Original image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Wherever You May Be
Author: James E. Gunn
Originally aired: 26 June 1956
Plot synopsis: After a graduate student encounters a strange girl in a backwater town, his discovery that she seems to possess supernatural powers makes him begin to wonder if she may be a witch. Based on a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953; and later, as 'The Reluctant Witch', in James E. Gunn's short-story collection The Witching Hour, in 1970.
Favourite line: 'Everything will be perfectly all right - just as long as you keep me happy.'
Review: There is a clever idea at the heart of this episode, which leads to a neat payoff at the end. The notion that it is mood and emotion - in this case, unhappiness - that trigger psychic powers will be a familiar one to modern listeners (thanks to writers like Stephen King), but here it feels fresh and innovative. The story is played mainly for laughs, in particular with many jokes at the expense of backward hillbillies. However, there are hints at darker themes, such as when the young girl at the centre of the tale suggests that the powers she possesses are related to her dead twin. Similarly, there is mention of a connection between the emergence of her powers and the onset of puberty, alluding to the superstitious fears that historically lay behind accusations of witchcraft, when adolescent girls' emerging sexuality was viewed as being linked to mysterious and unnatural forces. These aspects are glossed over quickly, though, and the overall tone is light and whimsical. Even so, what some may find disquieting about the episode, and which gives it a slightly creepy edge, concerns the girl's age. She is revealed by her father to be eighteen, but at the start, when the main character first sees her, he guesses from her appearance that she is only a child, not yet even sixteen. Thus, when not long after he agrees to marry the girl, it is a little disturbing - the protagonist's age is not specified, but he sounds as if he is in his late twenties at least. The girl may not literally be a child bride, but it still feels as if there is a significant age gap, which makes the relationship a slightly uncomfortable one to envisage.
Rating: * * *
A Wind Is Rising
Author: Robert Sheckley (writing as Finn O' Donnevan)
Originally aired: 3 October 1957
Plot synopsis: On an alien planet subject to powerful raging winds, a pair of explorers from Earth must brave the storms to repair their observation station's damaged water pipe. Based on a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, in July 1957; and later in Robert Sheckley's short-story collection Notions: Unlimited, in 1960.
Favourite line: 'Very difficult for Smanik to be without head - impossible to eat sugar or dead meat for almost three weeks, before new head grow.'
Review: The problem with this episode is that it simply isn't very exciting or remarkable; in fact, it's a bit dull. The basic idea is reasonably intriguing - an alien world whose inhospitable climate forces its human explorers to rethink their attitudes towards colonization - but it just doesn't add up to very much as a story. A noteworthy aspect of the episode is its portrayal of the main human protagonist as being clearly a bigot; he is arrogant and highly dismissive towards the planet's indigenous inhabitants. This makes him slightly more interesting than the stock heroes of much science fiction of the period, whose prejudices are rarely recognized as such. However, although the episode's production is fine, with sound effects convincingly conjuring up the rising wind of the title, there is little in the story's telling to grip the imagination, with no particularly novel twists or turns. The ending, with its final revelation about the nature of the planet's climate, makes for a satisfying enough conclusion, but nothing outstanding or very memorable.
Rating: * *