Play No. 2
Visit to a Small Planet
Tock shot: The night sky, stars. The slowly a luminous object arcs into view. As it is almost upon us, dissolves to the living room of the Spelding house in Maryland.
Superimpose Card: “THE TIME: THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.”
The room is comfortably balanced between the expensively decorated and the homely. ROGER SPELDING is concluding his TB broadcast. He is middle aged, unctuous, resonant. His wife, bored and vague, knits passively while he talks at his desk. Two technicians are on hand, operating the equipment. His daughter, ELLEN, a lively girl of twenty, fidgets as she listens.
Spelding (into microphone) … and so, according to General Powers … who should know if anyone does ….. the flying object which has given rise to so much irresponsive conjecture is nothing more than a meteor passing through the earth’s orbit. It is not, as many believe, a secret weapon of this country, Nor is it as spaceship as certain lunatic elements have suggested. General Powers has assured me that it is highly doubtful there is any form of life on other planets capable of building a spaceship. “If any travelling is to be done in space, we will do it first.” And those are his exact words…. Which winds up another week of news. (Crosses to pose with wife and daughter). This is Roger Spelding saving good night to Mother and Father America, from my old homestead in Silver Glen, Maryland, close to the warm pulse beat of the nation.
Technician Good show tonight, Mr. Spelding.
Spelding Thank you.
Technician Yes sir, you were right on time.
Spelding nods wearily, his mechanical smile and heartiness suddenly gone.
Mrs. Spelding Very nice, dear. Very nice.
Technician See you next week, Mr. Spelding.
Spelding Thank you, boys.
Spelding Did you like the broadcast, Ellen?
Ellen Of course I did, Daddy.
Spelding Then what did I say?
Ellen Oh, that’s not fair.
Spelding It’s not very flattering when one’s own daughter won’t listen toWhat one says while millions of people…
Ellen I always listen Daddy you know that.
Mrs. Spelding We love your broadcasts, dear. I don’t know what we’d do without them.
Ellen I wonder what’s keeping John?
Spelding Certainly not work,
Ellen Oh, Daddy, stop it! John works very hard and you know it.
Mrs. Spelding Yes, he’s a perfectly nice boy, Roger. I like him.
Spelding I know. I know: He has every virtue except the most important one: he has no get-up-and-go.
Ellen (Precisely) He doesn’t want to get up and he doesn’t want to go because he’s already where he wants to be on his own farm which is exactly where I’m going to be when we’re married.
Spelding More thankless than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child.
Ellen I don’t think that’s right. Isn’t it “more deadly…”
Spelding Whatever the exact quotation is, I stand by the sentiment.
Mrs. Spelding Please don’t quarrel. It always gives me a headache.
Spelding I never quarrel. I merely reason, in my simple way, with Miss Know-it-all here.
Ellen Oh, Daddy! Next you’ll tell me I should marry for money.
Spelding There is nothing wrong with marrying a wealthy man. The horror of it has always eluded me. However, my only wish is that you marry someone hard-working ambitious, a man who’ll make his mark in the world. Not a boy who plans to sit on a farm all his life, growing peanuts.
Ellen English walnuts.
Spelding Will you stop correcting me?
Ellen But, Daddy, John grows walnuts…
John enters, breathlessly.
John Come out! Quick! It’s coming this way. It’s going to land right here!
Spelding What’s going to land?
John The spaceship. Look!
Spelding Apparently you didn’t hear my broadcast. The flying object in question is a meteor not a spaceship.
John has gone out with Ellen. Spelding and Mrs. Spelding follows.
Mrs. Spelding Ohm my! Look! Something is falling! Roger, you don’t think it’s going to hit the house, do you?
Spelding The odds against being hit by a falling object that size are, I should say roughly, ten million to one.
John Ten million to one or not it’s going to land right here, and it’s not falling.
Spelding I’m sure it’s a meteor.
Mrs. Spelding Shouldn’t we go down to the cellar?
Spelding If it’s not a meteor, it’s an optical illusion… mass hysteria.
Ellen Daddy, it’s a real spaceship. I’m sure it is.
Spelding Or maybe a weather balloon. Yes, that’s what it is. General Powers said only yesterday…
John It’s landing!
Spelding I’m going to call the police … the Army. Bolts inside.
Ellen Oh look how it shines!
John Here it comes!
Mrs. Spelding Right in my rose garden!
Ellen May be it’s a balloon.
John No, it’s a spaceship and right in your own backyard.
Ellen What makes it shines so?
John I don’t know but I’m going to find out.
Runs off toward the light.
Ellen Oh, darling, don’t! John, please! John, John come back!
Spelding wide-eyed returns.
Mrs. Spelding Roger, it’s landed right in my rose garden.
Spelding I got General Powers. He’s coming over. He said they’ve been watch this thing. They… they don’t know what it is.
Ellen You mean it’s nothing of ours?
Spelding They believe it… (Swallows hard)… it’s from outer space.
Ellen And john’s down there! Daddy, hot a gun or something.
Spelding Perhaps we’d better leave the house until the Army gets here.
Ellen We can’t leave John.
Spelding I can. (Peers nearsightedly) Why, it’s not much larger than a car.
I’m sure it’s some kind of meteor.
Ellen Meteors are blazing hot.
Spelding This is a cold one….
Ellen It’s opening… The whole side’s opening! (Shouts) John! Come back! Quick…
Mrs. Spelding Why, there’s a man getting out of it! (Sight) I feel much better already. I’m sure if we ask him, he’ll move that thing for us. Roger, you ask him.
Spelding (Ominously) If it’s really a man?
Ellen John’s shaking hands with him (Calls) John darling, come on up here…
Mrs. Spelding And bring your friend…
Spelding There’s something wrong with the way that creature looks… if it is a man and not a … not a monster.
Mrs. Spelding He looks perfectly nice to me.
John and the visitors appear. The visitor is his forties, a mild, pleasant looking man with side-whiskers and dressed in the fashion of 1860. He pauses when he sees the three people, in silence for a moment. They stare back at him, equally interested.
Visitor I seem to’ve made a mistake. I am sorry. I’d better go back and start over again.
Spelding My dear sir, you’ve only just arrived. Come in, come in. I don’t need to tell you what pleasure this is …. Mister …. Mister ….
Visitor Kreton … This is the wrong costume, isn’t it?
Spelding Wrong for what?
Kreton For the country, and the time,
Spelding Well, it’s a trifle old-fashioned.
Mrs. Spelding But really awfully handsome.
Kreton Thank you.
Mrs. Spelding (to husband0 . Ask him about moving that thing off my rose bed.
Spelding leads them all into living room.
Spelding Come on in and sit down. You must be tired after your trip.
Kreton Yes, I am a little. (Looking around delightedly) Oh, it’s better than I’d hoped!
Spelding Better? What’s better?
Kreton The house …. That’s what you call it? Or is this an apartment?
Spelding This is a house in the state of Maryland, U.S.A.
Kreton In the late 20th century! To think this is really the 20th century. I must sit down a moment and collect myself. The real thing!
He sits down.
Ellen You …. You’re not an American, are you?
Kreton What a nice thought! No, I’m not.
John You sound more English.
Kreton Do I? Is my accent very bad?
John No, it’s quite good.
Spelding Where are you from, Mr. Kreton?
Kreton (Evasively) Another place.
Spelding On this earth of course.
Kreton No, not on this planet.
Ellen Are you from Mars?
Kreton Oh dear no, not Mars. There’s nobody on Mars…. At least no one I know.
Ellen I’m sure you’re teasing us and this is all some kind of publicity stunt.
Kreton No, I really am from another place.
Spelding I don’t suppose you’d consent to my interviewing you on television?
Kreton I don’t think your authorities will like that. They are terribly upset as it is.
Spelding How do you know?
Kreton Well, I … pick up things. For instance, I know that in a few minutes a number of people from you Army will be here to question me and they … like you … are torn by doubt.
Spelding How extraordinary!
Ellen Why did you come here?
Kreton Simply a visit to you small planet. I’ve been studying it for years. In fact, one might say, you people are my hobby. Especially, this period of your development.
John Are you the first person from your planet to travel in space like this?
Kreton Oh my no! Everyone travels who wants to it’s just that no one wants to visit you. I can’t think, why? I always have. You’d be surprised what a thorough study I’ve made. (Recites) The planet, Earth, is divided into five continents with a number of large islands. It is mostly water. There is one moon. Civilization is only just beginning …
Spelding Just beginning! My dear sir, we have had.
Kreton (Blandly) You are only in the initial stages, the most fascinating stages as far as I’m concerned … I do hope I don’t sound patronizing.
Ellen Well, we are very proud.
Kreton I know and that’s one of your most endearing primitive traits. Oh, I can’t believe I’, here at last!
General Powers, a vigorous product of the National Guard, and his AIDE enter.
Powers All right folks. The place is surrounded by troops. Where is the monster?
Kreton I, my dear General, am the monster.
Powers What are you dressed up for, a fancy-dress party?
Kreton I’d hoped to be in the costume of the period. As you see I am aboud a hundred years too late.
Powers Roger, who is this joker?
Spelding This is Mr. Kreton … General Powers. Mr. Kreton arrived in that thing outside. He is from another planet.
Powers I don’t believe it.
Ellen it’s true. We saw him get out of the flying saucer.
Powers (To AIDE) Captain, go down and look at the ship. But be careful. Don’t touch anything. And don’t let anybody else near it. (AIDE goes) So you’re from another planet.
Kreton Yes. My, that’s very smart uniform but I prefer the ones made of metal, the ones you used to wear, you know: with the feathers on top.
Powers That was five hundred years ago … Are you sure you’re no from the Earth?
Powers Will, I’m not. You’ve got some pretty tall explaining to do.
Kreton Anything to oblige.
Powers All right, which planet?
Kreton None that you have ever heard of.
Powers Where is it?
Kreton You wouldn’t know.
Powers This solar system?
Powers Another system?
Powers look, Buster, I don’t want to play games: I just want to know where you’re from. The law requires it.
Kreton It’s possible that I could explain it to a mathematician but I’m afraid I couldn’t explain it to you, not for another five hundred years and by then of course you’d be dead because you people do die, don’t you?
Kreton Poor fragile butterflies such brief little moments in the sun … You see we don’t die.
Powers You’ll die all right if it turns out you’re a spy or a hostile alien.
Kreton I’m sure you wouldn’t be so cruel.
AIDE returns; he looks disturbed.
Powers What did you find?
AIDE I’m not sure, General.
Powers (Heavily) Then do you best to describe what the object is like.
AIDE Well, it’s elliptical, with a fourteen foot diameter. And it’s made of an unknown metal which shines and inside there isn’t anything.
Powers Isn’t anything?
AIDE There’s nothing inside the ship: No instruments, no food, nothing.
Powers (To Kreton) What did you do with your instrument board?
Kreton With my what? Oh, I don’t have one.
Powers How does the thing travel?
Kreton I don’t know.
Powers You don’t know. Now look, Mister you’re in pretty serious trouble. I suggest you do a bit of cooperating. You claim you travelled here from outer space in a machine with no instruments ….
Kreton Well, these care are rather common in my world and I suppose, once upon a time, I must’ve known the theory on which they operate but I’ve long since forgotten. After all, General, we’re not mechanics, you and I.
Powers Roger, do you mind if we use your study?
Spelding Not at all. Not at all, General.
Powers Mr. Kreton and I are going to have a chat. (To AIDE) put in a call to the Chief of staff.
AIDE Yes, General.
Spelding rises, leads Kreton and powers into next room, a handsomely furnished study, many books and a globe of the world.
Spelding This way, gentlemen.
(Kreton sits down comfortably beside the globe , which he twirls thoughtfully. At the door, Spelding speaks in a low voice to Powers), I hope I’ll be the one to get the story first, Tom.
Powers There isn’t story. Complete censorship, I’m sorry but this house is under martial law. I’ve a hunch we’re in trouble. (He shuts the door. Spelding turns and rejoins his family).
Ellen I think he’s wonderful whoever he is.
Mrs. Spelding I wonder how much damage he did to my rose garden ….
John It’s sure hard to believe he’s really from outer space. No instruments, no nothing … boy, they must be advanced scientifically.
Mrs. Spelding Is he spending the night, dear?
Mrs. Spelding Is he spending the night?
Spelding Oh yes, yes, suppose he will be.
Mrs. Spelding Then I’d better go make up the bedroom. He seems perfectly nice to me. I like his whiskers. They’re so very … comforting. Like Grandfather Spelding’s. She goes.
Spelding (Bitterly) I know this story will leak out before I can interview him.
I just know it.
Ellen What does it mean, we’re under martial law.
Spelding It means we have to do what General Powers tells us to do. (He goes to the window as a soldier passes by) See?
John I wish I’d taken a closer look at that ship when I had the chance.
Ellen Perhaps he’ll give us a ride in it.
John Travelling in space! Just like those stories. You know: intergalactic drive stuff.
Spelding If he’s not an impostor.
Ellen I have a feeling he isn’t.
John Well, I better call the family and tell them I’m all right.
He crosses to telephone by the door which leads into the hall.
AIDE I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t use the phone.
Spelding He certainly can. This is my house ….
AIDE (Mechanically) This house is a military reservation until the crisis is over: Order General Powers. I’m sorry.
John How am I to call home to say where I am?
AIDE Only General Powers can help you. You’re also forbidden to leave this house without permission.
Spelding You can’t do this!
AIDE I’m afraid, sir, we’ve done it.
Ellen Isn’t it exciting!
Cut to study.
Powers Are you deliberately trying to confuse me?
Kreton No deliberately, no.
Powers We have gone over and over this for two hours now and all that you’ve told me is that you’re from another planet in another solar system….
Kreton In another dimension. I think that’s the word you use.
Powers In another dimension and you have come here as a tourist.
Kreton Up to a point, yes. What did you expect?
Powers It is my job to guard the security of this country.
Kreton I’m sure that must be very interesting work.
Powers For all I know, you are a spy, sent here by an alien race to study us, preparatory to invasion.
Kreton Oh, none of my people would dream of invading you.
Powers How do I know that’s true?
Kreton You don’t, so I suggest you believe me. I should also warn you: I can tell what’s inside.
Powers What’s inside?
Kreton What’s inside your mind.
Powers You’re a mind reader?
Kreton I don’t really read it. I hear it.
Powers What am I thinking?
Kreton That I am either a lunatic from the earth or a spy from another world.
Powers Correct. But then you could’ve guessed that. (Frowns) What am I thinking know?
Kreton You’re making a picture. Three silver stars. You’re pinning them on your shoulder, instead of the two stars you now wear.
Powers (Startled) That’s right. I was thinking of my promotion.
Kreton If there’s anything I can do to hurry it along, just let me know.
Powers You can. Tell me why you’re here.
Kreton Well, we don’t travel much, my people. We used to but since we see everything through special monitors and re-creators, there is no particular need to travel. However, I am a hobbyist. I love to gad about.
Powers (Taking notes) Are you the first to visit us?
Kretin Oh, no! We started visiting you long before there were people on the planet. However, we are seldom noticed on our trips. I’m sorry to say I slipped up, coming in the way I did … but then this visit was all rather impromptu. (Laughs) I am a creature of impulse, I fead
AIDE looks in.
AIDE Chief of staff on the telephone, General.
Powers (Pick up phone). Hello! Yes, sir. Powers speaking. I’m talking to him now. No, sir. No, sir. No, we can’t determine what method of power was used. He won’t talk. Yes, sir. I’ll hold him here. I’ve put the house under martial law … belongs to a friend of mine, Roger Spelding, the TV commentator. Roger Spelding, the TV …What? Oh, no, I’m sure he won’t say anything. Who … oh, yes, sir. Yes, I realize the importance of it. Yes, I will. Good-bye. (Hangs up) The president of the United States wants to know all about you.
Kreton How nice of him! And I want to know all about him. But I do wish you’d let me rest a bit first. Your language is still not familiar to me. I had to learn them all, quite exhausting.
Powers you speak all our language?
Kreton Yes, all of them. But then it’s easier than you might think since I can see what’s inside.
Powers Speaking of what’s inside, we’re going to take you ship apart.
Kreton Oh, I wish you wouldn’t.
Powers Security demands it.
Kreton In that case my security demands you leave it alone.
Powers You plan to stop us?
Kreton I already have … Listen.
Far-off shouting AIDE rushes into the study.
AIDE Something’s happened to the ship, General. The door’s shut and there’s some kind of wall all around it, an invisible wall. We can’t got rear it.
Kreton (To camera) I hope there was no one inside.
Powers (To Kreton) How did you do that?
Kreton I couldn’t begin to explain. Now if you don’t mind, I think we should go in and see our hosts.
He rises, goes into living room. Powers and AIDE look at each other.
Powers Don’t let him out of you sight.
Cut to living room as Powers picks up phone. Kreton is with john and Ellen.
Kreton I don’t mind curiosity but I really can’t permit them to wreck my poor ship.
Ellen What do you plan to do, now you’re here?
Kreton Oh, keep busy. I have a project or two … (Sighs) I can’t believe you are real.
John Then we’re all in the same boat.
Kreton Boat? Oh, yes! Well, I should have come ages ago but I … I couldn’t got away until yesterday.
John Yesterday? It only took you a day to get here?
Kreton One of my days, not yours. But then you don’t know about time yet.
John Oh, you mean relativity.
Kreton No, it’s much more involved than that. You won’t know about time until … now let me see if I remember … no, I don’t, but it’s about two thousand years.
John What do we do between now and then?
Kreton You simply go the way you are, living you exciting primitive lives … you have no idea how much fun you’re having now.
Ellen I hope you’ll stay with us while you’re here.
Kreton That’s very nice of you. Perhaps I will, Though I’m sure you’ll get tired of having a visitor under foot all the time.
Ellen Certainly not. And Daddy will be deliriously happy. He can interview you bt the hour.
John What’s it like in outer space.
Ellen I should think it would be divine!
Kreton No, General, it won’t work.
Powers What won’t work?
Kreton Trying to blow up my little force field. You’ll just plough up Mars. Spelding’s garden.
Powers snarl and goes into study.
Ellen Can you tell what we’re all thinking?
Kreton Yes. As a matter of fact, it makes me a bit giddy. Yours minds are not at all like ours. You see we control our thoughts while you … well, it’s extraordinary the things you think about?
Ellen Oh, how awful you can tell everything we think?
Kreton Everything! It’s one of the reasons I’m here, to intoxicate myself with you primitive minds … with the wonderful rawness of your emotions! You have no idea how it excites me! You simply seethe with unlikely emotions.
Ellen I’ve never felt so sordid.
John From now on I’m going to think about agriculture.
Spelding (Entering) You would.
Kreton No, no. You must go right on thinking about Ellen. Such wonderfully purple thoughts?
Spelding Now see here, Powers, you’re carrying this martial law thing too far …
Powers unfortunately, until I have received word from Washington as to the final disposition of this problem, you must obey my orders: no telephone calls, no communication with the outside.
Spelding This is unsupportable.
Kreton Poor Mr. Spelding! If you like, I shall go. That would solve everything wouldn’t it?
Powers You’re not going anywhere, Mr. Kreton, until I’ve had my instructions.
Kreton I sincerely doubt if you could stop me. However, I put it up to Mr. Spelding. Shall I go?
Spelding Yes! (Powers gestures a warning) Do stay, I mean, we want you to get a good impression of us …
Kreton And of course you still want to be the first journalist to interview me. Fair enough. All right, I’ll stay on for a while.
Powers Thank you.
Kreton Don’t mention it.
Spelding General, may I ask our guest a few questions?
Powers Go ring ahead, Roger. I hope you’ll do better than I did.
Spelding Since you read our minds, you probably already know what our fears are.
Kreton I do, yes.
Spelding We are afraid that you represent a hostile race.
Kreton And I have assured General Powers that my people are not remotely hostile. Except for me, no one is interested in this planet’s present stage.
Spelding Does this mean you might be interested in a later stage?
Kreton I’m not permitted to discuss you future. Of course my friends think me perverse to be interested in a primitive society but there’s no accounting for tastes, in there? You are my hobby. I love you. And that’s all there is to it.
Powers So you’re just here to look around … sort of going native.
Kreton What a nice expression! That’s it exactly. I am going native.
Powers (Grimly) Well, it is my view that you have been send here by another civilization for the express purpose of reconnoitering prior to invasion.
Kreton That would be you view! The wonderfully primitive assumption that all strangers are hostile. You’re almost too good to be true, General.
Powers You deny your people intend to make trouble for us?
Kreton I deny it.
Powers Then are they interested in establishing communication with us?
Trade? That kind of thing?
Kreton We have always had communication with you. As for trade, well, we do not trade … that is something peculiar only to you social level. (Quickly) Which I’m not criticizing! As you know, I approve of everything you do.
Powers I give up.
Spelding you have no interest then in …. Well, trying to dominate the earth.
Kreton Oh, yes!
Powers I thought you just said your people weren’t interested in us.
Kreton They’re not, but I am.
Kreton Me … I mean I. You see I’ve come here to take charge.
Powers Of the United States?
Kreton No, of the whole world. I’, sure you’ll be much happier and it will be great fun for me. You’ll get used to it in no time.
Powers This is ridiculous. How can one man take over the world?
Kreton (Gaily) Wait and see!
Powers (To AIDE) Grab him!
Powers and AIDE rush Kreton, but within a foot of him, they stop stunned.
Kreton You can’t touch me. That’s part of the game. (He yours) Now, if you don’t mind, I shall go up to my room for a little lie-down.
Spelding I’ll show you the way.
Kreton That’s all right. I know the way. (Touches him brow) Such savage thoughts! My head is vibration like a drum. I feel quite giddy, all of you thinking away. (He starts to the door; he pauses beside Mrs. Spelding) No, it’s not a dream, dear lady. I shall be here in the morning when you wake up. And now, good night, dear wicked children …
He goes as fade out.