Original Air Date: March 25, 1960
Writer: Paul Fairman/Rod Serling
Director: Mitchell Leisen
The basis for “People Are Alike All Over” comes from a short story by Paul Fairman entitled “Brother Beyond the Void” published in 1952 in Fantastic Adventures. Rod Serling changed a couple of elements from the original story for this episode. In the original story the protagonist is Marcusson and Conrad exists only at the beginning of the story as Marcusson makes the trip to Mars alone. Serling also changed the climactic final words from the story’s version which read “People are the same everywhere.” It isn’t altogether clear why Serling made these changes.
“You’re looking at a species of flimsy little two-legged animal with extremely small heads, whose name is Man. Warren Marcusson, age thirty-five. Samuel A. Conrad, age thirty-one. They’re taking a highway into space, Man unshackling himself and sending his tiny, groping fingers up into the unknown. Their destination is Mars, and in just a moment we’ll land there with them.”
At some point in the not too distant future we encounter mankind’s maiden voyage to Mars -a rocket piloted by two men: Sam Conrad (played by Roddy McDowall who appeared in the Planet of the Apes series among other classic films) and Warren Marcussen (played by Paul Comi). Before they take-off Conrad is apprehensive about what sorts of creatures they may find on Mars, but Marcussen is optimistic. He thinks empathy and and compassion are common to all creatures -even interstellar beings.
When they arrive at Mars their ship crashes on the surface and Marcussen is seriously injured. He pleads with Conrad to open the door so that he may see the red planet but Conrad refuses. He is worried about what they might find outside their door. Shortly thereafter Marcussen dies. Left with no alternative, Conrad opens the ship door and he encounters a crowd of human, toga-clad Martians. They seem friendly, particularly a woman named “Teenya” (played by Susan Oliver). Conrad is offered his own home in the model of an ordinary American suburban house. Pleased with himself, Conrad accepts their offer but he soon discovers that his home is locked. It is, in fact, a cage used by the Martians for entertainment as a living zoo. Conrad becomes the star attraction with a sign outside his window reading: “EARTH CREATURE IN HIS NATURAL HABITAT.” Perhaps his initial reservations were correct and ‘people are alike all over.’
“Species of animal brought back alive. Interesting similarity in physical characteristics to human beings in head, trunk, arms, legs, hands, feet. Very tiny undeveloped brain. Comes from primitive planet named Earth. Calls himself Samuel Conrad. And he will remain here in his cage with the running water and the electricity and the central heat as long as he lives. Samuel Conrad has found The Twilight Zone.”
“People Are Alike all Over” shares common themes found in Planet of the Apes as well as the original pilot episode of Star Trek (“The Cage”) in which humans, the dominant species on earth, are suddenly dropped into a foreign planet at the mercy of other creatures. Instead of fearing aliens for behaving unlike us, we are asked to examine a far more dangerous question -what if they are exactly like us? Who are the truly barbarians –us or them?
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The Martian exteriors for this episode were taken from the oversized painted background dioramas seen in the 1956 MGM film Forbidden Planet, one of many episodes to borrow from Forbidden Planet.
- Actor Paul Comi appears in several additional Twilight Zone episodes, and actor Byron Morrow also appeared in Star Trek and Outer Limits episodes.
- According to Martin Grams in The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, Rod Serling purchased this script for $2,500 –making it the most expensive script purchased in the first season.
- Director Mitchell Leisen began his career working as an art director for Cecile B. DeMille during the silent era.
- Many of Paul Fairman’s mystery/fantasy/science fiction short stories and novels were turned into television shows. His 1962 novel Solaris has been made into a feature film twice, first by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and then by Steven Soderbergh in 2002.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
Susan Oliver was in “The Cage” too.
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Roddy McDowall could adapt his unique acting signature to several roles, from Planet Of The Apes to playing the Devil on Fantasy Island. Here he easily makes us care about the character and what he is doomed to face, which reaffirmed how the classic Twilight Zone always made superb casting choices.
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