Renowned scientist Professor Newton Jennings posits that life no more advanced than amoebas or jellyfish can exist on Mars. Martin helps Angela write a report refuting Jennings claims, ...
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Renowned scientist Professor Newton Jennings posits that life no more advanced than amoebas or jellyfish can exist on Mars. Martin helps Angela write a report refuting Jennings claims, which quickly gets her a failing grade. When Martin's attempts to reason with Angela's teacher, Miss Weaver, fails, Martin figures the only way to regain the upper hand and Angela's trust is to speak to Jennings and expose him as a fraud. However Jennings is brilliant but has one minor flaw in his calculation. So Martin, with Tim's help, plants a seed in Jennings brain to correct the calculation, which Martin hopes Jennings will pick up. The brilliant professor does and restates his theory, which in turn leads to vindication for both Angela and Martin. Written by
The title is based on the expression: "Are you a man or are you a mouse?" See more »
[waiting while Tim prepares dinner]
A little late with dinner tonight, aren't you, Tim?
Well, I had to work late tonight, and dinner doesn't cook itself.
On Mars it does.
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Early Episode that Demonstrated the Show's Promise
"Man or Amoeba" is a frequently amusing episode that shows off the better approach to the far-out premise of "My Favorite Martian" -- namely, to move in close and do a personal, character-driven story instead of relying on gadgetry, special effects, or the havoc created by one of Uncle Martin's Martian devices. Martin is offended that Prof. Newton Jennings (played by the well-cast John Fiedler) has concluded that Mars can't support life more advanced than amoebas or perhaps jellyfish. So when Mrs. Brown asks Martin to help her daughter Angela write a report summarizing the Professor's theory, Martin (somewhat selfishly) instead leads Angela down the primrose path of refuting the professor's theory -- garnering her a failing grade and humiliation before her class.
Martin tries to rebuild his shattered reputation (it's so bad that when Angela next needs help on geometry, Mrs. Brown delicately resists Martin's eager offer of assistance, and instead asks Tim!), first by visiting Angela's teacher and then by visiting Prof. Jennings. Martin hopes to review the professor's notes in order to find something specific to refute, and Tim assists with the guise of a newspaper interview. Jennings, it turns out, is a mild, self-deprecating man who confesses that, except for science, his life is pretty much a blank slate. And Martin, after reviewing his notes, realizes that, although Jennings is wrong about Mars (at least in this television universe), his work is nevertheless brilliant -- and that tearing down the man's delicate ego just to rehabilitate himself with Mrs. Brown and Angela isn't worth it.
Besides offering a well-constructed story based on human interaction and not silly gadgets, the script also is highlighted by many amusing moments. As Tim labors to prepare a meal, Martin brags that where he comes from, dinner cooks itself and "on Mars, I never do that." Tim responds acidly, "You don't do it on Earth, either." When Tim and Martin first visit Prof. Jennings, there's a lovely scene, done almost without dialogue, where Jennings carefully weighs a powdered substance that he delicately pours into a boiling lab beaker, as Tim watches intently. Then Jennings takes a careful sip of the results, prompting a horrified look on Tim's face . . . but it turns out he's making chicken soup! Bill Bixby's reactions to the professor's culinary activities are a great showcase of his gifts, which worked just as well in support of someone else on-screen as when Bixby himself had the floor.
There's also one of the most remarkable exchanges in any show that one can find from this era, when Mrs. Brown tells Martin that she's seen convincing evidence that there is intelligent life on Mars. In response to Martin's eager question, "Where?" she responds, "On the Twilight Zone." When Angela rolls her eyes and asks how her mother can compare Twilight Zone with a brilliant scientist, Lorelei responds, "Well Rod Serling is no dope -- he's got a very high rating." It was almost unheard of for any television show during the early 1960s to acknowledge even the existence of another television show -- and this was of a contemporary show that was still in production! A rare tribute from one science fiction show to another -- made possible, no doubt, because both shows were on CBS.
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