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"Radio Drama Review: X-Minus-One."

From The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast

By Edward GermanPublished 2 months ago 8 min read

Hello and welcome to the 1950s Science Fiction Podcast, Season 4, Episode 3. Today, I will be discussing two episodes from the classic science fiction radio drama, X-Minus-One. This show aired on NBC radio during the late 1950s before it was discontinued. It was a reboot of an earlier radio drama called Dimension X, which I previously discussed in one of my earliest articles on Vocal Media. X-Minus-One was one of the few radio dramas that focused solely on science fiction and did not include other genres such as horror and mystery.

The first story, "Gun for a Dinosaur" by L. Sprague de Camp, deals with time travel and big game hunting. It was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine. The second story, "Hallucination Orbit" by J.G. Macintosh, is about a station keeper who is isolated on a distant moon and waiting for his rescue ship before going mentally ill. It was also published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine.

A Gun for Dinosaur.

The story "A Gun for Dinosaur" was first published in Galaxy's March 1956 issue. During the same month, an episode with the same title was broadcast on X-Munis-One. The story follows the protagonist, Reginald Rivers, who is a time-traveling Sarifi manager. Rivers tells a story from his previous expedition where he paid a university to allow him and his team to travel back in time to various pre-historic periods to hunt for dinosaurs. In the setting of the story, time travel has become a reality and is used for commercial purposes. The rentals for the time machine help the university that owns it to defray its cost.

Rivers explains to a client how important it is to use your body weight to determine what caliber of weapon you will use for the expedition. It is at this point he tells his client about a previous expedition that had gone wrong because the client had the wrong weapon to use. That would later prove to be disastrous. Rivers takes on two clients for a trip to hunt for dinosaurs during one of the prehistoric eras. One client is a very lightweight person who is given a light-caliber weapon by Rivers after it is determined that he can't handle a heavier rifle. The other client is a wealthy individual and has a hot temper, which would also prove to be harmful later on as well.

The two clients who embarked on this adventure were August Holtzinger and Courtney James. Holtzinger was a wealthy man while James was a playboy type who was also very rich. They were accompanied by a guide and partner to Rivers named Chandra Aiyar. All four men used a time machine rented from the university to travel back in time to hunt for dinosaurs. However, things started to go wrong almost immediately after they arrived at their destination. As they were searching for good prey, James recklessly fired his weapon every chance he got, thus ruining any chances Holtzinger had of getting a good shot.

During the expedition, James repeatedly fired his weapon at the prey earlier than he should have, much to the displeasure of Rivers. Rivers cautioned James that this was not only dangerous but also unsportsmanlike. Unfortunately, James disregarded Rivers' advice and continued to fire his weapon at the prey on his whim. One time, James fired his weapon at a group of prey, and the sound of the shot woke up a T-Rex dinosaur. James didn't have enough bullets to stop the rampaging dinosaur, and unfortunately, Holizinger was killed while trying to shoot the dinosaur with his gun. Rivers and his guide searched for Holizinger's body but couldn't find it. The surviving three men then went back to their camp to wait for the time machine to return. While waiting, Rivers got into a heated argument with James, which led to a physical altercation.

After the fight was over, James swore that he would kill Rivers sometime and some. Rivers wasn't the least bit frightened because he had faced many dangerous situations before. Once the threat is made, all men return to the present. When they arrive back in the present time, Rivers parts his way with James. Both James and his partner Chander wonder what James will do next. They decide to head back to the university to see if he went back in time to alter history, Rivers knows that there are certain rules the university enforces about time travel.

Rivers speculates that James may have decided to go back and take the time machine back in time just before they first left. He believes that James may try to kill both him and Chandor while they are separated during the hunt, however, Rivers is not too concerned because both of them are still alive in the present time. So they return to the university's time machine and talk to its attendant The attendant says that he allowed James to return to the past to retrieve some lost items. Shortly, the time machine returns to the present, and the hatch is opened by the attendant. When he looks inside, he finds the mangled body of James who is dead upon arrival. His plan to go back and murder Rivers didn't succeed due to a paradox in time.

My Thoughts.

I listened to a radio drama presented by X-Munis-One and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is well-written and full of action. Although I haven't read the original short story, it seems like a must-read for any sci-fi fan who loves time travel and prehistoric eras. "A Gun for Dinosaur" is the first in a series of short stories called "The River of Time" by the author. The story was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 1956 but unfortunately lost to "Exploration Team" by Murray Leinster. The entire episode can be found on the internet at archive.org or through a YouTube search. For now, I have provided a three-minute sound bite of the episode which includes the thrilling X-Munis-One intro.

Hallucination Orbit.

"Hallucination Orbit" is a fascinating X-Munis-One episode that was broadcast on May 15, 1956. This episode was the 52nd one in the series and was based on a gripping short story of the same name, which was first published in the Galaxy Science Fiction magazine's January 1952 edition. The author of this fantastic story is J. T. McIntosh, a renowned Scottish sci-fi writer, and it was adapted for the show by the talented Ernest Kinoy.

The story is about a lighthouse keeper who is isolated from the rest of the world. It begins with a conversation between the captain of a spaceship and a significant passenger. The captain explains why the ship is on a long-duration voyage and the purpose of the Beam Service. The Beam Service is a network of isolated posts that provide navigational aid in the distant parts of the solar system.

The captain was explaining to a passenger the importance of psychological studies in determining the size of the crew. He mentioned that the spaceship had more crew members than necessary due to the study's mandate requiring larger groups to prevent any crew member from becoming psychotic. The root of the problem is the extended periods of isolation and loneliness that come with long-duration missions in outer space.

After the conversation between the captain and the passenger, the scene goes to the planet where the beam keeper has been on station for a long period, so much so that he has succumbed to the mental illness previously discussed. The station keeper produces long audio recordings of the activity that occurs on the station. While doing so he talks to imaginary women whom only he can see due to the hallucinations he is now experiencing. There is one woman whom he plays chess with, there is one who tries to kill him but to no avail, and the last one he sees is there to help him. All of the ladies he envisions are young and attractive, his idea of a desirable woman manifests itself each time he meets with a new woman.

The station keeper finally meets a real woman, a physiatrist who has been sent from the rescue ship to evaluate his mental state and report it back to the team. At first, the station keeper mistakes her for just another young woman landing on the planet but quickly realizes that she is a professional. With her help, the station keeper cooperates and is escorted off the planet.

My Thoughts

Hallucation Ortit was an interesting story. I have never heard of this author before but I may look into some of his other works. The main plot point seems to be what isolation in outer space can do to a human being as opposed to the effects on Earth. It seems the author may have looked into some real psychological research on the topic of the effects of isolation on future space travel. It is interesting to note, that during the early manned space flight era, there were studies done on the effects of isolation in outer space for future astronauts.

Listen to the Captain as he explains the effects of isolation on an individual in the three-minute sound-by of the X-Munis-One episode that follows.

(soundbyte in podcast)

"I hope you enjoyed my review of this classic radio drama. Thank you for taking the time to listen. I'm planning on releasing a new episode of the series soon. In the meantime, please feel free to follow me on social media. My username on Instagram is Sutterbug1681, and you can also check out my blog site at the1950ssciencefictionpodcast.blog. Any feedback is always appreciated. Thank you."

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About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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