Surely the kid recognized Patrick Macnee, you say. I mean, he saw him just four nights ago in Mister Jerico, right? Heck, no. He asked whether he might have been the seventh Doctor, only a little older. Actually, this was shown in August 1990, at which time Who was resting. If they had cast Sylvester McCoy in this delightful story, he really could have been the seventh Doctor, only a little older.
Before we got started, I let the kid know that this was one of the short stories that became the skeleton around which Ray Bradbury wrote The Martian Chronicles, and that it was a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” What I didn’t know was that this story is steeped in a love of Poe that is forbidden in its world. The episode begins with a reference to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, as a stack of books by Poe, among others, are dumped in an incinerator. The events of that novel happened on Earth, but they were apparently echoed on Mars. Twenty years before, a morals committee burned a giant library. Today, sweet, sweet revenge, played out in several gruesome Poe-inspired tableaux. Macnee is absolutely excellent as the murdering hero. I was saying last month about how I hope that Count Dracula doesn’t slay too many of his victims? Not here. Censors and thought police have it coming.
I’d like to think that Ray Bradbury would have appreciated how our son responded to this. He was so shocked by a world where books are banned because they make people use their imaginations that he couldn’t wrap his brain around it. He can get behind the schemes of all kinds of villains, but this just didn’t make any sense. Bizarrely, we happened to have had a discussion over supper about Prohibition, and how a hundred years ago, the bad guys briefly won and made liquor illegal for a while.
We told him he’s going to spend his life hearing about this. The Harry Potter series was a bugbear for banned books for the last few years. More recently, it’s been an attack in Texas on works by Erika Sánchez, Derf Backderf, Carmen Maria Machado, and others. There will always, always be small-minded idiots and control freaks who don’t want anybody to read fiction that makes them uncomfortable. Good discussion. Marie’ll be reading him another chapter of From the Dust Returned tonight. We may have a follow-up talk with him tomorrow. It’s never easy for kids to realize there are villains in the real world weirder and more insidious than anything he sees in the movies.
That wraps up our look at The Ray Bradbury Theater. Stay tuned for another old classic as we turn the clock back fifty years for something new to the blog Monday night!