“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Rod Serling „
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is a 2009 radio adaption of a famous Twilight Zone episode first broadcast in 1961. A big snowstorm has descended on the tiny rural town of Hook's End and a state trooper is forced to go out into the snow when told that something unidentified has crashed out in the trees. Could it be a UFO? The trooper finds the crash site and metallic empty wreckage and then notices a trail of crisp footprints leading away in the snow. He follows the footprints and the path leads him to an isolated diner where a small group of people are inside taking shelter from the cold. They are passengers on their way to Boston but their bus has stopped while they wait for confirmation that the bridge up ahead is safe to cross. The only thing is, there is one more person present in the diner than was on the bus. Is the odd person out an alien from the crash site attempting to hide their identity? The state trooper explains that no one is to leave until they have sorted this all out and the group are soon bickering and casting suspicion on one another. The jukebox keeps coming on and off and the lights suddenly seem to have a life of their own. Something very strange is going on and someone in the diner is not who they appear to be...
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is one of the best examples of The Twilight Zone in a more comic vein. It was written by Montgomery Pittman and had a wonderfully atmospheric and amusing construction with a group of eclectic characters trapped in a lonely diner trying to work out which one of them is an alien. One thing the episode is probably most memorable for is Jack Elam, a bug-eyed western actor, as a somewhat disheveled and eccentric character who seems to find the whole situation very amusing and great fun. Elam was later the mad doctor who keeps injecting himself in The Cannonball Run films if I recall. That Elam's sozzled hobo was trapped in the diner with very different people was a big part of the enjoyment of the episode, the tension and verbal sparring between them all. The guest star in this radio adaption, Richard Kind, is certainly well cast to give voice to some of these characters. Kind can be rather eccentric himself and is possibly best known for playing Larry David's cousin Andy in Curb Your Enthusiasm. He's a good team here with Twilight Zone radio regular Stacey Keach and enjoys himself with some of the more wild dialogue flourishes thrown his way by the script. 'She's just like a science-fiction, that's what she is. A regular Ray Bradbury! Six humans and one monster from outer space. You wouldn't happen to have an eye in the back of your head, would you?'
Keach is the straight laced authority figure trying to make sense of this while Kind is able to have some fun with supporting characters. It's like a drawing room whodunit only set in a diner and the question is not who is the murderer but who is the alien. This is 37 minutes in duration and works surprisingly well in an audio format. Kind is a major part of that but the setting and situation is also conducive to a decent enough radio version (naturally you are always better off watching the televsion originals first). It's quite an intimate piece with the constrictive diner setting and a strange mystery to be unraveled. The jukebox coming on and off of its own accord adds to the sense of atmosphere (jukeboxes can be quite creepy sometimes in things like this) and great care is taken to establish that this is a very dark, snowy and lonely night. These passengers are temporarily stranded and now must face a most unusual line of questioning that they don't always care for much. 'This is preposterous. What difference does it make who was on the bus and who wasn't or whether there were six or seven or a hundred and twenty. Is this a diner or Gestapo headquarters?'
What is fun here is that the characters are very different in some cases and therefore irritate each other a great deal. It's sort of like Big Brother only in a diner. There is a nice twist in both this and the television version at the end but the television episode revealed the twist with a visual joke that was enjoyably silly (but brilliant all the same) and the radio version of course can't do that so suffers slightly in comparison. I should point out these are not straight transcripts of the television episodes and that some modifications have (understandably) been made here and there. The idea here is to capture the spirit of the original stories but not feel obliged to be 100% carbon copies. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is a valiant stab at turning one of the more famous episodes of The Twilight Zone into a radio drama and generally an entertaining and atmospheric audio effort. This particular entry in the radio series definitely gets a boost from the enthusiastic performance of Richard Kind who proves to be good value. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of a Twilight Zone audio cd collection or download it individually for £1.19.