Original image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Author: Ross Rocklynne
Originally aired: 17 April 1956
Plot synopsis: A pregnant woman seeking a reconciliation with her estranged space pilot husband attempts to do so by taking a trip aboard his space liner, but this leads to serious consequences for the entire ship. Based on a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, in December 1950.
Favourite line: 'Countdown for blast off ... X minus five, minus four, minus three, minus two, minus one, zero!'
Review: This is a rare example of an X Minus One episode told from the female perspective, and some may find it a nice change of pace to hear a story focused primarily on human relationships rather than alien invasions or technological marvels. It's a pity, then, that it isn't a very strong or imaginative one. Too much feels more like soap opera than science fiction, and the characterization of the female protagonist is frustratingly of its time. She appears to believe that the only path to fulfilment for a woman is children and family, which is why she wants her husband to quit his job as a space pilot, as this causes him to be away from home for long periods at a time. The story would have been much more interesting if the heroine herself had been a space pilot, unusual as this may have seemed in the era in which it was written. As it is, she is a decidedly wet character, for whom it is hard to feel a great deal of sympathy. This is especially so because, as a space pilot's wife, she ought surely to be aware - given the imagined workings of space travel in this episode - that her journey is likely to prove fatal for a pregnant woman. Consequently, she should never have come aboard her husband's ship in the first place. In fact, the protagonist appears to be not very bright at all, failing to understand that her actions have jeopardized the lives of not only herself and her unborn child, but everyone else on the ship as well. The plot itself is moderately entertaining, but the only real drama comes from the choice the husband has to make concerning his wife's fate, which in any case produces an entirely predictable outcome. Finally, the episode's title seems oddly chosen - the story's script explains the meaning of a jaywalker as being someone who boards a ship when they know they shouldn't, if it means endangering themselves and/or the vessel in some way, but this is some distance from the conventional idea of jaywalking. (I did, though, enjoy the way that a variation of the X Minus One intro, which comes before every episode, was incorporated into the story, which is why I highlighted it as my favourite line above.)
Rating: * *
Author: Clifford D. Simak
Originally aired: 22 February 1956
Plot synopsis: After landing on an alien world to investigate a junkyard full of spaceship parts, the crew of an Earth exploration vessel begins to experience severe memory loss. Based on a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953; and later in Clifford D. Simak's short-story collection Off-Planet, in 1988.
Favourite line: 'Don't play innocent. You and I have been doing planet surveys together for fifteen years. You carry enough dead weight in grain alcohol on every trip to keep you happy for a million light years.'
Review: This is an entertaining episode, but also one that is difficult to discuss without revealing key plot points, so I will offer a SPOILER ALERT right at the outset. There are two main aspects to the story that are enjoyable and thought-provoking. First, there is the idea of 'memory traps', devices set up around the galaxy by a mysterious alien race to absorb the memories of other sentient beings, even from many light years away. This, we are told, explains why everyone in the world suffers from forgetfulness. A great excuse, one may think, for that missed appointment or forgotten anniversary! Second, the solution the human explorers come up with to scramble the memory-stealing device they encounter - wiring it up to the brain of a character who has been ordered to become completely, stinking drunk - is funny and ingenious. All in all, a quirky and original story. (As an interesting side note, this episode appears to reuse at least one character from another X Minus One story, Courtesy - similarly adapted from a Clifford D. Simak tale - who goes by the extraordinary name of 'Bat Ears' Brady. It's not entirely clear, though, whether the rest of the crew is the same, or indeed if it is the same ship, especially as the characters behave very differently in the two episodes. Furthermore, given what occurs in the earlier episode, if they are part of the same continuity, 'Junkyard' would have to be a prequel.)
Rating: * * *