Tag Archives: television

[February 2, 1963] Whither the Prodigal Son?  (Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 1-4)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]


by Gideon Marcus

Every year, the TV networks play musical chairs with their shows.  Some programs get canceled.  Others get revived.  Popular shows might get more attractive time slots; others might get demoted.  Last year, it looked as if The Twilight Zone had gone the way of the dodo after its third season.  In its place came the sitcom Fair Exchange (which I haven’t watched). 

Now, creator Rod Serling’s baby is back, albeit in a different form.  Now simply dubbed Twilight Zone, the show is an hour long, has a snazzy new title sequence, and it’s clear that Serling is no longer on set for shooting.  Rather than appearing as an integral part of each episode, as he did in Seasons 2 and 3, he instead appears to be pre- or post-filming his monologues elsewhere.

How did the first crop of Twilight Zone fare?  Let’s find out:

In His Image, by Charles Beaumont

A young man is plagued by blackouts and half-memories of murder.  When he takes his fiancee (whom he has known for all of four days) back to his home town that he left just a week before, he finds twenty years appear to have elapsed — and his family has no trace of existence at all.  Who is this man?  Where did he come from?  And what is the cause of his manic episodes?

George Grizzard gives a fine turn as the afflicted protagonist in a story that has more than one reveal.  While the pacing is a little slow, the course of the characters and the nuanced storytelling keeps it going for the expanded length of the show.  Four stars.

The Thirty Fathom Grave, by Rod Serling

Far less successful is this modern-day ghost tale set in the Pacific.  An American destroyer runs across a stranded submarine from which ominous tapping sounds emanate.  Simultaneously, the ship’s Chief Boatswain, a survivor of a sub drowning twenty years prior, feels he is being drawn to the wreck.  Turns out, of course, that the wreck is the Bos’n’s sub.

What might have been an effective half-hour show is padded to oblivion.  We get treated to the same exploratory diving sequence three times as a man in a tank plods on the side of a mock-up of an old sub.  Bad stuff.  One star.

Valley of the Shadow, by Charles Beaumont

A journalist stops for gas on the way to Albuquerque and discovers a reclusive town filled with wondrous technologies and tight-lipped citizens.  When he tries to leave, he finds himself a prisoner — possessing too much knowledge of the place’s secrets to ever rejoin civilization.

This is another show with far too much padding, compounded with a truly unlikable main character, though the premise is mildly interesting.  Two stars.

He’s Alive, by Rod Serling

The last of the quartet features a young Neo-Nazi, an American Brownshirt with a hatred of the non-White but a paradoxical fondness for an old Holocaust survivor.  This would-be dictator’s struggle toward prominence is directed by a mysterious man, his face shadowed.  This mentor speaks in a German accent, writhing his hands expressively, urging his protégé more deeply into depravity.  CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS MYSTERY MAN IS?

He’s Alive goes on too long.  Perhaps an hour too long.  One star.

So how does this new, longer format hold up?  Conceivably, a full hour allows more time allows for character and plot development.  On the other hand, it is highly unkind to the one-trick shows, forcing the lead-up to the payoff to be intolerably long.  Thus far, the score is 1-3.  The Young Traveler has already begged off watching this season, and I am tempted to follow.  We shall see…

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 20, 1963] The Big Freeze (news from a UK fan)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

The new year has brought snow. Lots of snow. So much snow that parts of Britain have been brought to a standstill. I thought last year was bad, but this year puts last years snow into perspective, in much the same way as downing a yard of ale as compared to a good old British pint of beer does.

And just to make things clear, when I say snow, I don’t mean a few fluffy flakes falling on London.

Parts of the country have been cut-off by the amount of snow that has fallen here. A blizzard left up to 20 feet of snow in some places. The BBC news shows images of the sort of thing one might see in some Hollywood extravaganza set in the Antarctic wastes.

One almost expects to see penguins or Polar bears. I could easily imagine Polar bears swimming here to enjoy our climate. It’s a snowpocalypse I tell you. Send food parcels now! 

OK, I jest, but not by much.

Really, it started snowing on Boxing Day and has continued to snow pretty much until now. A waterfall has frozen in Wales, I know Niagara Falls freezes, but this is Britain, we haven’t experienced these conditions for a very long time. How long ago you might ask? The Met Office says this has been the coldest January since 1814.

That’s a long time ago.

Also, the sea in Whitstable Bay froze. The sea water froze out to four miles at Dunkirk. I knew theoretically it can happen, but…

As I’m writing this, the forecast for tonight is for temperatures to drop to minus eight degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I work and live in London. So I may moan and grumble, but I don’t have to face the hardships of those people living in the countryside cut-off by snow drifts.

But, there is a promise of a thaw in a few days time. I can only hope that the Met Office is correct in their prediction.

I’m sure they’re right, after all, Cliff Richard’s new musical film, Summer Holiday, premiered the other week in London. Surely this presages warmer weather to come? Cliff Richard and The Shadows are a popular young persons band, for those who have not heard of him or them.

This is, as always, only the backdrop to the wonderful world of the science fiction, like myself and my friends in The London Circle.

Oh, what jolly japes and fun were had as we sat drinking, discussing the mood of the general population. We fans talked about stories set in snowy wastelands. Frankenstein was mentioned as the prime setting. Lovecraft’s, At the Mountains of Madness, was also deemed germane.

And, of course, the horror of starvation as food ran out with the railways and roads snowbound. SF fans have a great imaginations, and the amazing ability to create stories from whole cloth. It was almost like we were re-enacting the Shelley, Byron, and Polidori’s competition to write a scary story. 

Then somebody mentioned we’d all have to live by eating pork pies supplied by Brian Burgess. That leavened the tone of the conversation, making everyone present burst out in laughter. A laughter with a slight hollow ring to it, as anyone who has survived the experience one of eating one of Brian’s famous pork pies can attest.

Brian, a rather large man, who can appear intimidating when you first meet him, can best be described as one of fandoms great eccentrics. Which is saying something when it comes to fandom. Though, after thinking about it for a moment, British people in general can be rather eccentric. Or so my American friends tell me.

I blame the war, but war stories will have to wait for another time.

Last month I mention That Was The Week That Was. This month, in a more serious vein, befitting the serious weather we’re facing, another news show I recommend people to try and catch, if they can. The commercial broadcaster, Grenada Television, launched The World in Action. An unorthodox current affairs programme that investigates more thoroughly what That Was The Week That Was mocks.

Already there are rumblings in the House as the news team’s probing into underhand dealing and corruption threaten to expose the great and the good. I shall be making time to watch The World in Action and report back.

And on another serious note, the leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, died suddenly at the age of 56 from heart failure. His sudden passing has shocked the establishment, being labelled a national tragedy.

He was certainly a more moderate politician than some of his more left wing party colleagues, and I admired his appeals to reason. Though my psychological background always makes me doubt that such appeals will be effective. In the words taken from the short story collection, Assignment in Eternity, Robert Heinlein said, “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So that’s it for another month. I promise to wrap up warm and stay safe. You do the same, please.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[December 19, 1962] That Was the Month that Was (Christmas Cheer from a UK fan)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

And another year draws to a close with what promises to be a White Christmas after a foggy start to the month.  December has been a bad month for people with breathing problems living in London as the smog has been terrible.  So bad that it has been mentioned as a topic not only on the BBC news, where you’d expect it to be, but mocked in their new satirical weekly news show, That Was The Week That Was. But, before I delve into that show, allow me a few lines to remind people how serious this problem is.

The smog of 1952, called the Great Smog of London (which should be a clue to how bad it was) killed an estimated 4000 people, and caused respiratory complaints in another 100,000 more.  At its worst one could only see a few yards ahead, and it shut down the London Ambulance Service, which forced people to make their own way to hospital.  This pea-souper, a euphemism for thick fog, was so serious it led directly to the introduction of the Clean Air Act of 1956.

This year’s smog has not been, on any scale, as bad, but 90 people have died.  As someone who has suffered from bronchial problems, this has been personally worrying.  However, a few days ago the weather changed, and we had snow.  We’ve also been told to expect more very cold winds arriving from the East — a present from Siberia that quite frankly I could do without, but there again, anything is better than more smog.

And, looking on the bright side, it means this year there’s a good chance of London having a White Christmas.

Anyway, enough of the doom & gloom; there’s more entertaining things to talk about.  As I alluded to above, a new TV show aired at the end of November that, while not science fictional, I think will amuse and entertain SF fans on both sides of the Atlantic.  It’s called, That Was The Week That Was, fronted by David Frost.  It certainly seems to appeal to my acquaintances in London fandom.

The show is fearless, being outrageously funny, poking fun at the British establishment, satirising current political events and other relevant issues.  This is helped by having a very good cast.  I use the word “cast” advisedly.  While David Frost is a presenter, and Bernard Levine a journalist, and William Rushton a cartoonist, this is a news show that also features singers and actors, for example, Millicent Martin sings the opening theme tune, and David Kernan deliver witty musical interludes between the news.  The commentary on the news is also counterpointed through comedy sketches that send up British mores and social conventions using British actors like Lance Percival, Roy Kinnear, and Robert Lang.  I also recognized the American actor, Al Mancini, when he appeared, too.

I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that this show is ground breaking. 

Not only because it uses ironical humour to ridicule the stupidities and vices of the political establishment, but also because of the way format of the show and presentation is used to make the viewer feel part of the audience.  For example, the cameras are seen during the transmission of the programme, and are part of the presentation of the show.  It’s what might be called breaking the fourth wall, speaking directly to the viewer while still being framed within the context of a light entertainment show.

Psychologically it’s fascinating to see That Was The Week That Was breaking traditional TV conventions — this even extends to its running time, whose only constant seems to be that it runs to the length required to deliver show.  It must drive the people in charge of scheduling crazy. 

So, take a look at That Was The Week That Was if you get the chance.  It should be funny to folks on both sides of the Pond.  Certainly, some of the things it covers may go over American viewers’ heads, but if you want to understand Britain and our humour, it’s well worth catching this if you can.

Besides watching too much television recently (my only excuse being the weather as mentioned) I did manage to go and see David Lean’s new film, Lawrence of Arabia, on its opening night at the Odeon, Leicester Square.  I’ve been reliably informed it will be shown on American screens around the twentieth of this month.  There’s a lot of excitement over the film and the performance of Peter O’Toole as Lawrence. Many believe the film will be a strong contester in the next Oscar nominations.

Before I finish this month’s piece, because science is at the heart of science fiction, I want to congratulate the winners of two Nobel Prize science awards.

First, the British molecular biologists Dr. Francis Crick and Dr. Maurice Wilkins, who along with an American scientist Dr. James D. Watson, have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the molecular structure of nucleic acids, and the significant role the unique double helix structure plays in the transfer of genetic information in living organisms.

Second, the British biochemists Dr. Max Perutz and Dr. John Cowdery Kendrew who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in investigating the structure of haem-containing proteins.  Well done to both teams.

So, another exciting month has flown by, which leaves me with only one thing left to say, Merry Christmas from me to all of you reading this.




[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

One part of me wants to ask where has the year gone?  The other part of me say, what a year this has been for British science fiction.  A mere five years ago the idea of spaceship orbiting our world was the stuff of SF.  Sputnik changed all that.  Then Yuri Gagarin went into space in Vostok.  And, from that moment, the world of SF manifested into the minds of all mankind.  Not as some improbable fantasy, from starry eyed dreamers, but as reality arisen from technology; born of war, but turned into something greater.

Phew — and what a ride the last five years have been for SF.

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

So far, I have managed to watch all four episodes of Fireball that have come out, while babysitting my friend’s six year-old, who sits entranced by the show.  And what a show it is.  Seeing my friend’s son swept up in the excitement of space has been an eye-opener for me.  I’m used to the idea that people don’t get SF, unless they’re fans.  But now I’m seeing the first of a new generation for whom space is the new frontier. This means all the excitement and expectations that go with it are just a normal part of their lives.

So, let me introduce you to the cast of characters.  Steve Zodiac I’ve already mentioned, and he leads a crew of three.  Doctor Venus is Fireball XL5’s resident space medic for when things go wrong.  Professor ‘Matt’ Mattic is the ship’s engineer and scientist.  And this being a show set in the future, the final member of the crew is Robert the Robot, invented/made by the aforementioned Professor Mattic.

As an aside, for those interested, Doctor Venus is voiced by Sylvia Anderson, and Robbie’s voice is artificially generated by Gerry Anderson using a ‘vibrator’ mechanism used for those unfortunates who have had throat cancer and have had their larynx removed.

In addition, Fireball XL5 acquires a pet/ship’s mascot in the form of Zoonie the Lazoon, who is mildly telepathic and can mimic human speech, which is played for comic relief.  Essentially an intelligent talking dog.  The young lad I watch over is totally immersed in the adventures that put the crew of Fireball XL5 into peril — a lesson that stories which provoke strong emotional reactions are engrossing.

In addition to the crew of Fireball XL5, there are two other regular supporting characters.  The first is Commander Wilbur Zero, Commander-in-Chief of the World Space Patrol, and Lieutenant Ninety, his assistant Space City controller.  That’s quite a cast of characters to remember, but my friend’s son seems to have their names down pat.

Of course intrepid heroes need villains.  The first ones we meet are the Subterrains introduced in the opening episode Planet 46, who have launched a ‘planetomic’ missile at Earth.  Boo, hiss.  And who we know are fiendish, because when they capture Doctor Venus they launch another missile with her aboard.  Fortunately, Zodiac, Robbie and the Professor save the day.

Episode two, The Doomed Planet, starts in media res with the crew avoiding a rogue planet that has been flung out of its orbit.  This planet is now on a collision course with another world, which the crew assumes is uninhabited.  It’s also the first time we see Zoonie, who is introduced as a pet Doctor Venus has had for three months, which I thought was a rather neat story telling trick.  No doubt that Zoonie will get more backstory later, as the series progresses.  The story continues with the reveal that a UFO, from said uninhabited planet, has followed them back to Earth.  After pursuing the UFO the crew of Fireball XL5 save the doomed planet by destroying the rogue one that we met at the beginning of the episode.  All very exciting.

The next episode, Space Immigrants, has a spaceship called the Mayflower III going to start a new colony that’s 236 light years away from Earth.  But the planet is occupied by the villainous Lillispatians, who consider humans beings savages, and who intend to enslave the colonists.  However, their name should be a clue to one part of the dénouement, which ends with Steve Zodiac using Zoonie to save the day, because to the Lillispatians, the cute Lazoon is a ferocious monster.

The most recent episode, Plant Man from Space, has Professor Matic’s old ‘friend’ Dr. Rootes attempt to take over the Earth with the eponymous plant man.  Which as you can imagine has a combination of excitement and comedy to entertain the younger viewer.

While one could criticize some of the dialogue and characterization of Fireball XL5 as, dare I say, wooden, there is a lot to commend about this show.  Steve Zodiac may be the hero with a robotic side-kick, but Doctor Venus, even though put upon by some of the supporting male characters, shows that she is a capable doctor and leader too.

There are more episodes to come, and the opening and closing music for Fireball XL5 is rather compelling.  The opening credit sequence has a rather nice dirty jazz saxophone, while the end theme song, Fireball sung by Don Spencer will (I have it on good authority) be released as a single.  Also, while talking about pop songs, or ‘pop-pickers’, I must draw your attention to a four piece beat combo called the Beatles, and their catchy new single Love me Do that I heard on the show Pick of the Pops presented by Alan Freeman.

And finally, to finish my piece this month, I would like to mention the introduction of the Ford Mark 1 Cortina, which is quite stunningly pretty.  Ford have managed to encapsulate the American penchant for futuristic looking fins into a car that suits British sensibilities.  If I had the need to buy a new vehicle, this would be on my list of cars to look at.

So, another exciting month has flown by, which leaves me with only one thing left to say, Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!




[November 8, 1962] Late Night with the Journey (Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin… and Steve Allen!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Lucas

When I got back from Stanford in June, I was ready for a little TV.  I didn’t take one to school and didn’t have time to watch it anyway.  I worked most of the time I wasn’t in class or doing homework so I could stay in school.  I got a student loan, and paying off that and paying the mortgage on my mother’s house where I lived is difficult, so I type papers and theses here. 

I’m often also at work evenings—my salary includes coming to work on weekends so I can run the box office for the Drama Department where I’m the secretary—and if I’m not doing that I often work on community productions, like the ones for Playbox or the dinner theatre, or act as a “clacker” for the Drama Department productions or others (clapping and laughing loudly).  And I go to concerts.

About the only time I have to watch TV is late at night — after I can’t type any more, the rehearsals are over, the concerts done with, the occasional parties over, the box office closed and plays over.  I used to watch Jack Paar on “The Tonight Show,” but I understand he walked out, and his last show was March 29.  I don’t know, I guess I tried some of the guest-hosts (Merv Griffin, Arlene Francis, et al.) they had on in his place, but none I watched caught my fancy.  (Griffin went into daytime TV, interviewing people.)

I understand Johnny Carson finally replaced Paar October 1.  But he didn’t catch my fancy either.  I think only of seeing him in “Who Do You Trust?” his daytime show I would see when sick at home with the TV for company, and I don’t like the way he mocks housewives.

So I twiddled the dial and into my room at the back of the house walked Steve Allen, laughing.  He used to be the host for “The Tonight Show.” In fact, he started the thing.  But now he has the theatre where the show is taped named after him and can do pretty much anything he wants.  Carson wears tailored suits that look expensive and his humor—what there is of it—is deadpan.  That’s OK, but by the time I turn on the TV at night I want laughter, lots of it.  I want Steve Allen yelling “SMOCK SMOCK” back at the audience when they make bird noises at him.  I don’t mind if he dives into a pool full of Jello or his other opening stunts.  (It gives me time to get settled until the screaming dies down.) I want Steve Allen leaving the studio to accost some unsuspecting passers by on the streets outside or at the very least making fun of the people at Hollywood and Vine. 

OK, there’s an occasional guest, but between guests and his piano music, he laughs and does crazy stuff and breaks himself up laughing when he sees himself on a monitor.  And I love it when he has his wife Jayne Meadows on.  One word that has been applied to him explains why I like to watch Allen: unpredictable.  I like music that surprises me, theatre/movies with endings I can’t foretell, jokes with punchlines I can’t anticipate.  Wrap all that up with intelligence, eloquence, musicianship, and a sense of humor that won’t quit, and you’ve got Steve Allen.  If you aren’t watching him already, I suggest you start.

Incidentally, Lionel Van Deerlin won his seat in the California election for the 37th District Tuesday.  I didn’t stay up eating a pomegranate while waiting for election results the way I used to when I was younger, but kept an ear out for the results.  Remember, he’s the guy who was newscaster and news director for local television after an unsuccessful run for Congress 4 years ago.  It’ll be interesting to see what a Democrat from the usually Republican San Diego will do for a change.

[Sadly, but expectedly, the unincorporated community of Vista will be represented henceforth by James B. Utt, who is somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun.  At least Governor Brown trounced Tricky Dick! (Ed.)]




[Sep. 20, 1962] Out of this World (the British Summer SF hit!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

The end of summer has come, and autumn is upon us.  The result of the Earth’s journey around the sun, and as my esteemed colleague Mr. Mark Yon said, the weather here has been wet.  Sometimes we get good summers, but this year was not one of those, the icing on the cake being a miserable August Bank Holiday weekend after the weekend before’s promising sunny day.  But, Whether the weather be fine, Or whether the weather be not, here on Galactic Journey we will weather the weather to bring you the latest Sci-Fi news from soggy Britain.

This coming Saturday will see the last episode of Out of this World, which has made staying in on a Saturday night something to look forward to, rather than something that indicates one has no friends or better things to do.  Though to be fair, I’ve been babysitting for my friend, which I enjoy doing.

As I mentioned before, this series was launched with Dumb Martian shown as part of the Armchair Theatre series.  The new series has a very spooky theme tune called The Concerto to the Stars, composed by Eric Siday, which plays against a background of moving microscopic tentacles that sets the tone for the show.  For those who are interested, Tony Hatch has expanded the theme tune into very catchy 45 record, available from all good record stores.

The format of the show has each episode introduced by Boris Karloff, who is disarmingly charming with his bon mots about the story to come.  There are two breaks for adverts, which is annoying, but this is commercial TV, so it is to be expected.  Then Mr. Karloff signs off the story with an announcement of the cast.

The first actual episode shown under the banner Out of this World was the Yellow Pill by Rog Phillips, which was a story that explored the nature of reality and delusions.  As someone who works in the field of mental health, this was of particular interest to me, and it was interesting to see an author’s take on the subject.  The paradoxical ending pulled the rug from underneath the viewers’ feet.  It launched the series, pulling in eleven million viewers, which placed it as the eleventh highest rated show of the week.

Remarkable for any first episode of a series, let alone one advertising itself as science fiction.

The second story was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Little Lost Robot, whose robot stories featuring Dr. Susan Calvin are some of my favourite SF reads.  While the adaptation is very good, it is a trifle over-cooked, and the ending of the story has been changed so that the robot kills the person who told it to get lost when it is found out.  This goes against Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and is a failure of Leo Lehman to understand the story.  Still, a compelling piece, despite this egregious ending.

The third episode is a much truer adaptation, based on the Cold Equations by Tom Godwin.  There’s not much I can tell you that you all don’t already know about this story of a spaceship with a stowaway.  The play has the rather suave Peter Wyngarde, who was seen earlier this year in the film Night of the Eagle aka Burn Witch Burn, acting alongside a very young actress called Jane Asher.  Her biography mentions that when she was a child she appeared in The Quatermass Xperiment. This was the Hammer Films adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s story that I have mentioned on several previous occasions.

Episode four’s story was Imposter by Philip K. Dick.  A famous piece that, again, should not need an introduction by me.  It’s a classic tale of paranoia adapted for television by Terry Nation, who I mention in passing because he contributes one of the two original stories for this series.  Judging by his story Botany Bay, which was transmitted the following week, he is someone to keep an eye on.

Botany Bay was a story with twists that were disturbing in their implication, set in a psychiatric institution.  The setting alone grabbed me from the start, and the central conceit of alien criminals transferring their minds into the minds of the patients in the asylum set the tone, making the sinister story feel like something from Philip K. Dick.  The denouement that this wasn’t Earth, and the intruders were from Earth, was shocking.

Medicine Show by Robert Moore Williams is a story about two doctors who are alien miracle workers who take payment from their patients in the form of seeds.  Again, this adaptation veers a little off course as it tonally makes it all rather more mystical than the original story, but it feels fresh, and I suspect it will appeal to younger people’s sensibilities.

Episode seven is an adaptation of Katherine Maclean’s, Pictures Don’t Lie.  I loved this story of aliens spaceship travelling here, peacefully announcing their intentions and talking to the people on Earth, which then goes all horribly wrong, because of scale.  They’re really, really tiny, and are lost after they land in what they describe as a marsh.  The humans who go out to search for them fail to see the microscopic alien ship and tragically destroy the visitors from another world when they step on them by accident.

Vanishing Act by Richard Waring, is an original play for Out of this World.  It turns down intensity of the previous week’s tragedy by presenting a comedy (if one may call it that?) The protagonist, a conjuror in search of the late magician Great Vorg’s lost vanishing-cabinet, finds himself getting far more than he bargained for.

The next episode goes back to the more paranoid-conspiracy tone with an adaptation of Raymond F. Jones’s Divided We Fall.  I remember him as the author of This Island Earth — only from the film because I’ve not read any of his stories.  This play presents the intriguing problem of how to tell synthetic humans that are indistinguishable from everyone else.  It features the charming Ann Bell, an actress unknown to me, who I suspect will go far in her career.  Also, this story reminds me of the film The Creation of the Humanoids, reviewed here by fellow columnist Miss Rosemary Benton.

Episode ten, The Dark Star, by Frank Crisp was based on his novel Ape of London.  He’s better known for his children’s adventure books, but this is a credible story about what happens when people get superhuman strength from a disease that chooses its victims according to their standing in society.  I’ve not read the novel, so I can’t comment on how close to the original story this adaptation is.

Clifford D. Simak has not one, but two of his short stories adapted for Out of this World.  The first, Immigrant, is about the planet Kimon, a paradise where people go — never to return again.  A nice story that builds up the tension, ladles on despair, and finishes with an uplifting ending.

However, the second Simak story, Target Generation, based on his story Spacebred Generations, was my personal favourite.  It’s a generation-ship story where the descendants of the crew are ignorant of the fact that they are on a starship.  The hero has to figure what to do with a key that was handed down to him by father with the instructions “only to be used in an emergency.”  With the help of a forbidden dictionary he has to learn how to land the ship.  Gripping stuff, even if it’s a well-worn story; seeing it televised just made it better than it had any right to be.

The final story of the series is on this coming Saturday and titled, The Tycoons by Arthur Sellings.  This is a pseudonym of Arthur Gordon Ley, who is a former scientist turned author, and also known as a bookseller.  I’ve only read this weeks Radio Times blurb, so all I can tell you is that it’s a story of three aliens coming here to make a weapon to take over the Earth, billed as a comedy.

Well, this was an excellent summer-time show, but as you know Irene Shubik and Sydney Newman have gone to the BBC, so I fear we will not see a sequel, which is a shame because every Saturday night it managed to knock me Out of this World for the hour it was on.  Perhaps the American audience will be lucky to see it imported, as I understand Supercar was this Summer, and Danger Man the Summer before.




[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The Fall season of television is nearly upon us, so it is appropriate that we pause to reflect on what the Idiot Box has brought us recently.  May of last year, Newton Minow, our (relatively) new FCC chief, described television as “The Vast Wasteland.”  While it may have its moments of education, quality, and even sublimity, he argued, the majority of the stuff you see, network or syndicated, will turn your brain to mush.

I imagine anyone exposing themselves 24 hours a day to every game show, every variety act, every soap opera would make a similar assessment.  But what about the selective viewer?  The one who rewards only quality with her/his eyeballs?  And has there been improvement since Minow made his judgment?

Now, I normally restrict my reviews to things SFnal (science fictional for the non-fan), but over the last year, I’ve found myself in front of the small screen more hours than I’d normally care to admit.  And since a subsection of my followers are, perversely, as interested in my humdrum 1962 life as they are in my analysis, I thought I’d give you insight as to what shows keep the Traveller’s tube aglow.

So here are the Galactic Stars, 1961-62 TV edition, covering the television season that ended back in June and has since been in summer reruns.  Many of these programs will continue into the Fall season, so consider this a Galactic TV Guide:

Route 66 1960-

Ever since Eisenhower paved the nation with the Interstate Highway system, Route 66, “America’s Main Street” has declined in importance.  Nevertheless, this national artery will likely always hold a nostalgic hold on our consciousness.  It represents a path to anywheresville, an open road with no limits.  Where the destination isn’t the state of Arizona or Iowa, but rather a state of mind, arrived at only after a long, contemplative journey.

On that road is a Corvette; in that Corvette are Todd Stiles, an erudite Yale ex-pat, and Buzz Murdock, a hard-knocked but soulful kid from New York.  Handsome wanderers (especially the latter!) trying to find themselves, in a myriad towns, a plethora of menial jobs.  They are Kerouac’s Beat Generation set to celluloid, their dialogue filled with poetry and meaning.

There is a formula to the show, albeit one that has lent itself to infinite variation.  Each episode features a new town, a new occupation.  Usually, a local is in some kind of trouble.  Maybe it’s physical danger.  Sometimes they just need to find where their head is at.  There are romances, comedies, hard-hitting dramas…the show runs the gamut.  But ever constant is the chemistry of the two leads, their individual charisma (again, particularly Murdock), the lyricism of the scripts, and the backdrop of our vast country. 

It can be maudlin, it can even sometimes be dull, but it’s usually beautiful.  Always worth a watch.

The Twilight Zone 1960-62

Speaking of literary, Rod Serling pinned the quality bar to the ceiling with this sci-fi/fantasy/horror anthology, blowing the doors off inferior (but still appreciated) precursors like Karloff’s Thriller and Dahl’s Way Out.  Of course, this is a show we’ve covered extensively here at the Journey, but it’s still worth noting what an impact Serling’s creation had on television.  It represents an intersection of innovation, a showcase for writing, acting, cinematography, and scoring.  Even at its worst, it was still decent; at its best, there was no equal.

And now it’s gone.  At the end of the third seaon, Rod decided he was “storied out,” and left to take a professorship at Antioch College; producer Buck Houghton went off to work with television production company, Four Stars.  There’s no sponsor in sight for Season Four. 

However, with nearly a hundred episodes in the can, there’s no doubt that The Twilight Zone will find its way into syndication, where it can continue to inspire.  Perhaps there will be a revival someday.  If not, we can at least hope that future shows will strive to top Serling’s bar, and television will be the better for it. 

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends 1959-

The Traveler watches cartoons?  Don’t scoff.  Ever since the days of Warner Brothers, there has been animation aimed simultaneously at the young as well as the old.  Stuff that combines the rapid slapstick that kids like with witty repartee and sly entendres designed to entertain their parents.

Rocky is a variety show, filled with wacky characters, surprisingly funny puns, and a breakneck pace that will leave you winded.  Indifferently animated, it’s superbly voice-acted.  Whether you’re watching the serial antics of the title’s flying squirrel and moronic moose, or the Silent Era-inspired tales of Mountie Dudley DooRight, or the often painfully punful Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son, you will definitely laugh out loud at least once per segment — probably more.  It may well be the cleverest thing currently on television.

The Andy Griffith Show 1960-

Now here’s one I honestly didn’t expect to have on my favorites list.  It sounds pretty awful on the face of it: a comedy set in a backwoods town that never quite got out of the 1930s, featuring a drawly sheriff and his bumpkin deputy. 

And yet…

There’s something gentle and honest about this show.  It doesn’t rush, it doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh, and under Sheriff Andy Taylor’s rustic aw-shucks exterior is surprising wisdom and intelligence.  Moreover, the interpersonal relationships are mature, healthy ones — even a bit subversively so.

Take, for instance, this (paraphrased) interchange between Andy and his precocious little boy, Opie:

Opie: Pa, I have something to tell you.  You promise not to be mad?
Andy: I can’t promise that.  What is it?
Opie: Well, I put a ball through our neighbor’s window the other day.  Are you mad?
Andy: No, I’m not mad.  Now I have something to tell you, and you promise not to be mad?
Opie: No, pa.
Andy: Well there won’t be an allowance until the window’s all paid up, do you understand?
Opie: Yes, pa.

No moralizing.  No mawkish father-knows-best.  Certainly no spankings.  Just a discussion between reasonable people.  And if you saw my review of the episode where Andy’s girlfriend, the town pharmacist, runs for mayor, you know the show can be decidedly pro-feminist, too.  Now if they’d only tell where they keep the non-White people…

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

Then there’s the rest…some watchable like Perry Mason (a lawyer/mystery show), The Real McCoys (Okies in Los Angeles), Ozzie and Harriet (dig that Ricky Nelson’s singing), and Leave it to Beaver.  Others wretched like My Three Sons and the endless cavalcade of Westerns (Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, etc.) Not to mention the Game Shows like Password, To Tell the Truth, and What’s My Line.

Hmmm.  Maybe Minow’s got something there.  Still, there’s at least ten hours a week of good TV (including the news and occasional Public Television specials like Jazz Casual and last year’s documentary on homosexuality, The Rejected).

And if you’re watching more than ten hours a week instead of reading that stack of sf books and magazines I’ve recommended, well…

…you deserve what you get!

[August 20, 1962] A Galaxy of Choices (British TV: The Andromeda Breakthrough)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Science fiction on British television used to be one of those once-in-a-blue-moon events.  When it happened, what we got could often be very good.  Certainly Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series was compelling viewing, which drew in a large audience from the general population with millions tuning in each week to find out the fate of the infected astronauts.

The impact of Quatermass cannot be over stated, the name having taken root in the British public’s imagination.  And, now we have a sequel to A for Andromeda, which I reported on last year, to carry the torch for science fiction on British TV, which also looks like it will enter public’s lexicon.  With the additional transmission of the anthology show, Out of this World, we seem to be entering a golden age of science fiction on television.

For those unfamiliar with A for Andromeda, let me do a recap.  The first series, a story set in the future circa 1972, was about a group of scientists building a super computer for the military made from plans decoded from a signal sent from the Andromeda galaxy.  This signal is a Trojan horse designed to take over our planet by creating an artificial human called Andromeda that the computer can control.  It’s all very clever how this is revealed, and when the hero, Dr. Fleming, discovers that Andromeda is a slave of the computer he saves her by destroying the computer with an axe.  Andromeda then burns the plans for the computer, and together they try to make their escape.  Unfortunately, she falls into a pool and apparently dies, while Dr. Fleming is captured by Army personnel.

The Andromeda Breakthrough therefore has to square the circle of how to carry on the story without undermining the climax of the first series.

It should be noted that Andromeda was played by Julie Christie in the first series.  This was a breakout role for her, and as a result she was cast in the film Billy Liar, and was too busy to reprise her role.  So the role was recast, with Susan Hampshire playing Andromeda for the sequel, who is generally referred to as Andre during the story.

The opening episode, Cold Front, starts with a shot of Dr. Fleming being unceremoniously brought back to the base in the back of a British Army Land Rover.  From there we are given a précis of what happened before.  The reveal that Andromeda had not drowned in the pool comes after the Army reports that they dragged the pool and didn’t find a body.  This is quite an effective way of introducing Susan Hampshire playing a traumatized Andromeda.  From there the plot proceeds apace as Fleming absconds with Andromeda to a remote Scottish isle.  But, after some dramatic shenanigans with lots of to-ing and fro-ing, they are captured by the British government.

The second episode, Gale Warning, ramps up the tension with the shadowy Intel Consortium, a multi-national corporation with lots of fingers in many pots.  It is revealed they have copies of everything that our heroes assumed they destroyed, and their own version of the computer.  They now want Fleming and Andromeda to complete their package.

Amongst all the action, the main plot is revealed: the weather of the world is changing, and not for the better, with storms increasing in both number and intensity.  Skullduggery proceeds as the agents of the Intel Consortium, led by Mr. Kauffman from Dusseldorf, eliminates loose ends and brings Fleming and Andromeda to Intel’s facility based in the newly independent middle-eastern country of Azaran.

Episode three, Azaran Forecast, now has Andromeda talking to the new computer, and the plot thickens as Fleming and her are reunited with Dr. Madeleine Dawnay, the biochemist who helped create Andromeda.  The Intel Consortium want the three of them to work for them as part of a plan to feed the world. The strangeness of what is happening to the world’s weather comes to the fore, and we discover that Andromeda’s health is failing.  Fleming and Dawney race to develop a formula to restore Andromeda, who is deciphering the signals from the computer, to health — but can the Earth be saved from what is happening?

The fourth episode, Storm Centres, has the Intel Consortium backing a military coup in Azaran because they are evil, which we know because only an evil corporation would murder people to further its agenda.  We are also shown the world being ravaged by storms, as the weather creates chaos through starvation and droughts.  Conflicts over food become wars as governments try maintain order

Episode five, Hurricane, piles on the effects of the changing weather, and the destruction of the world as we know it.  The scientists realize that an alien enzyme released by accident, flushed down the sink by Fleming in the first series, is behind the Earth’s atmosphere becoming thinner, which is what is driving the climate change.  Intel use this to get our heroes to develop a solution, which can be marketed to make the consortium money.  However, these plans are hanging in the balance as a counter-revolution occurs that overthrows the Intel Consortium.

The final episode is called Roman Peace.  The episode title is a reference to the peace that comes after war.  The series denouement is that mankind must be free to make its own mistakes, if it wants to save itself, and not rely on the hidden message within the message from Andromeda, which turns out to be a cunning alien plan to socially engineer mankind’s survival.  I have to say that I was swept along by the story, and having to wait each week for the next episode kept me fully engaged with the plot.  However, on reflection, mostly from writing this piece in fact, I have to say it all feels a bit melodramatic.  But, still a lot of fun to watch.

Nevertheless, mustn’t grumble because there are still five more episodes of Out of this World to come, and I can say that so far, the standalone stories have been well worth viewing.  Next month I will write up my thoughts for you all to read.  Until then, keep watching the skies.




[June 28, 1962] A is for Armchair Theatre (Out of this World – UK’s new sff anthology)


By Ashley R. Pollard

It seems that television science fiction serials on British TV are like waiting at the bus stop for a London bus to arrive.  You don’t see one for ages, and when you do, three turn up at once. 

Therefore I am quite excited by the announcement of a new SF anthology series called Out of this World.  So excited in fact that when I heard the news, I had to sit down, and then have a nice cup of tea to calm down.  While it’s always good to see SF stories on television, the announcement of a series is also a portent of more to come.

As I understand it, Dumb Martian, which I saw this week, was going to be the story used to launch the new Out of this World series.  But, it was decided that instead it would be shown as part of the very popular Armchair Theatre series, as a way of advertising the new show.  The plan being to entice viewers who may not otherwise have switched on their television sets to watch science fiction to do so.

A sign that we still have a way to go before SF is seen as a genre that can stand on its own merits.

For those who don’t know, the Armchair Theatre is ITV’s prestigious long running series, which has been on air since 1956.  Part of this show’s remit has always been to bring quality “live drama” to the small screen.  Live drama is a euphemism for transmitting and recording a performance while it is being performed, rather than it being recorded and edited for transmission later on.  Currently Armchair Theatre is produced by Sydney Newman, a Canadian, who has taken the show into the top ten shows during his tenure.

The show has aired the occasional SF inspired story over the years like for example, The Omega Mystery, and The Ship That Couldn’t Stop.  Last December Armchair Theatre aired the Murder Club, which was an adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s short story The Seventh Victim.  It starred Richard Briers, an affable young actor, who first came to the public’s attention for starring in the sitcom Marriage Line.  I understand that the success of this adaptation led to the idea for an SF version of Armchair Theatre, which is good news indeed.

Also, as an aside, I have it on good authority that Sydney Newman has been head hunted by the BBC, which is also startling news.

To give some context for my American readers, the BBC is the state owned channel, while ITV is a commercial enterprise.  Usually ITV has more money to lure people away from our state run TV, so this is a coup for the BBC.  And for those avid followers of these reports, you may remember my article in April of last year where I mentioned a show called The Avengers, which Mr. Newman also produced.  With a second series of The Avengers coming in September his credentials for producing successful stories for television are solid.

So, please excuse my digression, but as I said I’m quite excited to be seeing SF on the small screen, having read so much about The Twilight Zone in this ‘zine.  Besides, it’s not everyday that a new SF TV series has a woman at the helm.  Irene Shubik is Out of this World’s story editor, who I know has approached John Carnell of New Worlds for ideas of stories to adapt.

Anyway, coming back to the Dumb Martian, this is a story about what happens when a spaceman purchases a Martian bride to accompany him on a five year tour of duty on a “wayload” station on the moon Callisto in Jupiter space.  He mistreats her, and we find out what happens when she turns out not to be so dumb as he had assumed.  The play ended with Boris Karloff introducing himself as the new host for Out of the World and setting the scene for Armchair Theatre’s spin-off series.

Also, what a coup to get Boris Karloff to act as the host.  His presence brings a certain quality to show, hinting that horror may be a theme, which should draw in his fans and open the show’s appeal to a wider audience.

Next week, we now have not one but two new SF series gracing the small screen.  The other being the much anticipated sequel to A for Andromeda called The Andromeda Breakthrough, I shall be reviewing them both next month.  Also, I will be giving my reaction to watching the film adaptation of the Day of the Triffids, which brings John Wyndham’s popular novel to the big screen too.

[June 5, 1962] Into the Sunset (the End of The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Lorelei Marcus

You hear that? That’s the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe its also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I’d like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The first ones I would like to honor, of course, were the two recent five star rated episodes, Little Girl Lost and The Fugitive. Truly spectacular works that were the perfect balance of peculiar, creepy, and heartwarming. Next I would like to honor The Mirror in its complete awfulness. It was really terrible, in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Finally, I would like to say something about Time Enough at Last and It’s a Good Life, because I know people are going to be asking about them. Time Enough had an interesting setup and conflict, however I didn’t like the ending at all. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for happy endings, but just having his glasses break seemed like a cheap cop-out rather than an actual twist. It’s a Good Life also had an interesting setup, however from there it just went downhill for me. There wasn’t really a message I got out of it other than “don’t spoil your kids,” which I assume was not the intended theme. At least I don’t have to babysit the kid. If you’d like to see full reviews of all the episodes I just mentioned, and more, just peruse past articles of Galactic Journey with The Twilight Zone in the title.

Alright, enough talk about episodes I’ve already reviewed; let’s talk about the last four episodes. Which just so happen to be the literal last four episodes of The Twilight Zone:

Young Man’s Fancy, by Richard Matheson

We start off with a more Season One style episode. A newlywed couple goes to the husband’s dead mother’s house to pack and get ready to sell it. It becomes clear fairly quickly that the husband is still clinging to the house and the memory of his mother. The wife, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, relieved she can finally have her husband all to herself. Throughout the episode, certain strange things keep happening around the wife, such as a broken clock starting to work again, and a modern vacuum magically changing into a much older one. It seems as if the ghost of the husband’s mother is malicious and trying to scare the wife off. The episode ends with a twist that neither me nor my father predicted for once, so that was a nice surprise. However I am still a little confused by the ending as well, and haven’t really been able to decide what it means. I’d love to hear some feedback of what you think. I give this 3 stars.

I sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury

This second episode was a bit of a contrast to the first one. It was very touching and I found it very enjoyable to watch. It’s about a single father struggling to raise three unhappy children. Everyone misses the mother of the family very much. Luckily, they’re just so happens to be a company that makes robotic caretakers that are perfect for a lonely household! Of course the family heads over to check them out. From this point until near the end of the episode, I was convinced the twist would be that something terrible was going to happen. This idea was only reinforced by the infinitely creepy salesman and his “create your own person” type product. Still, the episode proved me wrong and ended very sweetly. I would highly recommend that you would watch this episode on a bad day, it has a very happy ending and theme, that I think will cheer you up. I give this episode a whopping 4.5 stars!

[Gwyn, our fashion columnist felt similarly (ED)]

Cavender is Coming, by Rod Serling

The third episode was about a clumsy but charming woman who couldn’t keep a job if her life depended on it, and her 24-hour guardian angel, who isn’t so great himself. The Angel tries to make the woman happy by giving her lots of money, but in the end, of course she wants to go back to her old, silly life. Hmmm, this plot sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? That’s probably because it’s the exact same plot as Mr. Bevis except done worse. I won’t bother to go into detail about my opinions on this episode, since it would be the same as my father’s review of Mr. Bevis. I give it 2.5 stars.

Changing of the Guard, by Rod Serling

Unfortunately, this final episode is not the big awesome finale I think some of us were hoping for. In fact, I was actually having trouble remembering the episode when sitting down to write this review! The entire plot can be summarized to about two sentences. Teacher gets fired and is depressed. Gets told he’s done a lot for the world, and becomes no longer depressed. Now imagine that, but drawn out into 22, very slow minutes. However, I did realize while writing this article, that this final episode had a deeper meaning. The teacher realizes at the end that, it is his time to retire and let a new teacher in. He has left a great mark on the world and will not be forgotten, however he is also done and it is his time to step out of the light. In a way, this is a metaphor for The Twilight Zone. It has had a long, good run, and I imagine it will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, it is time for it to end, as all things must do, and give room for new amazing shows to come. I will still only give this episode 2 stars, because it was incredibly boring, but it did give this for me to think about.

I have the final average of 3 stars. A nice middle to end on. Not particularly good, but at least not too bad either. I will miss you Twilight Zone, but I’m also glad it’s over. Besides, I need to make room for all the fantastic summer blockbusters yet to come. Until then,

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.


by Gideon Marcus

And here’s the Old Traveler..er..the Just Plain Traveler signing in.  My two-and-a-half cents:

Young Man’s Fancy was tedious, though the final twist was somewhat interesting.  Two stars.

I liked I sing the Body Electric less that my youthful counterpart.  It’s a fantasy, not science fiction, and perhaps would been better framed in that context.  But David White (the father) is quite an excellent actor, and young Veronica Cartwright (the eldest sibling) did a fine job.  Josephine Hutchinson, in the Mary Poppins role, somehow left me cold.  Three stars.

Cavender is Coming fell incredibly flat, some of the blame I must lay at Jesse White’s (Cavender) feet.  Two stars.

Changing of the Guard features an excellent performance by British actor, Donald Pleasence, but the soliloquies are all 20% too long, and the “twist” broadly telegraphed.  2.5 stars.

Thus, for me, The Twilight Zone ends with a whimper, and I suspect there is truth to the rumor that the show has failed to get a sponsor for next season.  Nevertheless, however spotty this final run has been, we must still give Serling his due for creating a revolutionary anthology show, one which will rightly be remembered (and hopefully imitated) for years to come.