Saturday, June 16, 2007

OTR: Science Fiction Classics, pt.1

The good folks at Radio Spirits have put together a wonderful compilation of radio adaptations of science fiction short stories. Many are written by well-known writers such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke among others, while others are by writers possibly not as well remembered today.

The collection is on 10-CDs, so I’ve broken up my reviews into several posts rather than having this one go on longer than even my most devoted readers would like.

OTR had a number of SF programs over several decades, many only short-run summer replacements, while some longer running anthology programs would occasionally have an SF episode. Of course, you had regular SF shows aimed at kids (Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers) and things like SUPERMAN, which were SF of a type. The shows collected on these Radio Spirits CDs are aimed at an adult audience, many of whom may not have been SF readers but were interested in radio drama.

While Radio Spirits has collections of programs from some of the SF anthology shows, this compilation is made up of shows from over a half dozen different programs from different networks. They range from tales of rockets and aliens to quieter shows taking place in the future here on Earth. One of the unintended amusing things is hearing the year 1985 given as a far-future period, which we naturally see as the past. It’s like looking at the covers of those issues of POPULAR MECHANICS from the early twentieth century that show folks of the 1990s using rocket belts and flying in hovercraft through mile-high cities.

Among standouts on the first couple of disks are radio adaptations of two stories, which were initially turned into motion pictures. Robert A. Heinlein’s “Rocketship Galileo” made as DESTINATION MOON by George Pal and Harry Bates’ “Farewell to the Master” which was turned into the film THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. The later has Michael Renne recreating his role as Klaatu, the alien emissary.

Something a bit different is an episode of THE SHADOW, which was written by SF author Alfred Bester, a regular scriptwriter for that show and other OTR programs at the time. This one called “The Man Who was Death” is not only chilling, but makes more use of Lamont Cranston in his role as police consultant than it does the “invisible” hero of the program. In fact, The Shadow only makes his presence felt in the last few minutes of the show confronting the title villain, a scientist contaminated during a laboratory explosion.

More on some other great SF shows in later posts.
By the way, a click on the headline above will send you over to the Greater Northern Audio site, where you can find more on SF on radio, that will in turn take you to the home of the "Mark Time Award". Damn, but the guy in that helmet looks familiar?
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