is too good to be true.  After all, this is $2.2M in 2016 dollars and $5B in 2017 dollars.  He is also concerned that Johnson seems to have a zuckerbergian knowledge of every detail of his life, and was even expecting his application for the job.  Somehow, they even got a blood sample and determined he was perfect for this project.  They even had him fired from his old job just so he would be available.

Johnson expects earth to be in contact with another planet soon.  The life there closely parallels earth:

  1. “There is another planet where human life functions as it does here.  So closely parallel that for every living thing existing here there is an exact duplicate on this other planet.”
  2. “For every particle of life — animal, bird, flower, tree — living here, there is an identical creature living on this other planet.”
  3. “At this moment on another planet, there are people who think and talk exactly as we do.  Every creature is in direct rhythm with us.”

OK, we get it.

Johnson shows him pictures of their ships speeding through our atmosphere — UFOs to us.  We have also sent ships to investigate their world.  Johnson’s agency has built a ship to go to their world.  They want him to go to this planet and “arrive in a city just like this.  Your home would be there.  A woman who would seem in every respect to be your wife will be waiting.”  That’s reason enough to refuse right there.

ttduplicates25The agency wants Bruce to go to this planet and destroy it before they can destroy us.  Can anyone see the problem here?  Anyone?  Hands? Bueller?  They theorize that all it will take is for Bruce to poison his duplicate, then the two planets will go off on alternate timelines like the new Star Trek.

Later at home, he tells his wife about the job and says, “The future of life here on Jupiter depends on the success of my mission.”  ZING!  I can’t believe this primitive TV show suckered me in.  Especially having seen the same twist on Twilight Zone’s Third Planet from the Sun.[1]

Bruce flies to Earth and finds his duplicate house.  For some reason, he climbs in the window rather than going in the door.  He slips a vial of poison into his duplicate’s scotch bottle, gets a clean shirt from his wife, and returns home to Jupiter.  Back at his Jupiter house, he enters through the window again — I guess that’s how he always enters.  He shows his wife the $250,000 paycheck and she is all smiles for the first time.  His wife mentions giving him the shirt and Einstein suddenly realizes his duplicate was in his house.

ttduplicates16He realizes that he just drank the scotch which his duplicate poisoned. He freaks out and tears up the checks.  That’s not too nice for his wife, but she wasn’t worthy anyway. In a nicely symbolic but meaningless gesture, he breaks a mirror.  Now he will have 7 seconds of bad luck before croaking.

Probably the best episode of this primitive, low-budget series.  Of course the science is ludicrous — did it really have to be Jupiter, the ending is telegraphed, and the wife is stereotypical.  On the other hand, it did trick me and had a stinger at the end of both act breaks.  Darrin McGavin was excellent as Bruce. Patricia Ferris was given a thankless role as his wife.  Because of the sexist way she was written, it is hard to judge her performance.  However, she was attractive in a modern-era way that many of ToT’s actresses were not, so she gets a pass.  So, she’s still being objectified 64 years later.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I might have suspected Serling of a little cryptomnesia, but his screenplay was based on a short story by Richard Matheson.
  • The room where Bruce meets Dr. Johnson has a hanging lamp with a shade clearly made from newspapers.  WTH?
  • For a better parallel Earth story, see Another Earth starring Brit Marling.  Actually see anything she is in.
  • Parallel Earth theory from Star Trek.
  • Available on YouTube.

Tales of Tomorrow – Appointment on Mars (06/27/52)

ttapptonmars09aka Treasure of the Sierra Martians.

aka The Martians are Due on Maple Street.

Bart and Jack come running into frame, climbing all over each other, horse-playing.  Robbie sticks his head out of the tent and tells them to quiet down.  Family vacation?  Boy Scout Jamboree?  Krazy days at camp?  No, these are adult US Astronauts.  In fact they are the first men to land on Mars.  By the way, this is the Bradbury concept of Mars where it has Earth-like gravity, fresh air and a low budget.

Robbie brings a box out of the tent.  He brags about bringing it 34 million miles from earth.  That might not seem worth noting, but it could be the first time I’ve watched a show for this blog that actually got an astronomical distance correct.  Bobbie unpacks illicit beers for the boys who whoop it up at the sight of the cans.  Later there is talk of lighting each others farts [1] and swimming across the lake to the girl’s camp.

ttapptonmars16Turns out the men are astronauts, but not from NASA.  Their trip was subsidized by Standard Motors (a division of Average Mechanical, a wholly owned subsidiary of Just OK, Inc).  The evil corporation will get half of anything they find, and any wallets they make.  Bart is disappointed that they did not find any people on Mars.  He suggests that since there is plant life similar to earth’s, that there should be intelligent life.

Around this time, I noticed that Bart is wearing a holster and pistol.  So he wanted to discover intelligent beings, but he wasn’t taking any chances.  After their beer break, they decide to do a little prospecting.  Bart grabs his rabbit’s foot and they take off.

They quickly discover a vein of uranium — why didn’t they set this on Uranus? —  and stake out a claim — literally — by driving a stake into the ground.  They’re millionaires! Maybe it’s affluenza, but they immediately have problems.  Jack gets a bad headache. Bart feels that he’s being watched (the quick zoom in on his face as he says this is almost Mel Brooksian).  Robbie plays camp counselor and keeps his irritable crew from killing each other.

ttapptonmars26After Robbie leaves, Bart realizes his rabbit’s foot is missing and accuses Jack.  Bart says it “didn’t just walk away by itself” which is a pretty god gag that I don’t think they even realized.  Bart goes after Jack with a hammer and they start wrestling as we go to commercial.  Robbie breaks it up and demands that they hand over their guns.

Bart refuses to hand over his gun because he says something out there is watching them.  Jack quite reasonably refuses to disarm while Bart has his.

When Bart wakes up the next morning, he claims to see a Martian and starts blasting away.  Robbie jumps him to take the gun.  Bart gets shot in the tussle; also in the stomach.  Jack tells Robbie it was murder!  He is paranoid that Robbie is going to take all the uranium for himself.  They fight and Robbie and Jack kill each other.

After all three are dead, we hear two Martians speaking of how easy it was to manipulate the weak Earth-men.  Then they decide to take a look at the earthmen’s ship which is more than the audience ever got.  It should prove interesting,” one of them says.

Which is more than the audience ever got.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I had always assumed this was an urban legend.  For some reason, I find it hilarious that the result is known as a blue angel.  Sadly, there is no such disambiguation at Wikipedia:  Blue Angel (1930 Marlene Dietrich Film), Blue Angel (highly skilled Air Force Aerial Team), Blue Angel (lit fart).
  • I think I’ll just wallow in my ignorance and continue to believe that Circle Jerks really are just an urban legend.
  • A fairly, dare I say, stellar cast:  Leslie Nielsen, Brian Keith and William Redfield.

Tales of Tomorrow – The Golden Ingot (05/09/52)

ttgoldingot04Professor Vanya, believing he will succeed tonight where that dolt Isaac Newton [1] failed, is attempting to turn lead into gold.  He tells his daughter Margaret, “In a few moments, I will take out of this oven the dream of every alchemist since the days of the great Flaubert in 1382.”  That was 500 years before Gustave Flaubert, so I have no idea who he is talking about.  Unless Flaubert also invented time travel.

His daughter is skeptical of his ravings, but he claims they will be richer than Croesus who invented the pants-pressing machine, and richer than Midas who founded a chain of muffler repair shops.  For the time being, though, he is a little short; also doesn’t have much cash.

He gets a visit from his downstairs neighbor Hodges asking for the 2,000 francs Vanya owes him.  He threatens to take Vanya to court if he doesn’t have his francs by Monday.

ttgoldingot25When the timer goes off, he asks Margaret to open the kiln door.  She pulls out a tray, but it is mere slag — 15 years wasted.  He is so distraught, he drinks from a bottle of poison.  Margaret runs down the hall to get her fiancee Charles — a real scientist.  It must have been that 24-hour poison, because he is quickly back up and pseudo-sciencing the shit out of that stuff.

Margaret is afraid the constant failures will destroy her father Vanya.  The next time he has a batch in the kiln, she secretly replaces the slag with a gold ingot she has purchased — for about $5,000,000 given the size of it.  When she and Vanya look at the next day’s results, he is ecstatic to find a block of gold.  That night, Margaret secretly sneaks in and puts the same gold ingot back into the kiln so Vanya will think he has succeeded in making a second bar.  Margaret is able to continue the ruse until Vanya tells her to sell a ingot to pay Hodges back.  Charles gives her the cash to pay back Hodges.

That night, Margaret leaves another gold ingot in the kiln for her father to find.  Unfortunately, that night, Hodges breaks in and steals the only real gold ingot.

ttgoldingot24The next morning, Hodges shows up and asks for his francs.  Margaret was going to take the gold to the “gold market” that morning to pay him back.  He sees the gold ingot is gone, so concludes she must have taken it.  At this point, he believes he has made at least seven ingots, so couldn’t she have taken one of the others?

Margaret and Charles fess up.  This drives Vanya into a rage and he has a heart attack.  After he croaks, Margaret and Charles find that his last batch actually did create a gold ingot.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Really, what the hell was he thinking?
  • A rarity — I have never seen a single one of these actors in another show according to my big bag o’ SQL.
  • Gene Lockhart (Vanya) was the father of June Lockhart (Lost in Space).

Tales of Tomorrow – Red Dust (05/02/52)

totreddust1

This is about as visually interesting as this episode gets.

In this science-fiction tale, America still has a space program. Four men have just lifted off from Alpha Centauri where they were apparently the first to land on the entire star system. Sadly, they left 2 of their crew-mates “buried in the red dust.” They only needed to go as far as Mars to accomplish that.  Or Sedona if they were really on a budget.  Off-season.

The Captain tells them not to grieve over Kelly and Schwartz.  “It’s a log way to Earth.  You might need those tears for yourself.” On Alpha Centauri, they found a culture hundreds of years more advanced than ours.[1]  Dr. Davidson is excited at how much mankind will gain from this appropriation.  The weird thing is that the cities were all deserted, and covered in pink dust.

They notice that some of the red dust is now in the ship.  As the days pass, the crew notices the dust is growing.  Davidson examines a sample under his microscope and discovers it is radioactive; or something.  I’d like to think there was some alien influence warping their minds, but I think it was just lousy writing:

  • Kelly & Schwartz died because they did not take their radiation shots, saying they were allergic.  You might think that would disqualify you from being an astronaut.
  • Charlie says it should have been OK because they detected no radiation before landing.  The doc now says the radiation is “in the dust!”  Hmmm . . . the same dust that covered the planet?
  • Meanwhile, Duncan and Kurt are lounging around the cabin remarking on the successful mission.  “When we signed up for this thing who would have thought we would have made it there and back without a hitch.”  Yeah, except for 1/3 of the crew being killed.

The doc determines that the dust “is a weird sort of radioactive life.  A virus that attacks any living matter that comes near it.”  Unfortunately, he tells the crew that the radiation shots can’t stop it, only slow it down.  He expects them all to be dead in 10 years. Charlie freaks out and throws himself out of the airlock.  I don’t expect an Aliens-caliber decompression, but couldn’t they at least have used a electric fan to simulate the change in pressure?  This was like opening a screen door.

totreddust2The doc realizes that Charlie’s rantings were correct — they are taking death back to Earth!

After the commercial, the writing becomes weird again.  Kurt says, “Look doc, start at the beginning and go back.  Why can’t we return?” The doc answer, “That should be obvious, Kurt.  Kelly, Schwartz, Charlie, Duncan, you, even the doctor — if we landed, do you think the red dust would stop with us?”  Was the doctor referring to himself in the 3rd person?

The doc says that once they are in contact with Earth, they will radio their discoveries, then they must self-destruct.  Kurt isn’t on-board with the whole suicide thing.  In the action portion of our show, Kurt pulls a gun on Charlie and the doc.  Duncan is able to conk Kurt on the head, the the doc shoots Duncan.  Kurt wakes up and Duncan shoots him.

Slipping for the third time into this alternate reality of shifting perspectives and pretzel logic, as Duncan is dying, he begs the doc not to take the ship back to earth.  “I know you’re a scientist, but give them a chance!”  Well, that was Doc’s position all along.

Just as in last week’s The Plague from Space, the decision is made to sacrifice everyone to save the planet.  The doc reads the mission’s findings over the radio, then blows up the ship.

Post-Post:

  • [1] It seems absurd that on an astronomical timescale, we would find a culture within 100 years of our own.  But then, that was the case with most of the planets on Star Trek.
  • Also seen today:  The Boy, not to be confused with The Boy.  It somehow takes a pretty flimsy premise and makes it both intriguing and suspenseful for most of its run time.  As always, the questions are more interesting than the answers, but that does not diminish the result.  Also, Lauren Cohan.