Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)

Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday: The Outer Limit (Part 1 of 5)
The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)
Radio, Television & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 3 of 5)

In our previous installment, we looked at how "The Outer Limit" by Graham Doar, was adapted into radio and television, introducing millions in the audience to the concept of flying saucers with extraterrestrials abducting human beings. In this piece, we look at the lasting influence on the story on ufology.

Divided by dogma, but united by saucers.

The Outer Limit Legacy: Ufology

“The Outer Limit” by Graham Doar was hugely influential in shaping the public's thought about the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors being inside the flying saucers. It preceded the first depiction of saucers as alien craft in the movies, the 1950 serial, Flying Disc Man from Mars. It also introduced an alien abduction that resulted in the person returning with a loss of memory, some "missing time" they cannot account for. More importantly it established the idea that watchers from space disapproved of the Earth using nuclear weapons.

Curtis Peebles, in an article in Magonia 91, February 2006, "Abducted in Space: The Saturday Evening Post, Playboy and the Vanishing X-15 Pilot’s Return," described how Doar's story could have served as a primer for the Contactees in particular:
“The Outer Limit” also gives insights into the development of the flying saucer myth... Bill, like the later contactees, is carrying a celestial warning from the heavenly beings to stop nuclear testing. He, like the contactees, was also specially selected to be the messenger. In the Escape script. Zyll warns Westfall that atomic war “would upset the balance of the entire universe, throw all space into chaos.” The later contactees would have the ‘space brothers’ making similar comments. These story elements suggest that the ideas and concepts of a proto-contactee mythology already existed at the dawn of the flying saucer era. What the story lacks, however, is the mysticism of the contactees.
There's a taste of that proto-contactee mysticism seen in our prologue. In "The Outer Limit," the aliens might as well be God. They represent a higher authority, and the Earth is being penalized for breaking the law. It's an Old Testament kind of penalty that is at hand, the fiery end of the world.

Lay Off Making A-Bombs

Whether Doar's story directly influenced the development of ufology, it's a fact that the central concepts he presented were embraced in discussions of extraterrestrial visitors. When Major Donald Keyhoe expanded his True magazine article into the 1950 paperback book, The Flying Saucers are Real! he described a future scenario in which we were the aliens, watching Mars:
"Suppose for a moment that it happened many years from now... The first reaction would undoubtedly be... to find how far they had advanced with atomic bombs...It might take one hundred years--perhaps five hundred--before the Martians could be a problem. Eventually... Mars would send out space-ship explorers... discover that the earth was populated with a technically advanced civilization. Any warlike ideas they had in mind could be  quickly ended by a show of our superior space craft and our own atomic weapons--probably far superior to any on Mars. It might even be possible that by then we would have finally outlawed war; if so, a promise to share the peaceful benefits of our technical knowledge might be enough to bring Martian leaders into line. Regardless of our final decision, we would certainly keep a close watch on Mars--or any other planet that seemed a possible threat. Now, if our space-exploration program is just reversed, it will give a reasonable picture of how visitors from space might go about investigating the earth."

Even Donald Keyhoe's alleged sources were worried about aliens and the A bomb.  He wrote that a Washington official told him... 
"I'm not completely sold on the interplanetary answer. But assuming it's correct that we're being observed, I can think of a stronger reason than fear of some distant attack. Some atomic scientists say that a super-atomic bomb, or several set off at once, could knock the earth out of its orbit. It sounds fantastic, but so is the A-bomb. It's just possible that some solar-planet race discovered the dangers long ago. They would have good reason to worry if they found we were on that same track. There may be some other atomic weapon we don't suspect, even worse than the A-bomb, one that could destroy the earth and seriously affect other planets." The Flying Saucers are Real (p. 133-4).
Discussing UFOs in his 1953 book, Flying Saucers From Outer Space, Keyhoe repeated a discussed the frequency of green fireball UFOs around military installations in the Southwestern United States. He said,  "I know one astrophysicist who says they may be warnings for us to lay off making A bombs..."

From Xeglon to Orthon to the Stranger to Eros

In his 1953 book, George Adamski, Flying Saucers have Landed told of meeting a man from Venus that he'd later call Orthon, who seemed like a kinder, gentler Klaatu. The Venusian didn't speak English, so they communicated with an improvised sign language:
"He made me understand that their coming was friendly. Also, as he gestured, that they were concerned with radiations going out from Earth... But I persisted and wanted to know if it was dangerous to us on Earth as well as affecting things in space?
He made me understand—by gesturing with his hands to indicate cloud formations from explosions—that after too many such explosions... he said, ‘Boom! Boom!’ Then, further to explain himself... pointed to the Earth itself, and with, a wide sweep of his hands and other gestures that too many ‘Booms!’ would destroy all of this."
According to the site, Our Elder Brothers Return, 
Before becoming world famous for his books about his contacts with the Space Brothers in the 1950s, George Adamski (1891-1965) had already attracted a group of followers as a lecturer on esoteric philosophy in Laguna Beach, California. His lectures were broadcast on several local radio stations. In 1934 he founded The Royal Order of Tibet, which published this book expounding his philosophy of “Universal Law.” 
In  his 1936 book, Wisdom of the Masters of the Far East: Questions and Answers by Royal Order of Tibet, Adamski answers the question, What is the law of attraction? "This law of attraction is recognized by man in many separate faces of expression – gravitation, the affinity of Adams, military, etc. It is the force which keeps the universe in a total state of balance." 
Wisdom of the Masters of the Far East
Adamski seemed comfortable with blurring the lines between fact and fiction and science and religion. In his 1949 science fiction book, Pioneers of Space, Adamski said there was no war on Mars, but they "knew of the war we on Earth have just gone through. They got the picture of the Earth madness so well that they have a photograph of it here, showing airplanes flying above the Earth and blowing it up.As for A-bombs upsetting the balance, he mentioned it in more literal terms. Describing a visit to Mars' Temple of Science for a meeting with scientists, one of them spoke up:
"your Earth planet is slightly off-balance. It has been thrown off its natural axis by the exploding of powerful explosives and due to this there are going to be some atmospheric changes take place... You on Earth should be cautious in handling the new power called atomic power, since you have not yet found the element which goes into it which makes it serviceable but not dangerous..."

With this foundation, it's understandable why Adamski and the Contactees saw the destruction from the A-bomb as something that would cause a disturbance in the force and upset the balance of the universe. There were many others who emerged claiming contact who followed in Adamski's footsteps, from Howard Menger to George Hunt Williamson who warned, 
"Space visitors have said: 'It is not right that man should destroy his brother by utilizing the powerful forces of atomic energy, but the destruction you witness is minor, indeed, compared to the enormity of chaos created in the Microcosmos by the release of such energy!'" (Other Tongues, Other Flesh, 1953)
In Saucer News for June-July 1955, editor James W. Moseley offered some uncharacteristic political commentary on the saucer and Contactee scene:
"... let us all give some very serious consideration to the many alleged space men being called to the public's attention– all of whom invariably tell us of the dangers of war and the exploitation of atomic energy. No one desires peace any more sincerely then we do, but let us remember too that it is part of the Communist 'peace line' to frighten the American people into ceasing our atomic experiments. It is quite possible that some of these "space men" are unwittingly playing into the hands of the Communists."
The FBI may have thought so, too, and thought the Contactees might be spreading an un-American message, they kept an eye on them. From FBI a report on a lecture given by George Van Tassel on April 17, 1960, in Denver, Colorado.
Van Tassel's document begins at page 5 of this FBI file.

On the last page, the FBI agent recaps the key points:
"In summation, (Van Tassel's) speech was on these subjects: 
(1) Space people related to occurrences in Bible. 
(2) Atom bomb detrimental to earth and universe.
(3) Economy is poor and would collapse under ideas brought by space people. "

The interrupted journey of Bill during "The Outer Limit" seems to be a predecessor to the missing time episodes so often associated with UFO abductions. His memory of the events are incomplete, during the missing hours of his flight. In the case of Betty and Barney Hill's lost hours from 1961, John Fuller wrote in the The Interrupted Journey, "But most critical of all —what happened in the two hours when the Hills suffered double amnesia? What could have happened? What did happen?"

In 1967, Carroll Wayne Watts of Loco, Texas claimed a series of escalating encounters with Martians, and even took a few pictures along the way, and got to know them. "We think Aliens are peaceful, but will chase you if you run..." The Martians eventually persuaded him to come aboard their ship and submit to a physical examination, but he was examining them, too. "They were all about 4 feet high, with white or gray skin, broad flat noses, a thin line mouth, no hair and eye sockets that ran back nearly to their ears."
One of the most unusual features of the ship was a weapons or gun rack, perhaps an option for landings in rural Texas. After his alleged encounter, Watts said, they "knew that we were going to get to the moon,” and eventually Mars, and "they said they do not have war on their planet and they were going to have to do something to keep us from bringing it to them.” There was no mention of the A-bomb threat, but once again the aliens wanted to keep warlike man confined to his own planet. After publicizing the story and failing a polygraph test, Watts confessed it was all a hoax, but then some people will say anything.

The X-15 and The Outer Limit

Other than inspiring George Adamski and the Contactees, alien abduction lore and promoting the extraterrestrial hypothesis, "The Outer Limit" seeded another UFO story, but the atomic warning message was lost, leaving it a just jazzed up space age kidnapping story. It was presented in a early 1960s lecture at the Giant Rock UFO convention, and was later recounted in Firestorm: Dr. James E. McDonald's Fight for UFO Science by Ann Druffel, about how in 1968:
Dr. Robert M. Wood... was a physicist and a highly placed executive at McDonnell-Douglas. He was very active in UFO research in the southern California area...
He also told McDonald about an intriguing report he’d heard from a source he considered very reliable. It concerned Gene May, a Douglas test pilot, who had been involved with the X-15 experimental aircraft for several years. According to the story Wood heard, May had taken the experimental craft for a flight five to eight years ago with 15 minutes’ fuel in the X-15’s tank. Yet May didn’t land back at the airfield until three hours later. May allegedly reported he’d been taken aboard a UFO, X-15 and all! As a consequence, he was examined by psychologists at Edwards AFB. Wood’s reliable source was a colleague who worked at Vandenberg AFB who knew Gene May well. McDonald tucked the story in his journal, to be checked out later.
Gene May on the cover of Flying from Oct. 1951
 Dr. Bob Wood later was on the board of directors for the Mutual UFO Network, and their site states "Dr. Wood is uniquely qualified to provide credible analysis about the nature of the UFO reality." Be that as it may,  he missed the problems with the second-hand story he told McDonald. Chiefly, while Gene May was a test pilot, he never flew the X-15. Also, the story was pure science fiction.

Captian Edward Ruppelt wrote in the 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, about how in the age of atomic uncertainty, some people were looking to the heavens above for reassurance:
... this "will to see" may have deeper roots, almost religious implications, for some people. Consciously or unconsciously, they want UFO's to be real and to come from outer space. These individuals, frightened perhaps by threats of atomic destruction, or lesser fears—who knows what—act as if nothing that men can do can save the earth. Instead, they seek salvation from outer space, on the forlorn premise that flying saucer men, by their very existence, are wiser and more advanced than we. Such people may reason that a race of men capable of interplanetary travel have lived well into, or through, an atomic age. They have survived and they can tell us their secret of survival. Maybe the threat of an atomic war unified their planet and allowed them to divert their war effort to one of social and technical advancement. To such people a searchlight on a cloud or a bright star is an interplanetary spaceship.

In our final installment, we'll look at
Hollywood & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 5 of 5)

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Radio, Television & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 3 of 5)

Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday: The Outer Limit (Part 1 of 5)
The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)

In our previous installment, we looked at the original story of "The Outer Limit" by Graham Doar, and how it presented the arrival of flying saucers, as a turning point in mankind's future. Shortly after the story saw print it was adapted for broadcast, first on radio.

The Many Lives of The Outer Limit: Radio and Television

Radio once served the same purpose that television later would, to electronically deliver broadcasts of news and entertainment to millions of people's homes. Many radio producers were able to make their shows more attractive to audiences by featuring movie stars in the cast of their shows. Between 1950 and 57, there were two different scripts adapted from "The Outer Limit," with at least five different productions of it for radio, most of them in popular dramatic programs aimed at a general audience. 

Escape, February 7, 1950 was produced and directed by William N. Robson, adapted for radio by Morton Fine and David Friedkin. Frank Lovejoy starred as Major Bill Westphal (usually transcribed as Westfall). The story begins with a briefing in preparation for of the test flight of the RJX1, with Hank, the Colonel, stressing the potential danger to the pilot's life. The stakes are high, and Bill's a family man with a wife and twin boys at home. The military and technical details add to the story's credibility and tension.

Westphal's ship is launched and all goes well until he sees something, "maybe a flying disc, a big one, and it's spinning like a top!" His ship loses pressure, and is being pulled towards the disc when he blacks out. When he awakens he hears two voices of 
his two alien captors, Captain Xeglon and the Commander (name Zzyl used only in the credits).

 Xeglon asks Bill, "Can you understand me? Are we in contact?" They tell him their space ship is powered by the harnessed power of a thousand suns, and in order to demonstrate their advanced technology, take him far out into space and temporarily paralyze their captive with "a screen of force." Xeglon tells him, "You are aboard Space Patrol ship SJ23. I am Captain Xeglon of the Galactic Guard... the guardian of the galaxy, the guardian of the universes, the instrument of the Brotherhood of Worlds has set up in defense against civilizations such as yours." 

Bill is unable to see the aliens, and comes to understand that the communication is with telepathy. Xeglon tells him that their ship's ray had stopped his flight, and that his plane had been repaired and would be returned to him. He explains they detected residue from atomic bombs and traced it to the Earth, and the Galactic Council has quarantined the planet. They sealed it of with a force screen that would explode when it accumulated enough atomic bomb particles. "The Commander tells him that "We have finally outlawed war throughout space, including the Earth. ... If you continue to make atomic bombs... making war with them, exploding them, it would upset the balance of the entire universe, throwing all space into chaos." He tells Bill it is his duty to warn the Earth that "If you start an atomic war, the Earth will be completely destroyed." 

Their huge ship contains Bill's plane, and they launch it back into Earth's atmosphere.

Upon his return, Bill asks for the crew to check plane with a Geiger counter for radiation. Hank orders Bill to talk to Major Donaldson, the psychologist. Returning from a commercial break, we hear Bill wrapping up his story to Donaldson, who does not seem to believe the story of "men from Mars."

Bill becomes agitated and tells them that "one more bomb" will cause destruction of the Earth. Hank orders Bill to settle down and has the psychiatrist give him a sedative to allow him to sleep.
They leave him and Donaldson discusses how he will treat Bill's delusions, but in this version it is Hank that delivers the zinger. "When you treat him... consider this: How did he keep that plane in the air for ten hours – for ten hours, Major, when he had fuel to last him only ten minutes?”

After the story, the announcer says that, "Actual flight details were authenticated by rocket test pilot, Gene May, Sgt. Hartley Caldwell of the Air Force section of Armed Forces Information Office, and the Douglas Aircraft Corporation."

The Escape story adds some details to the story:
The UFO uses a ray to disable Bill's plane, and apparently draw it inside.
During his abduction, the aliens uses a screen of force to paralyze Bill. 
Telepathy is named as the method of mental communication.
Earth is a danger to the universe. A-bombs will "upset the balance of the entire universe."
"The Brotherhood of Worlds" sounds a bit like the space version of the United Nations.
The aliens voices, Xeglon and Zzyl, have an imperious tone, and sound a bit like snobs from space. 

The Fine-Friedkins script for Escape was used for several other versions:
Beyond Tomorrow, April 13, 1950 Once again, William N. Robson produced and directed, and Frank Lovejoy starred as Major Bill Westphal.

Movie actor William Holden starred in the 1954 Suspense adaptation.
Pictured here as his role as a test pilot in the 1956 film, "Toward the Unknown."
Suspense, February 15, 1954, directed by Elliot Lewis. The newspaper description: 
SCIENCE FICTION? William Holden, as jet test pilot Bill Westphal, will take an experimental ship up into "The Outer Limit" and return ten hours later to tell a tale which no one will believe on radio's Suspense program Monday (7 p.m., CBS). The story was adapted by Morton Fine and David Friedkin for radio production from a famous Saturday Evening- Post science fiction story by Graham Doar.
Suspense, March 17, 1957 William N. Robson, again, producing and directing.
(Suspense 1957) Newspaper description:
Lovejoy Plans Trip. Frank Lovejoy, noted radio- screen star, portrays Major Bill Westphal, pilot of a perilous jet flight into "The Outer Limit" on CBS Radio's Suspense Sunday  (3-30 p.m.). When he returns from a test flight with a terrifying warning that demands immediate attention, the Major finds his frantic efforts to report a message of doom blocked by the incredulous earth people he tries to save.

Brand X

The other adaptation of the script was made for as part of a series specialized in science fiction, but strangely, they downplayed the alien encounter in the story.

 Dimension X, April 8, 1950, was part of a science fiction series, so they jazzed things up a bit and moved the story into the future, 1965. Van Woodward produced and Edward King directed Ernest Kinoy's adaptation, which added a few science fiction flourishes, and extra drama, including having the pilot's pregnant wife giving birth to their son while he's missing. The military aspect was downplayed a bit, and the ranks for the two main characters were dropped. The pilot in this version is named Mr. Steve Weston and played by Joseph Julian, and his boss is Mr. Hank Hansen. 

There's no mention of flying saucers; the alien ship is just described as egg-shaped and smooth. Like in the original story, we don't have a scene depicting the alien encounter, and only hear the pilot describe his experience. Hank says, "Steve, this whole thing's been a devil of a strain on you. I'm going to call Major Donaldson from the Army base, ask him to sit in."

Donaldson submits Steve to questioning under "narco-psychometry," saying, "Under proper drugs I can put you back in this, uh, ship - by suggestion. Then we can get a playback record of your memory pattern on the audio circuit... an accurate memory picture of what your mind reports." He has Steve count backwards and the process resembles hypnotic regression.
Steve says the Intergalactic Patrol has outlawed war. Their detector picked up an atomic explosion on Earth, and they've quarantined it. "They've isolated the Earth, 'cause we don't know how to control ourselves yet. Until we learn, we'll be a menace to the whole universe!" Xeglon is not named, and the material from his report is not incorporated. This version adds extra tension of an atomic bomb test scheduled for midnight, which prompts Steve to threaten to blow up the base unless the bomb test is canceled. Hank puts in a frantic call to abort the test, but it was just a ruse on a dead line to pacify Steve. 
The ending is the same, but the destruction of the Earth could be seconds away. Like in the Doar's original, the psychiatrist Donaldson gets the last line, "It's outside my field, but I'm curious. How did he keep that ship in the air for ten hours - with only ten minutes' fuel?
Comments: By removing the report or any mention of Xeglon, there's a stronger shadow of a doubt in the listener whether the alien encounter was real.
A transcript of the radio play by Ernest Kinoy can be found at Generic Radio Workshop Script Library.

(Musical Trivia:  The Theremin is noted for becoming the sound of science fiction in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," but it was being used a year earlier in 1950 "Rocketship X-M," and earlier still by Albert Berman here on the NBC radio show, "Dimension X." )
X-1 (X Minus 1), November 16, 1955 used the Ernest Kinoy script, with Daniel Sutter directing and Steve Weston was again played by Joseph Julian.


Around the same time, the new medium of television was in its infancy, but two teleplay adaptations of the story were also broadcast; on CBS in 1951, and on NBC in 1953:
Donald Davis
Out There was one of the first science fiction TV shows aimed at an adult audience, a half-hour show created by Donald Davis, and its debut episode adapted Doar's story. The teleplay was by Elihu Winer, and it aired on CBS, October 28, 1951. Robert Webber played the pilot, Captain Bill Hurley, and this version includes a scene or two that features the pilot's wife. As with the Escape adaption on radio, the alien encounter was depicted. Commander Xeglon was portrayed by Wesley Addy, who was well versed in classics from Shakespeare and often mistaken for English. With that choice of actor, I'm guessing they went for an imperious tone for Xeglon's warning about Earth's doom from "The Councillors." Sadly, the series only lasted 12 episodes, is not available on video, and not much is known about it.

Robert Montgomery Presents (Your Lucky Strike Theatre) was a popular hour-long live dramatic program featuring original stories and adaptations. "The Outer Limit" adaption was written by Richard Battle and aired on NBC,  January 26, 1953. In this version, the pilot is played by Jackie Cooper and renamed Captain Peter Graves, who serves under Colonel Hank Daggers. The psychiatrist character is named General Klein, but he plays a reduced role in this version.

Reviewer Steven H. Scheuer's "Exciting science fiction yarn given a tinge of authenticity through the testing of a space jet-plane. Lots of technical mumbo-jumbo enhances realistic aspects and suspense."

Jackie Cooper was a real pilot, a Navy Reserve Captain.
Photos from the 1955 film Mister Roberts.
The story is framed with scenes on the observation deck of the RCA building where Peter Graves tells a man and his son his incredible story. "Well, it started when the Air Force picked me to fly their new eight-rocket astro; and my job was to take it up and try to crack the outer limit itself."

Teleplay script excerpts as presented in the 1955 textbook,  Prose and Poetry for Appreciation from the  L.W. Singer Company:

The captain is asked to describes the ship he saw, but is met with disbelief:
SCHILLER.  What was this ship? What did it look like? How was it powered?
PETER.  It was — egg-shaped. Perfectly smooth...
SCHILLER.  Like a — flying saucer?
PETER.  Not — unlike the descriptions we've received of — of — flying saucers.
BALL.  Captain, are you a reader of comic books?
PETER.  No, sir, not regularly.
KLEIN.  Captain, you say these — beings — they put ideas in your head and among those ideas was one concerning the distance they had come? 
PETER.  Yes, sir.

In the show, the extraterrestrial encounter was not directly depicted, we just the the pilot's description of the message they gave:
"PETER.  Atomic power, sir. Atomic bombs — stop making them — and using them. That was the warning. They knew all about atomic power — the utility as well as the danger. They have outlawed the use of atomic energy as bombs and they're on the lookout for explosions. Whenever their detectors pick up a trace of one — they send a patrol. They came here. They found what they were looking for — and they quarantined us.

He describes how the alien's doomsday device for Earth would be activated:
"An envelope, a layer of something — I'm not sure. But it's out there — about a hundred miles out! — and miles thick. It surrounds us and it's there to stay. Whenever an atomic bomb is exploded anywhere on this earth and the mushroom cloud of radioactive particles rises."

In this version the pilot is not believed and is kicked out of the service. Instead of his colonel and the psychiatrist, the closing lines are delivered by the boy and his father who've heard his tale.

PETER.  They discharged me — I don't blame them — what else could they do? I went to the newspapers, and they said I was crazy — nobody would print it. 
BOY.  They said you were crazy, sir? 
PETER.  That's right. Everywhere it was the same story. I went to my Congressman — the United Nations.  Nobody believed me.
JONES.  (laughing). Well— if it happened a few years ago as you say — how come we're still here? 
PETER.  The layer's not full yet. 
JONES.  (smiling). Oh. Well— it sure is a is a good story. 
PETER.  Yes, a good story — and some day I'm hoping somebody will believe it. Before it's too late. 
JONES.  Yes — well, thank the man for the story, Son. It's time to get home for supper. 
BOY.  Thank you — thank you for the story, sir. 
PETER.  Good night, boy. (He leaves.)
BOY.  Was that a true story, Dad? 
JONES.  No, of course not. He just made it up 
BOY.  Well, if it wasn't true what he said happened to him then where was he for those two hours when he didn't have any fuel or oxygen? 
JONES  (puzzled). Oh — somebody— somebody made a mistake, I guess. Yeah — somebody made a mistake.

Comments: Like the Dimension X radio adaptation, this teleplay does not feature the material dealing with Xeglon, and there are no scenes depicting the alien contact. The audience is left wondering about the reality of the pilot's claims, but apparently some viewers found it convincing. According to the IMDb listing, "In the closing, Robert Montgomery notes that they received some phone calls during the telecast asking if this was a true story. He assured the audience that it was complete fiction." Sadly, this episode, too, is not available on video.

This episode of Robert Montgomery Presents was noticed by the US Air Force and mentioned in Project Blue Book's files, in a graph looking a correlation between UFO publicity and sighting reports.

The various broadcast adaptations of "The Outer Limit" were surprisingly faithful to the original story, but differed in a few details and narrative choices. In some versions, the alien scenes were portrayed as a flashback, with actors providing the warning of doom, but in others we get merely the pilot's description of what he claimed happened. In all versions the colonel and psychiatrist think the alien ultimatum is a delusion, but the miraculous return of the pilot and plane suggest that it might all be true.

In our next installments, we'll look at
Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)
Hollywood & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 5 of 5)

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)

In our prologue, Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday, we looked at how even prior to the arrival of flying saucers, there was a belief by some that extraterrestrials had an interest in our fate and that they might do what the United Nations could not, stop war and eliminate the threat of the atomic bomb.

The Outer Limit

Graham Doar's story deals with an interrupted journey, the test flight of an experimental rocket plane, the disappearance and strange, miraculous return of the pilot, and it features now-familiar elements, put together for the first time:

A UFO encounter, an alien abduction, missing time, contact with an advanced benevolent extraterrestrial race, telepathic communication, and a dire warning to the Earth about the use of atomic weapons. At least one adaptation of the story includes the use of hypnotic regression to recover memories of the encounter, but wait, there's more! Faced with a credible witness of a relatively incredible event, the colonel in charge chooses not to believe, and there's the suggestion that the UFO report will be covered up.

At the time the story was written, there was little serious discussion of flying saucers as coming from outer space. When saucers were discussed as being real, the most popular explanation was that it was some aircraft project that the government was keeping secret as they'd done with the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb. About the only saucer space talk outside of was in Raymond Palmer's Amazing Stories and Fate magazines were the early iterations of Silas Newton's hoax about little men that were circulating at the time. Plenty of people were reporting seeing flying saucers, but only a very few beyond the far fringes were discussing contact.

Illustration by Melbourne Brindle

Pioneering pilots were heroes, space was the next frontier, and that's part of the reason for the story's popularity.  In 1948, test pilot Chuck Yeager made headlines for his XS-1 flight breaking the sound barrier, and this story was about pushing farther out. By focusing on the heroic pilot on a dangerous experimental test flight, it grounded the story in reality, and set up a suspenseful situation before introducing into the unearthly elements. However, the story starts with a tease that this will not be a routine mission. What follows is a fairly lengthy summary that strives to include the points and dialogue of UFO interest. It's taut little story with a few twists.
Patrolship, SJ23, Galactic Guard, Sector K, reporting.... Pursuant to instructions, from the Central Council: Planet 3, Star 5, Galaxy C, Sector K has been placed under absolute quarantine. Notification to inhabitants made. Mission accomplished.                                                                               XEGLON, Commanding.
Doar's story then joins Bill in his experimental test flight of the X2JTO, powered with only enough fuel for a ten-minute trip to the edge of space. At the edge of space, he sees sunlight glinting off a distant object above him.
He didn't believe it. He knew all the standard explanations of the great flying-saucer plague – the runaway balloons, the planet Venus, hallucinations bought on by strain and weariness. Whatever this object was, this metallic ellipsoid turning slowly above him, it wasn't a ship. He knew that. But he had six minutes fuel left and with all eight rockets boosting him along, he could run rings around anything. A closer look wouldn't hurt. He pointed the shark's nose at that far-off gleam.
Killers from Space, with a similar scenario.
The story shifts to the colonel, Hank, who after a 9-hour search, had finally given up the pilot and plane for lost. The X2JTO was forty miles up when the radar screens went blank. A call comes in that the ship has returned. Bill greets him, and says, "Sit down Hank, this one will knock you over."
When the colonel asks him where's he's been, Bill says, "What's your idea about the flying saucers, Hank? "The colonel ignores the question saying "First things first. I want to know– I've got to know – how you stretched ten minutes' fuel to keep you in the air over ten hours. "
Bill asks that the ship be checked with a Geiger counter., and when the colonel wonder if Bill should also be checked for radioactivity, Bill says, "No. No, I'll be all right. They told me I'd be all right." 
The colonel thinks, "If he's getting ready to feed me one of those men-from-Mars yarns, I should get the psychos (psychiatrists) in right now."

As Bill describes his encounter, he becomes increasingly agitated
“Well, Hank, I chased me a flying saucer. And I caught it. Or rather it caught me.”
“There was a humming sound – a kind of gentle vibration... sort of twang, as though I’d run into a harp string, and the – the black came down over me... (he thought he was going to crash into the saucer.) I came to inside their ship!"
At this point, the colonel mentions Bill seeing the psychiatrist, Major Donaldson. Bill would rather put it off until tomorrow and get drunk instead. "...I've just been tipped off to the way the world ends."
Continuing with his story, he says, "Well, I came to, inside the ship, and I was surrounded by – let's call them men. "
"I don't know what they look like. They were just – presences. There were a lot of them – I don't know how many. The inside of the ship was jammed completely full of incredibly intricate-looking machinery, and the noise was utterly deafening."

"I was angry, too – it seemed so – so belittling. But then suddenly I wasn't angry there was nothing to strike at. Anyway, they seemed friendly, even gentle." The colonel asks if they spoke English.
"They didn't speak. They just – planted the ideas in my own head. It was just suddenly – suddenly it was there – in my mind."

With that, Hank stops and brings in Major Donaldson, the psychiatrist, Major Donaldson, and after bringing him up to speed, Bill continues the story, saying his captors said they'd had their own wars but, "Now they have outlawed war throughout the sectors of space they patrol, and everywhere else they can reach. Whenever their detector system picks up traces of an atomic explosion, they send a patrol with certain preventative powers."

That brought them to Earth, where, “They found wars and rumors of war. Factories busily turning out atomic weapons. So they quarantined us. This intergalactic board of health decided we were infected with a communicable disease. They sealed us off from the rest of space until we were well.”
He goes on to describe the quarantine and the method used. "Out there– about a hundred miles out– they've spread a layer... when the radioactivity in this layer of –whatever– rises above the normal level of cosmic activity the particles will begin to fission... this spinning globe will be a roaring ball of flame that will pale the sun." 

As an afterthought, Bill says "We can forget about those atomic-powered spaceships, too, colonel. You can see that don't you? Unless we can figure out some way to shield the exhaust. On second thought, we won't last long enough for that to become a problem. Just forget it. That's best."

"That's the story. The whole thing. They finished with me, I heard the harp twang again – and I was in the plane gliding back down. You saw me land. Now, colonel, with your permission, I'm going over to the club and tie one on."

The colonel orders Bill to get some rest and instructs Donaldson to give him a sedative so he will sleep. Hank orders a sergeant to take Bill to his quarters and guard him all night. "Keep your eye on his pistol. He's been under the hell of a strain."

(The above photos are actually from the 1954 movie starring Peter Graves, Killers from Space, which seems like a bad, unofficial adaptation of "The Outer Limit." The working title for it was "The Man Who Saved the Earth," but Killers goes in a goofier, dumber Bug-Eyed-Monster direction, with an alien invasion using A-bomb-powered giant insects to conquer the Earth.)

There's an interlude, picking up from the intro, Xeglon's report to the Central Council:
Record for file… Record for file. Xeglon, commanding Patrolship S2J3, to Sector Commander Zzyl, Galactic Guard, Sector K.Patrol commander Pgot informed me that you requested this early, informal report on Mission S2K-C5-3 and I prepared it at once.
Several paragraphs of Xeglon's log are presented. There were initially nine ships dispatched to scout Earth, but Xeglon's was assigned to stay behind and complete the mission. He reports the difficulty of establishing meaningful contact, about how they'd tried before. "The creatures employ a method of communication not heretofore found." He goes on to say, "Our earliest attempts at communication resulted in jamming and even destroying the nerve paths of the specimens we selected."

There was a mention of risk versus reward, "Obviously a landing was out of the question. We should have had to destroy thousands of them in order to seize one and might even have suffered some losses ourselves. You know the problem of regeneration with no greater facilities than our patrol ships carry."

Ultimately it was the medical science department that delivered a technological solution. "It was now that our psycho-men really distinguished themselves. With their previous observations added to estimations of brain convolutions and mass, they set up a mechanical hypnotor that established contact on the very first try." There were barriers to communication not understood well by Xeglon, but he described the humans' adrenaline surge and the reaction to disbelieve the unbelievable. "Our team worked patiently at this for some time and were despairing in getting through when to our surprise, the creature broke it down himself." With communication established, they were able to complete the mission and free their captive. 
"Having made contact, we fixed the creatures mind, implanting the necessary warning as to the nature of the quarantine, the reasons for it, the conditions under which it may be lifted. His grasp of the entire concept at last complete we released him, close to the pick-up point, and traced him to the surface."

He calls the apparatus 
"Catalyst X," the method to quarantine/destroy the Earth. "We proceeded now to sow the catalyst in the predetermined depth, and mission accomplished, to depart for our station. Two time-periods out from the planet, we switched to space drive. Message ends. XEGLON."

With that, there's a return to the narrative, the finale, with Hank and Donaldson discussing Bill"s problem and his treatment. The psychologist expresses regret that a good man has cracked up. The colonel says, "He's the best, Donaldson. That combination of guts, loyalty and lightning reflexes comes about one in ten million." At this late point in the story we find out that Bill is overdue for a promotion to major, and that he's a family man, "His wife's having another baby, you know. It's his third." They think that Bill is tough and will recover from his episode. 

As they are saying goodnight, the psychiatrist gets the closing line of dialogue.“Oh colonel. There is one thing. It’s outside my field, but I’m curious. How did he keep that plane in the air for ten hours – with only ten minutes’ fuel?”
. . .

The danger the Earth poses is to itself, but it's implied that with the emergence of space travel, Earth could contaminate other worlds. The Central Council seems to be the governing body of outer space, a higher authority, and Earth unknowingly is under its jurisdiction. The Galactic Guard is here because Earth has broken the law.

The story leaves no time to dwell on the ethics of the aliens imposing a quarantine on Earth, it moves at such a clip we're focused on the experience of the pilot and his struggle to deliver the message and have it believed. The Central Council couldn't take away Earth's weapons, but they ensured that using them would have severe negative consequences. 

Another alien meddling in Earth's affairs.
The physical nature of the aliens is left a complete mystery, but humans are so unlike them, or anything they've seen, that there is a struggle to establish communication for their message. 

Bill's phrase, "the way the world ends, is a nod to "The Hollow Men," the 1925 is a poem by T. S. Eliot,  "This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper."

The author had an awareness of the flying saucer lore of the time, and it can be inferred that the nine Galactic Guard ships were the ones seen in 1947 by Kenneth Arnold and others reporting formations of multiple saucers. It could also be that the previous failed attempts to communicate with humans refers to the death of Captain Thomas Mantell.

The report by Xeglon is the key indication to the reader the experience was real. Bill's narrative is ambiguous and he just has no memory of either entering the spaceship or bring returned to his plane.

It's not directly explained what happened during the other missing hours from Bill's memory, but that seems involve the time it took for Xeglon's men to establish contact with Bill.

Another bit of trivia, the aliens have interstellar drive, called "space drive."

The "Brotherhood of Worlds" may be a lot like the United Nations, but all we can be sure of is that their Galactic Guard is their police force, and that despite their technological advances and "friendly, even gentle" demeanor, there's still a bureaucratic hierarchy and plenty of reports to be filed.

The O. Henry-type surprise "snapper ending," would be incorporated into the structure of EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science and Rod Serling's television show, The Twilight Zone.
In this story, the disbelief in Bill's tale is disrupted by the facts, the impossibility of his ship's return.

Graham Doar's "The Outer Limit’ also appeared in an anthology edited by Groff Conklin,
Big Book of Science Fiction in 1950, reprinted in 1978 as The Classic Book of Science Fiction.

Joseph Graham Doar, 1912 - 1985, served in the Army as a corporal in the Engineering regiment in the Mediterranean during World War II. Afterward he became a freelance writer and besides "The Outer Limit," went on to write a few other stories, for BluebookCollier's Weekly, and science fiction magazines. Doar's name was most often published in ads for the Palmer Institute of Authorship, a correspondence course for writing that seems to have done many aspiring writers some good.

Palmer Institute advertisement from
Astounding Science Fiction, June 1953

In our next installments, we'll look at
Radio, Television & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 3 of 5)
Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)
Hollywood & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 5 of 5)

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Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)

Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday: The Outer Limit (Part 1 of 5) The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)...