TV Adaptations

The Impossible Planet

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First published in Imagination Oct 1953

Three hundred fifty-year-old Irma Gordon wants to see Earth before she dies, except Earth is just a myth that never really existed. She promises enough money to Captain Andrews that he decides to take her cash and find an ‘Earth’ for her to visit over the objections of his second in command Norton. 

Along with Irma’s robot they travel to Emphor III, a third planet with a single moon in a nine-planet system. When they arrive Andrews convinces Irma the barren rock is Earth. After landing Irma and her robot vanish into the ocean. As Andrews and Norton leave Norton picks up a coin stamped with E PLURIBUS UNUM which he assumes is just a piece of trash, and they prepare to head home.

This was adapted as “Impossible Planet” for season one of Electric Dreams. I like the design of this episode with a robot that looks like it’s straight out of ’60s or ’70s sci-fi, but I’m not exactly sure what they were going for by introducing a spiritual love story connection between Irma and the second in command. 

Cast of characters

  • Captain Andrews
  • Norton – the second in command
  • Irma Gordon 
  • Irma’s unnamed ’robant’ companion

Human Is

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First published in Startling Stories Winter 1955

Lester Herrick is a mean and bitter scientist until he returns from a trip to Rexor IV a changed man. Suddenly he enjoys spending time with his nephew, loves to cook and shows affection to his wife Jill for the first time in five years. 

It’s obvious to everyone his body was taken over by a Rexorian, and the Clearance agents intend to destroy the alien, retrieve the true Lester from Rexor IV and set things back to how they were before he left. Before they can do that they have to prove in court he isn’t human. They expect his wife Jill to testify to the change she saw in him. Instead, choosing this affectionate alien to take the place of her husband, she claims she never noticed anything odd, and this Lester is allowed to live.

“Human Is” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams where the costumes and production design look like community theater. The husband is a military officer instead of a scientist, but otherwise the story is the same. 

Cast of characters

  • Lester Herrick – a toxicologist for the military
  • Jill Herrick – Lester’s wife
  • Frank – Jill’s brother
  • Gus – Jill’s nephew
  • Clearance Director Douglas

The Hood Maker

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First published in Imagination June 1955

Loyalty to the Free Union is enforced by telepaths. Someone has been anonymously mailing ‘hoods’ (metal alloy bands that block the ‘teeps’) to members of the government. Once the Anti-Immunity Bill, which outlaws the use of these hoods, is passed through Congress there won’t be any way to stop the teeps from taking over the Union. Walter Franklin, a director of a government department, is sent a hood, and he is chased by the teeps until he meets up with hood maker James Cutter who explains what is going on. 

They go to meet Senator Waldo, the author of the Anti-Immunity Bill, to try to convince him to kill the legislation, but it turns out Waldo has been a teep all along. Cutter then spills his secret: the teeps aren’t the next step in human evolution as everyone believes, but rather they are just freaks from a radiation blast who are unable to reproduce. Cutter is more than willing to be scanned by the teeps at that point so that this news can be disseminated to everyone.

“The Hood Maker” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams. They tweaked the story to be more about the conflict between the non-telepaths and the oppressed teeps, only one of whom has just started working with the government to scan the citizens. Unlike a lot of the other chintzy episodes in the series this one visually looks great. All the telepaths have a facial birth mark of sorts to identify them, and the ‘hoods’ are actual creepy-looking hoods instead of some silly metal band.

Cast of characters

  • Clearance Director Ross
  • Peters – works for Director Ross in Clearance
  • Ernest Abbud – a telepath employed by Clearance
  • Walter Franklin – Director of the Federal Resources Commission
  • James Cutter – the titular Hood Maker
  • Senator Waldo – author of the Anti-Immunity Bill in Congress

The Commuter

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First published in Amazing Stories Aug-Sep 1953

One day while Bob Paine is selling train tickets in an unnamed city a commuter disappears into thin air right in front of him while attempting to purchase a ticket to Macon Heights. As far as Paine knows Macon Heights isn’t on the map and never has been. When the commuter shows up to buy a ticket the next day and vanishes a second time Paine has his girlfriend Laura investigate. She discovers Macon Heights was nearly a subdivision years ago before the expansion was defeated by the county board of supervisors, losing by only one vote. 

Eventually Paine is able to visit this phantom town, as the reality where Macon Heights survived the board’s vote is slowly bleeding into his own. In the end he comes home to find he is married to Laura and has a son, and the world in which Macon Heights didn’t exist is just a fading memory. 

“The Commuter” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams where Macon Heights is transformed into something more mystical as a place of escape for down-on-their-luck souls. The more successful adaptations in this series expand on what they have rather than create completely new stories. I might say this is one of the better episodes, although the bar is awfully low. 

Cast of characters

  • Bob Paine – a ticket seller
  • Ed Jacobson– Paine’s coworker
  • Ernest Critchet – the titular commuter who lives in Macon Heights
  • Laura Nichols – Paine’s girlfriend

Sales Pitch

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Future Science Fiction Jan 1954

Ed Morris and his wife are constantly harassed from all directions by advertising and robot salesmen. Ed dreams about immigrating to Proxima and living a simple life there among just a few thousand other people. Before he can convince his wife to agree to this plan a traveling robot salesman shows up at their door to sell them a fasrad. 

The robot smashes their furniture and demolishes their appliances before they realize the fasrad it is demonstrating is actually itself: a Fully Automatic Self-Regulating Android (Domestic). It repairs what it broke, demands to be bought and won’t take no for an answer. 

Ed flees in his tiny commuter ship and the fasrad catches up to him when he stops to refuel. Ed intends to make it to Proxima, but his small domestic ship can’t handle being pushed to its limits. The ship blows apart, and as the remains drift toward the nearest star where it will burn up Ed finally has some peace and quiet. That is until the damaged robot, now stuck in a loop, tries to sell him a fasrad.

“Sales Pitch” was adapted as the forgettable episode “Crazy Diamond” in the first season of Electric Dreams. Like several other episodes in this series it has nothing to do with the original premise of the short story, which is too bad because Dick’s story is hilarious. 

Cast of characters

  • Ed Morris – a commuter from Earth who works on Ganymede
  • Sally Morris – Ed’s wife

Exhibit Piece

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in If Aug 1954

A man in charge of the twentieth century exhibit at the History Agency two hundred years in the future passes through a time gate in his exhibit, ends up in a 1950’s suburban home with a wife and two kids and decides to stay.

“Exhibit Piece” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams as the episode “Real Life”, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the story it is supposedly based on.

Cast of characters

  • George Miller – in charge of the twentieth century exhibit at the History Agency
  • Controller Fleming – Miller’s boss
  • Don and Ted – Miller’s sons in the 1950s
  • Marjorie – Miller’s wife in the 1950s
  • Adam Grunberg – Miller’s psychiatrist in the 1950s
  • Director Carnap – the History Agency director