Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 25 (People Are Alike All Over)

It occurred to me once that if life did develop elsewhere, there’s no reason to believe that it would look anything like life on Earth.  Just look at how diverse stuff is here.  We have plants, single-celled organisms, fish, primates and all manner of other carbon-based life forms.  Life elsewhere could look like anything.  It doesn’t even necessarily have to use DNA.  The reason TV and movies often have humanoid life, of course, is that it’s usually easier to hire a human actor and use that form as a template.

Sam Conrad is worried about going into space.  He’s a biologist, after all, and only going because of his scientific background.  Marcusson, a career astronaut and fellow passenger, tries to reassure him by saying that people are the same all over.  If they do exist on Mars, they’d probably be just as friendly as people on Earth.

Their voyage to Mars ends with a crash landing.  Conrad survives; Marcusson isn’t so lucky.   Moments after Marcusson dies, the hatch opens revealing Martians.  They happen to look just like humans.  In fact, Conrad assumes that they speak English.  (They assure him that he’s actually speaking their language.)  They offer to put Conrad up in a house and to fix the ship..  They also offer to bury Marcusson.

The Martians are so kind that Conrad forgets all about being scared.  The house is exactly what one would expect of an Earth house, or at least what Conrad would expect.  The Martians were able to read his mind.  Being that Conrad is a scientist, his mind was very clear and easy to read.

It’s somewhat difficult to review the episode without giving away the ending, but the episode does rely on you not knowing.  The beauty of the episode is that it shows us how bad things can be even when we’re right on.  Even though Marcusson was correct in his assessment of people he’d never met, Conrad’s fears were also warranted.

One of the disadvantages of watching on Netflix is the lack of commentary.  While some of the episodes of The Twilight Zone seem to be ageless, others seem rely on social commentary.  I’m not sure if there’s something that I’m missing.  It would be useful to have something, like a book or commentary track, to explain some of the meaning or context.

This isn’t to say that it’s a bad episode.  It’s still enjoyable to people who like The Twilight Zone  To me, the ending just seems like a cruel twist of fate and the episode works on that level.  It also looks like there could very well be some form of criticism or satire that I’m missing.  It would be interesting to see how the episodes would have been written in today’s context.

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