tag: Space Exploration

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

The Cosmic Poachers

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First published in Imagination Jul 1953

In the Sirius system some humans unexpectedly encounter an alien Adharan cruiser. They assume these aliens are pirates, and they confiscate their cargo of jewels, anticipating the haul will be a hot commodity back on Earth. It’s too bad the jewels are actually alien eggs which will hatch nicely in the warm Terran climate.

Cast of characters

  • Captain Shure
  • Navigator Nelson
  • Communications Officer Barnes

The Infinites

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Planet Stories May 1953

While exploring an asteroid with an Earth-like atmosphere (but strangely no sign of life) the three-person crew of a prospecting ship is hit by a blast of radiation from the asteroid’s core. Once back in space the crew members exhibit mutations that appear to be radiation sickness before they realize the radiation is actually causing their senses to evolve.

With his expanding intellect, Harrison Blake wants to return to Earth and dominate mankind. It seems he will get his way until the other two are rescued by beings of pure energy, which turn out to be the ship’s hamsters in this increasingly preposterous story. The crew kept hamsters on board to test unfamiliar planetary environments, and these hamsters were hit by the radiation before everyone else which somehow caused them to evolve more than the humans.

The energy beings kill Blake, restore Eller and Simmons to their pre-mutated form and head out into space leaving Eller and Simmons to return to Earth.

Cast of characters

  • Major Crispin Eller – captain of the X-43y cruiser
  • Harrison Blake – second in command
  • Silvia Simmons – the ship’s hamster wrangler

The Gun

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Planet Stories Sep 1952

The crew of a space craft examines what they think is a barren planet before an unmanned anti-aircraft gun shoots down their ship revealing the planet had in fact been populated some time in the past. This gun, it turns out, guards a vault of film, records, and books documenting the culture of the planet (possibly Earth in the far future after nuclear war?). The crew dismantles the gun in order to safely leave the planet’s surface, but soon after they are gone the gun begins a process of automatically repairing itself.

Cast of characters

  • The Captain
  • Tance – the ship’s archeologist
  • Dorle – chief navigator
  • Fomar – the ship’s biologist
  • Nasha – the vice-captain