“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Damon Knight „
Another Twilight Zone radio adaption from 2010, this time To Serve Man which is available as part of a collection or to download individually for £1.19 (at the time of writing). To Serve Man is one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone and was based on a story by Damon Knight and first broadcast in 1961. This updated audio version features Stacey Keach and Blair Underwood and is 44 minutes long in total. In To Serve Man, US government cryptographer Michael Chambers tells the extraordinary story of how he came to be aboard an extraterrestrial spaceship - apparently being held against his will but in relative comfort. "This is the way nightmares begin... or, perhaps, end. Very simple, direct, unadorned. Incredible, and yet so terribly real that even while they're happening we live with them, attest them, and assimilate them. And if it's 12 o'clock noon, that's what you preoccupy yourself with. You don't think about 12 o'clock noon on the next day or the day after that. But that's what we should have been thinking about - tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. We were preoccupied with hands on a clock... when we should have been checking off a calendar..."
It all began when The Kanamits, a race of nine-foot tall aliens, arrived on Earth offering friendship and peace. The governments of Earth are rather suspicious at first but Kanamit ambassadors visit the UN and pledge to share their technology to make the world a better place. These alien visitors quickly make good on their promises, transforming deserts into fertile fields, ending hunger and supplying cheap and safe energy. They even set up an exchange programme so people from Earth can visit their home planet - which they promise is a paradise. A book left at the UN by the aliens is taken by US government cryptographers and the title is eventually translated to mean 'To Serve Man'. It seems benevolent enough but as they beaver away at translating the rest of the book a very chilling secret is waiting to be revealed.
To Serve Man justifiably stands as one of the most memorable Twilight Zone stories mainly because of its wonderful shock ending, definitely one of the best twists in the series. In the television version the central cryptographer was wonderfully played by the suave Lloyd Bochner and guest star Blair Underwood does a decent enough job filling in for him here with solid support by Stacey Keach. There is a good amount of atmosphere in this adaption with the initial chatter and bickering of the UN delegations as they attempt to find some common ground on whether or not these aliens can be trusted. I always found it quite amusing in the television version the way that the French seemed to be the most obstinate in not trusting the aliens. They always have to be different! The rather mournful voice of the Kanamit ambassador works well for this radio adaption too and allows you to picture them in your own way although, obviously, if you are familiar with the television version it's hard not to imagine him as Richard Kiel, the 7ft giant from the Roger Moore James Bond films who played the role in 1961.
One thing I like about the television version and this adaption is the team of US government cryptographers who work at translating the book left by the aliens at the UN. It gives the story here a wonderfully old-fashioned air of science doing its level best to get to grips with something quite beyond anything it ever expected to encounter - an alien language. I like the way the story here here lulls you into a slightly false sense of security but always keeps you aware that there are secrets waiting to be uncovered. As per usual, Stacey Keach reads the intro and opening and closing narration originally performed by Rod Serling and while this is not a straight 100% transcript from the television series it does do a god job in capturing the spirit and essence of the source material. The Twilight Zone theme is present and correct and another thing that works well here is when the central character is on the alien ship with the background hums of advanced technology weaving its way through the stars. This is probably not the easiest episode in the series to translate into a radio adaption but overall I feel they did a pretty decent job here.
These Carl Amari radio adaptions are generally put together with a great deal of affection for the original series and are suitably atmospheric fun, especially when listened to through earphones late at night. I don't think To Serve Man works quite as well as an audio piece as the others I've listened to in this series so far but I did enjoy it and am happy to seek out more of these. I would advise though that you watch the television version and enjoy the wonderful twist there first because it is one of the very best episodes of the original series. This isn't the best one I've listened to so far but it's still fun and another pleasant addition to this radio series.