By Carl Slaughter: Mike Resnick, in his latest column for Galaxy’s Edge, reminisces about the 1950s science fiction television series Science Fiction Theater. This is significant since Resnick is famous for giving up on television when he started writing award-winning speculative fiction and hasn’t watched an hour of television in 35 years.
Finally, for her birthday, I got Carol a complete set of bootleg DVDs of the fondly-remembered but never-released two-year, seventy-eight episode run of Science Fiction Theater from 1955 to 1957, a time when most purported science fiction movies were actually anti-science and usually ended with lines such as “There are some things man was not meant to know.”
Science Fiction Theater was like a breath of fresh air, because it was clearly of the opinion that there is nothing man wasn’t meant to know or learn. Each of these shows was introduced by Truman Bradley in a state-of-the-art lab (circa 1955) that I would kill to play in. He’d show a couple of related cutting-edge experiments, and then explain that the episode you were about to see extrapolated from the experiments he’d just demonstrated. No stars at all.
Well, there were a few stars. The second episode of the first season of Science Fiction Theater, “Time Is Just a Place,” starred Warren Stevens of Forbidden Planet fame. It was an adaptation of a short story, “Such Interesting Neighbors,” by Jack Finney of Invasion of the Body Snatchers fame and Of Missing Persons fame.
The main character, played superbly by Stevens, pretends to be an inventor to explain his amazing gadgets. He is from the future and shares with his neighbor a proposed science fiction story. This science fiction story within a science fiction story is the main character’s life story in coded form. The neighbor realizes the implications and plays along, asking questions about the proposed science fiction story to surreptitiously gather information about the future.
I also recall an episode entitled “Operation Flypaper” starring the late great speculative fiction actor Vincent Price.
Most of these episodes are available on YouTube — here’s a playlist.