“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Rod Serling „
'The time is the space age, the place is a barren landscape of a rock-walled canyon that lies millions of miles from the planet Earth. The cast of characters? William Fletcher, commander of the spaceship; his co-pilot, Peter Craig. The other characters who inhabit this planet you may never see, but they're there, as these two gentlemen will soon find out. Because they're about to partake in a little exploration into that grey, shaded area in space and time that's known as the Twilight Zone...'
The Little People is another Twilight Zone radio adaption from 2010 and an audio version of a television episode of the same name originally broadcast in 1963. In The Little People, bickering astronauts William Fletcher and Peter Craig land on a barren asteroid to repair their ship and are forced to put up with each other while they attend to their task. One day, Craig takes a wander around alone and discovers a city society not unlike the human race but with one key difference. The people are smaller than ants and their buildings, ships and cars are like tiny toys to us. The decent Fletcher tells him they should leave the race of tiny people in peace and concentrate on getting off the asteroid but the arrogant Craig becomes drunk with the power his size gives him over this microscopic civilisation. He's soon lording it over the miniature world, telling them they have a new God, threatening destruction, and ordering a huge statue of himself to be constructed in the city. He decides he's going to stay here bossing them around whether Fletcher likes it or not.
This is a slightly underrated Twilight Zone episode and works quite well in a radio version. Stacey Keach and Daniel J Travanti are fine as our chalk and cheese stranded spacemen and Rod Serling's confrontational dialogue makes this a good two hander between the actors. The actors here don't quite have the intensity of Claude Akins and Joe Maross in the television version but they are fine on the whole. Keach has fun as the deranged and oleaginous Craig, who quickly goes bonkers when he finds the tiny race of people, eager to make them fear him and cater to his every whim. The hubris of Craig builds to a highly enjoyable Twilight Zone twist ending in the classic tradition. The television version was shot in Death Valley but you are able to paint pictures in your imagination here and imagine the rocky, lonely asteroid, the rocket ship silent and awaiting repair, and the strange little world that Craig discovers.
The atmosphere is conveyed here in a number of ways. The beeps and metallic shudders of the ailing ship, ominous music, and then the high-pitched chatter of the tiny city. Because they are so tiny we can't actually make out what they are saying although Craig seems to understand them and they certainly understand him. 'All right, my little friends, comes now the new age, the age of... the age of Peter Craig! Let us commence to build the statue again, let us commence to begin!' The story here is enjoyably daft and serves as a very Rod Serling meditation on human nature, ego, and arrogance. Fletcher has no desire to bother the tiny race but Craig relishes the chance to be an all powerful dictator and reveals himself to be cruel and vain. Rod Serling served in the Pacific as a paratrooper during World War 2 and there is often an anti-war subtext to his stories with some world weary officer who has seen it all having to deal with some abrasive gung-ho character who hasn't seen anything. There is an element of that here in the debates and bickering between Fletcher and Craig.
This is good fun on the whole and another nice addition to what is a likeable and affectionate series of radio plays based on original Twilight Zone episodes. It's quite an intimate piece with just the two actors and it's probably slightly better to imagine the tiny civilisation rather than see it. In the television version you couldn't really see much either but we got some magnifying glass type shots where you could see houses and ships and things. The Little People runs to 40 minutes in this audio version and can be purchased as part of a bumper audio CD collection of these or individually downloaded for £1.19. I should mention that if you go to the official website for this radio series (just type 'Stacey Keach Twilight Zone' into a search engine and it should be one of the first things that comes up) you can I believe actually download a couple of episodes for free as a sample to get an idea of what to expect. That way you can listen to a couple for nothing before deciding if you want to part with any money for some more.