Entry updated 13 November 2023. Tagged: TV.
1. US tv series (1963-1966). A Jack Chertok Production for CBS. Produced/created Jack Chertok. Writers included John L Greene, Ben Gershman, Bill Freedman, Albert E Lewin, Burt Styler. Directors include John Erman, Leslie Goodwins and Oscar Rudolph. Cast includes Bill Bixby, Pamela Britton, Roy Engel (third season), Alan Hewitt (second and third seasons), J Pat O'Malley (first season) and Ray Walston. Three seasons; 107 25-minute episodes. First two seasons black and white, third colour.
This was a fairly sophisticated – at least compared to most Television sitcoms of the time – humorous and commercially successful series about a Martian (Walston) who becomes stranded on Earth. He is befriended by the young Los Angeles newspaper reporter Tim O'Hara (Bixby), who passes him off to friends as his uncle. "Uncle Martin O'Hara" is entirely humanoid in appearance except for retractable antennae. His unfamiliarity with Earth customs, plus his special powers – which include ESP, Invisibility, super-speed, the casting of Stasis Fields and Telekinesis – provide much of the Humour. Other sf devices in the series include Matter Duplication, a Time Machine and storage of Memories in pills that can be consumed for later relearning.
2. US film (1999) Walt Disney Pictures (see The Walt Disney Company). Directed by Donald Petrie. Written by Deanna Oliver and Sherri Stoner, based on 1 above. Cast includes Jeff Daniels, Christine Ebersole, Daryl Hannah, Elizabeth Hurley, Christopher Lloyd, Wallace Shawn and Ray Walston. 93 minutes. Colour.
This film reboot of the television series again stars Walston as the Martian stranded on Earth and befriended by young news producer O'Hara (Daniels), but has rather more of an action-adventure plot in which the original gentle humour was to some extent lost in raucous noise, forced suspense and obtrusive effects. Here "Uncle Martin" is more aggressively pursued by watchful US SETI officials; he and others frequently resort to disguise using a "nerplex", a piece of Alien gum that can temporarily transform its chewer into any other life-form including both replicas of particular humans and fearsome alien Monsters. The head of SETI is eventually nerplexed into a Martian with antennae – permanently, it seems, since he accidentally swallows the gum – and captured and tranquillized for study by his own organization. All ends happily.
The film was poorly reviewed and failed at the box-office, grossing less than $37 million of its $65 million budget. [DRL]
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