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Science Fiction Theatre

Entry updated 12 December 2022. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1955-1957). ZIV/WRCA-TV. Produced by Ivan Tors with associate producer (uncredited) Norman Jolley. Hosted by Truman Bradley. Technical adviser Dr Maxwell Smith. Writers included Peter R Brooke, Doris Gilbert, Tom Gries, Lee Hewitt, Lou Huston, Ellis Marcus, Stuart Jerome, Norman Jolley, Charles Smith, Hendrik Vollaerts and Arthur Weiss. Two seasons, 78 25 to 26-minute segments. First season colour, second season black and white.

This anthology series presented a different sf play each week. In an attempt to appeal to an adult audience, the producers went out of their way to avoid the sensationalism so prevalent in the largely juvenile-oriented sf films of the period. Unfortunately the result was prosaic. In 1956 the producer said, revealingly: "One of the traps into which such a series may fall is complete dependence on science for interest. This is avoided at the story conference by excluding the scientists at the start and depending on the writers to come up with a story with human interest ... After the story is developed it is up to ... the research people to suggest some scientific fact on which the story can be hung."

Each segment began with the camera panning past a scanner, an oscilloscope, a parabolic reflector, and other scientific-looking laboratory equipment, before focusing on dignified Truman Bradley, who then performed an experiment to introduce the audience to the theme of the story. A typical storyline from 1955, "Target: Hurricane" (22 October 1955), involves a hurricane approaching Miami. A meteorologist and his wife worry about their son, who is on a camping trip. But, just as the hurricane reaches the shore, a high-pressure area pushes it back and Disaster is averted. The sf element in the story consists of the discovery that the hurricane was created by a meteor landing in the sea. Another segment from that year, "No Food for Thought" (14 May 1955) – about Scientists developing a synthetic food, and its resultant side effects – was the basis of an effective Monster Movie, Tarantula (1955). The segment "Time Is Just a Place" (16 April 1955) was adapted from the Jack Finney story "Such Interesting Neighbors" (6 January 1951 Collier's) and concerns refugees from the future hiding in 1950s suburbia. "Beyond Return" (3 December 1955) was adapted from the Stanley Weinbaum story "The Adaptive Ultimate" (November 1935 Astounding) as by John Jessel, about a young woman made the subject of an experiment that turns her into a human chameleon. "Bolt of Lightning" (2 February 1957) and "The Sound that Kills" (6 April 1957) were written by sf writer Meyer Dolinsky. Among the directors of segments were Jack Arnold, William Castle and Herbert L Strock. Guest stars included Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Edmund Gwen, and Howard Duff and Dane Clark, among others. [JB/DRL/LW]


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