from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet.
No one would have believed, in the last years
of the 19th century, that human affairs were being watched from
the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that
we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies
creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men
even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And
yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to
ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly, and
surely, they drew their plans against us. - "War of the
Worlds" - H.G. Wells - 1898.
Men have been watching the skies, and imagining
what, and whom might be out there for a long time. In the last
hundred years, or so, science has revealed that there may well
be worlds like our own in space. And that maybe those worlds
might be populated with intelligent beings. With those basic
facts the human collective mind, in the form of writers, musicians
and other artists, have imagined what those beings might be
like, and how we might come to meet them.
One of the earliest works in this form was H.G.
Well's War of the Worlds. Well's envisioned a population
of aliens on the nearby planet Mars attacking Earth with superior
weapons. Well's creatures, bear-sized with many limbs, didn't
arrive on flying saucers, but were launched from great cannons
in large cylinders that crash landed like meteorites on the
English country-side. Using laser-like weapons (which Well's
predicted more than a half century before lasers were invented)
the creatures ravished the planet until struck down by something
the Martians eliminated from their own planet centuries before:
bacteria. With no natural defenses to Earth germs the aliens
died in droves ending the invasion.
The Well's story panicked Americans in 1938 when
it was dramatized in documentary style on radio by Orson
Wells and his Mercury Theater as a special Halloween
presentation. Listeners tuning in late to the show were fooled
into thinking the attack was real. Later on an updated version
of the story was turned into a motion picture, and later a variation
was run as a television series. In the 1970's a rock sound track,
narrated by Richard Burton, was also made.
Movies and books depicting malevolent visitors
from space continued to be a staple of science fiction through
the 50's, 60's and 70's with arm-chair psychologists suggesting
that the alien threats represented the American public's concern
with communism and the cold-war. Still, there were exceptions
to these 'all aliens are evil' mania. The Day the Earth Stood
Still brought an ambassador, with his stoic robot, in a
flying saucer to warn Earth to give up it's violent ways.
Human's flew their own flying saucer in Forbidden
Planet traveling to visit the aliens rather than the other
way round. A flying saucer was also used for transportation
in the 60's television series Lost in Space. In the movie
and television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, also
a 60's invention, a saucer was employed as a hybrid submarine/aircraft.
In 1964 Raymond Bernard, a pseudonym for Walter
Siegmeister, wrote The Hollow Earth, suggesting that
flying saucers orginated not from outer space, but from inside
the Earth and exited the planet via holes at the North and
18, part of a high-tech indoor roller coaster at
Kings Dominian, located just North of Richmond,
Probably the premiere UFO spectacular was Steven
Speilberg's 1977 motion picture Close Encounters of the Third
Kind. Speilberg wove a plot using all the elements of the
UFO phenomenon (such as the return of 5 five aircraft that disappeared
into the Bermuda Triangle in 1947)
into a satisfying story of man's encounter with friendly aliens
and topped it with dazzling and beautiful special effects saucers
and spaceships landing near Devils Tower
in Wyoming. He even got Dr. J. Allen Hymek, the UFO researcher
and former Project Blue Book consultant, to take a cameo role.
Later on Speilberg followed CE3K with one of
the most popular movies of all time E.T., the story of an ugly,
but lovable, alien accidentally left behind during a visit.
He is befriended and hidden by a boy and his friends from the
adult world that would imprison and study him.
Aliens attempted to invade Earth on television
several times with the series The Invaders and UFO.
A planet full of lizard people took a shot at stealing Earth's
vast oceans in V, though how they would have gotten the
stuff back to their own planet in their saucers was never clear.
In the SciFi anthology series The Outer Limits one classic
episode "Demon with a Glass Hand" let the invaders successfully
take over Earth, but then made the planet inhospitable with
radiation as humankind disappeared into the past in the care
of a robot.
In the summer of 1996 aliens again made a terrifying,
if improbable, attack on Earth in the movie Independence
Day. Not even theme parks were immune to alien encroachment
that year as Kings Dominian, located just North of Richmond,
Virginia, unveiled a new high-tech indoor roller coaster with
a motif based on the stories about Area 51 and Roswell crash.
The attraction was complete with a mock up of hanger 18 and
signs warning visitors that the guards have orders to "shoot
If nothing else the sheer volume of movies, books
and television stories that deal with alien life forms and UFOs
suggests the human collective psyche is fascinated with the
possibility of meeting someone "out there."
1960's vintage flying saucer toy.
Copyright Lee Krystek 1996.
All Rights Reserved.