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.

Tales of Tomorrow – Plague from Space (04/18/52)

totplaguefmspace03We join Colonel Ward as he is taking a swig of booze at his desk.  He is so drunk he only sees 48 stars on his flag.  He is agonizing over men killed and equipment destroyed. They happened under his watch, so he expects to be relieved of his command when the General arrives.

A flying saucer was picked up on radar a few minutes ago and has now returned.  It is flying at 70,000 feet and going 2,000 MPH [1].  The Colonel’s response is a) do his duty and take a defensive posture to protect the nation in case it is hostile, or b) attempt to peacefully contact it, establishing a friendship which could benefit all mankind, or c) observe it and learn more of its construction and technology, or d) tell his men he ain’t running no planetarium here — in fact anyone reporting it will be busted in rank.

“That’s all I need when the General gets here — my best jets off chasing a meteorite!  No thanks!”  It would be pretty stupid to scramble jets as, by definition, a meteorite would be on the ground.  After being updated that the object is flying in 100 mile arcs [2] and reducing speed, Ward concludes this is no meteorite — he now thinks it is a missile, and maybe even in the air!  When it approaches for a landing, Ward orders that it be taken to hangar 7.

totplaguefmspace04

Captain Stillman was right — this view is awesome!

Wanting to assess the threat, Ward diverts all incoming flights to another base.  This includes the incoming General’s plane.  The General is not amused and immediately orders another officer to the base to take command.  I wonder if Ward will let him land.

The craft is hauled into the hangar and an unimpressive group of soldiers examines it. There is an inscription on the nose and a cryptographer determines that it is Martian.  This is pretty embarrassing even for Tales of Tomorrow — how the hell could they arrive at the conclusion that it was Martian?  Was there a Rosetta Meteorite that I never heard about?

Colonel Ward orders demolition to open up the craft.  Fortunately, they discover a bit of advanced technology known as a door.  On the inside, they discover a Martian.  He is dressed in a silver suit which matches his silver skin and silver head.  It does clash a bit with the shadow of the TV camera as it zooms in, but how could he have foreseen that?

totplaguefmspace18The Martian is taken away to be examined.  Ward receives word that the doctors examining him all dropped to the floor in convulsions. Some of the men from the hangar have been affected as have men all over the base.  The doctors did determine that the Martian is just an silver ape, with no higher brain functions. Ward makes some pretty good deductions that the Martian was sent here as a living host for viruses that would decimate Earth — germ warfare.

Ward explain the threat to his skeptical Lieutenant, “Don’t you get it?  These babies don’t belong to the UN!”  So they might actually be effective.  And, did he really say “babies”?  I played it several times.  It sure sounds like “babies”, but that is some pretty swinging lingo for a military officer in 1952.  Of course, he was tossing back the hooch earlier.

27 more men are infected.  He tells his aid to order an air-drop of “every available concoction here as soon as possible.  Serums, anti-toxin, antibiotics, the works!  Throw the whole medical book at them!”  After meeting with the doctor, Ward deduces that the real Martians are the germs that the silver guy was hosting.  They have now fled the silver ape and invaded the bodies of the humans.

His men continue dying until there are only 13 survivors out of 2,000.  When one tries to flee the quarantined base like Charles Campion, he is shot down.  Seeing no alternative, Ward orders an atomic strike on the base.  Even though he was tossing back the hooch earlier.

Another meh episode, but surprisingly sophisticated for this dopey series.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I guess that was impressive in April 1952 when the record was 670 MPH.
  • [2] Whatever the hell that means.
  • Scotty from Star Trek is in here somewhere, but I could not pick him out.
  • IMDb and YouTube.

Tales of Tomorrow – Time to Go (04/18/52)

tttimetogo03It’s 11:30, do you know where your sofa, chair and bookcase are?  If you are Natalie, they are piled up in front of the door.  She next goes for the phone.  It is connected to the wall by some sort of cord, though, so she instead uses it to make a call looking for her husband Michael.  Even without Caller ID, he is able to avoid her call.  Shortly thereafter, Natalie does get a call from Michael.  He got a room at a hotel after they had a fight.

Natalie seems crazy as she says that someone is coming to get her.  And that he said he was going to “close her account” which seems a little too metaphorical even if she is being threatened by a rogue CPA.

Michael foolishly asks her what happened, when did it start, triggering a flashback. Seems like just 2 weeks ago . . .

Natalie gets a letter from a new bank in the neighborhood seeking “prompt, reliable depositors.”  They have no cash to spare, but apparently in the 1950’s people personally followed up on every piece of junk-mail, so she visits the bank.[1]

tttimetogo05She meets the temporally-named Mr. Tickton, the bank president, who assures her there has been no mistake.  This is a different kind of bank.  Besides actually being solvent, it takes deposits of time rather than money. For example, one customer found a new route to work so was able to bank a few extra minutes every day.  Many other male depositors cut their foreplay time in half.  Kudos to Tickton for being honest with Natalie, telling her that the bank staff is not of this world.

Their world is a million light years away with a civilization much like our own . . . except they are able to travel a million light years.  Their society has begun to crumble and decay; so I am starting to see the resemblance.  Their society needs this extra time to rebuild.  After depositing a minute here and an hour there over the years, Natalie would receive back her saved time plus interest at the end of her life in order to be a more prolonged burden on her children. It could be years!

tttimetogo09Natalie gets fanatic about saving time — doing her housework more quickly, skipping lunch, avoiding friends, getting rid of Michael’s dog. Natalie’s efficiency and dog-napping are too much for Michael — he walks out on Natalie.  After Michael drives off, Mr. Tickton makes a house-call.

He has come with bad news.  The transference of time back to his people is not going fast enough. Cosmic pressure and nebula gasses have made drastic action necessary.  Natalie’s account is being closed, and the fine print of the agreement allows them to “borrow” all the time remaining in her life.  She will die at midnight, but get to keep the toaster for opening her account.

Tickton shows up punctually that night to collect Natalie’s time.  There is some ambiguity in the way she is killed, but it was appropriately set-up . . . just not worth detailing.

tttimetogo18Kind of a goofy premise, but the kind of high-concept nonsense I like in my 1950’s sci-fi.  Tickton was suitably creepy and the bank was pretty surreal. For a change, the lack of budget was perfect for the stark set design.

I rate it 20 out of 24 hour.

Post-Post:

  • [1] To be fair, junk mail in the 1950’s would not have required a trip to Nigeria to meet the Prince.
  • Natalie (Sylvia Sidney) played Mama Carlson on WKRP.
  • Mr. Tickton was portrayed by Robert H. Harris, last seen in The Safe Place.
  • IMDb
  • YouTube