Original image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Author: Fredric Brown
Originally aired: 22 May 1955
Plot synopsis: The last man on Earth following an alien invasion becomes an exhibit in a zoo set up by the invaders to showcase the flora and fauna of the conquered planet. Based on a short story first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine, in December 1948; and later in Fredric Brown's short-story collection Space on My Hands, in 1951.
Favourite line: 'The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door ...'
Review: This is one of those classic science-fiction tales that is often remembered fondly, but is in truth pretty average. Far and away the best part of the story are the two sentences from the opening quoted above, which raise all sorts of exciting questions in the mind of the listener. Why is this person the last man on Earth? What is the room he is in, and where is it? And, most intriguing of all, who - or what - could be knocking on his door? The problem for this episode (as with the original story) is that when the answers are revealed, whatever they might be, they are unlikely to be as satisfying as the mystery suggested by the original set-up. Following Brown's story, the episode goes on to present a tale concerning the last man on Earth's encounters with a set of alien captors, which is reasonable enough, and offers one or two interesting twists. Yet it doesn't come near to matching the promise of those initial sentences. Even accepting that this may be inevitable, what diminishes the episode's impact considerably is the entirely blasé manner in which the main character meets the events presented to him. He shows absolutely no emotion about the fact that (virtually) the entire human race has been wiped out, and no horror or concern about the aliens' plans for placing him in a zoo. Thus, whatever power the central idea might have is greatly weakened by the execution. In many ways, the best way to approach this episode is to listen to the beginning, turn it off, and then leave the rest to your imagination.
Rating: * * *
[Other adaptations: Radio - Dimension X (1950), Future Tense (1974), 2000x (2000)]