Tales of Tomorrow – Blunder (08/10/51)

The episode starts out with scenes of actual refugees displaced in WWII-ravaged Europe, wandering aimlessly, digging through garbage cans for food, sleeping in ruins.  I thought this was a pretty cavalier appropriation of reality for a hokey 1950’s sci-fi show.  Then the announcer revealed that this was an ad for CARE.[1]

In a primitive installation in the Arctic, Carl Evenson and his amazingly good sport of a wife are anxiously awaiting 9 pm when his life’s work will be put to the test.  He assures her that his Bismuth Fission experiment — a real thing, by the way — has only a 1 in 100 chance of triggering planetary Armageddon (although, on the bright side, at least Ben Affleck is not part of this one).

Evenson gets a call from some people who think maybe the odds might be a little too dicey just to supply Scandinavia with electricity.  Back in London, a couple of scientists are discussing newly declassified information that the experiment will set off an oxygen reaction, setting the entire planet on fire.   A colleague at an unnamed university in Princeton NJ  places the odds as only 1 in 200 . . . but the opposite way — a .5% chance that Evenson will NOT destroy the world.

Scientists all over the world try to reach Evenson to tell him the experiment will blow up in everyone’s face.  A faux-POW, if you will [2].  He refuses to take their calls.

A couple of them get together and fly to Scandinavia to try to reach him via his former co-workers.  When this doesn’t work, they fly to Antarctica.  As the episode begins just a few minutes before 9 pm according to the literally old clock on the literal wall, getting there by 9 pm was quite a feat of aviation; and driving to the airport.  Evenson might have better served science by checking out that airplane.

Finally it is 9 pm — why did they have to twiddle their thumbs to wait for that particular time?  Evenson walks over to a gigantic switch like the on/off switch I always hope to find under the hood of my car when it fails to proceed.  Then he presses down a plunger like the ones Bugs Bunny always uses to blow up Yosemite Sam (making him the first rabbit anti-yosemite) [3].

totblunder09Cut to stock footage of an A-bomb mushroom cloud . . . and unintended laughter.  So massive is this blast that it is felt immediately in New Jersey.  I’ll say this for Tales of Tomorrow — it takes no prisoners. Two episodes, and two times earth has been destroyed.

So, it’s kinda like Fail-Safe only without the great performances and suspense.  Evenson’s motivations aren’t even clear.  It is so cheap and well-intentioned, though, that I have to like it.


  • [1] The episode aired only 6 years after WWII, and 3 years into the Marshall Plan.  I didn’t know that the plan was also offered to the Soviets.  They refused the hand-out from our government and strongly suggested their allies do the same.  I have new-found respect for the Soviets; even higher than when Ukrainian girls started appearing on the internet.  Sure, they are Commies, but still morally superior to some banks and car companies I could name.
  • [2] Son of a bitch!  Another example of how it is bloody impossible to come up with something new.
  • [3] Son of a son of a bitch!  At least life before Google let you feel original even if it wasn’t true.
  • Antarctica was literally named for being the er, polar opposite of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic was named for a bear.  Antarctica should have been named for the penguin.
  • Available on YouTube.

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