Martin needs the hardest substance possible to repair his spaceship, the substance he has in mind is silibalt, an alloy of silicone and cobalt but one that has not yet been invented on ...
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Martin needs the hardest substance possible to repair his spaceship, the substance he has in mind is silibalt, an alloy of silicone and cobalt but one that has not yet been invented on Earth. To make some, he needs a cyclotron. Rather than destroy Tim's kitchen making his own, he decides to follow Tim on his latest interview at the university, where there is a cyclotron. At the university, Martin meets Tim's interview subject, Donald Mumford, 13-year old physics genius, and one who is constantly at odds with the ways of Dr. Jackson, his advisor. While Martin and Donald get together to discuss and proceed with the making of silibalt, Tim is preoccupied with Dr. Jackson, who provides a diatribe against the demands of Donald, and Jeanine Carter, Dr. Jackson' pretty assistant and university protector of Donald. They are all looking for Donald and Martin when an explosion caused by some stolen electricity and wrong switch alert them to the Donald and Martin's whereabouts. Dr. Jackson ... Written by
Worthwhile Episode Weakened by Flaws in the Script and Special Effects
"The Atom Misers" is a superior episode of "My Favorite Martian," both from the first season and in general -- though it could have been even better with more attention to the special effects and to the script. Like many of the series' better efforts (such as "Man or Amoeba" from earlier this season or "We Love You, Miss Pringle" in Season Two), the emphasis is on the characters instead of Uncle Martin's powers and gadgets. That doesn't turn this into an episode of "My Three Sons" -- those elements are still there -- but they aren't as important here, and this kind of emphasis always raised the level of story-telling in this series.
Propelling the plot here is Uncle Martin's desire to combine two elements of radically-different natures -- silicon and cobalt -- to create a new substance, "silibalt" that will be the hardest substance known, allowing him to repair his spacecraft. To do so, he needs a cyclotron -- or as Tim puts it, an "atom smasher." This leads Martin to tag along when Tim seeks out a human-interest story at the local university, which just happens to have a cyclotron that will serve Martin's needs.
Tim's news story is about a 13 year-old genius named Donald Mumford, a student at the university despite his young age. Martin searches for the cyclotron (which he discovers young Donald has "borrowed" and set up in a warehouse), while Tim seeks out Dr. Jackson, the head of the physics department. Jackson, it turns out, is annoyed at having a student so young on campus -- and also at Donald's rebellious attitude and insolent treatment of him. When Martin and Donald's experiment with the cyclotron go awry, Jackson has the wedge he needs to get Donald banned from the campus. But then Martin appeals to Jackson's better nature, convincing him that perhaps with some patience and understanding, the young man can fit in after all.
Martin's appeal to Jackson to reconsider expelling Donald could conceivably have been persuasive, but it comes across as too brief and impromptu to have done the trick. The antipathy between Jackson and Mumford seems too deeply-rooted for Martin to turn Jackson around with just one speech (even a good one) -- and Jackson not only has a change of heart, but even invites Donald to come live with him! Had Dr. Jackson's accounts of his past battles with Donald been softened somewhat, it might have given more credibility to his sudden about-face in response to Martin's speech. One also senses that there were other plot threads that were discarded; Donald is told, for example, that his grandparents -- not his parents -- will be told about his expulsion, suggesting that he may have been an orphan, a fact that might have helped both to explain his difficult attitude and Dr. Jackson's eventual decision.
Also working against the episode's credibility are some poorly-done special effects. When Martin levitates an electrical cable, the wire holding up the cable is painfully obvious in the closer shots. This was hardly the first or last time that this happened -- in a pre-C.G.I. world such glitches were common -- but it spoiled what otherwise could have been an effective gag, when the cable seems to levitate past a room where someone is playing the clarinet, with the joke being that the clarinetist thinks he's somehow acquired the skills of a "snake- charmer"!
Despite these problems, the guest cast does a good job -- Donald is played by a capable 15 year-old actor with the unusual name of "Flip Mark." (His real name was Philip Mark Goldberg, the "Flip" apparently being a variation on his real first name.) Dr. Jackson is played by that familiar face from movies of the 1940s, Jerome Cowan, who had been everything from Sam Spade's partner in "The Maltese Falcon" to the district attorney trying to put Santa Claus away in "Miracle on 34th Street." And Tim spends inordinate (though, in the end, perfectly understandable) time drooling over Jackson's secretary, played by the lovely Jean Hale (who at the time was married to Dabney Coleman).
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