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"The Martian Chronicles" The Martians (1980)

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There IS life on mars!

Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
17 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The final part of the adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel.

It is now November 2006. Colonel Wilder ( Rock Hudson ) returns to Earth only to find it eerily deserted - just like Mars when he first arrived there. Everyone - including his brother's family - has been wiped out in a nuclear war.

On Mars, Ben Driscoll ( Christopher Connolly ) wanders aimlessly around the now deserted Earth colony, the money in his pocket worthless. He has not seen a living soul in months. When a telephone rings, he is thrilled. A search of the directory reveals the existence of one Genevieve Selsor ( Bernadette Peters ). Ben flies hundreds of miles to meet her. She is indeed a beauty, and his spirits are lifted, only to crash again when she turns out to be vain and shallow, wanting Ben for no other reason than fix hairdryers and cook her meals. Disenchanted, he flies away in his gyro-copter.

Peter Hathaway ( Barry Morse ) continues to search the skies in the hope he will one day be rescued and taken back to Earth. He has lived these years in the Martian wilderness with only his wife Alice ( Nyree Dawn Porter ) and daughter Margerite ( Stacey Sipes ) for company. When Colonel Wilder and Father Stone ( Roddy McDowall ) lands he is overjoyed, but the excitement proves too much for his heart and he dies. Wilder discovers the 'women' are robot replicas, built by Hathaway to keep him company after his real family were wiped out years before by an unknown virus. The robots have stayed young while he aged. When Wilder buries him, they do not cry - they can not. Soon after Wilder and Father Stone's departure, Driscoll shows up, searching for human company, unaware of what the women really are.

Wilder goes to see Sam Parkhill ( Darren McGavin ) and learns of his gift of land from the Martians. At a deserted city, the Colonel meets a Martian ghost ( Terence Longden ) and from him is inspired to adopt the alien's way of life, something Spender ( Bernie Casey ) was keen to do. Wilder takes his wife ( Gayle Hunnicutt ) and children to see some Martians. As they peer into a river, they see...themselves.

'Chronicles' ends on an optimistic note with the humans renouncing the old Earth ways that ultimately led to nuclear war, and as a symbolic gesture Wilder blows up his spaceship. This final episode contains some of my favourite moments of the series, such as Driscoll wandering about the empty city like the hero of Richard Matheson's 'I am Legend', and Barry Morse's touching performance as 'Hathaway', a man who never gave up hope. Bernadette Peters adds a welcome touch of comedy ( and glamour! ) to the proceedings, and the shot of Driscoll putting thousands of miles between him and her never fails to make me laugh.

The poor reception this got at the time was probably due to viewers expecting a more upfront 'Star Wars' type adventure, with intrepid humans battling ray-gun wielding Martians, but it was not intended to be like that. The B.B.C. ran it three times in all, and the British Sci-Fi Channel gave it a play in 1996. It recently came out on D.V.D. over here. Since the original 'Outer Limits' ended in 1963, we have not had much by way of intelligent science fiction television, but 'Chronicles' went some way to filling the gap.

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