Tales of Tomorrow: Q and A with author Richard Irvin
1. What inspired you to write about a TV series that premiered over 70 years ago?
I have always been a fan of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and was researching TV shows similar to the Twilight Zone that aired in the early 1950s. Tales of Tomorrow presented episodes with story lines similar to those of Rod Serling’s series, and so, I thought of putting together a book about Tales of Tomorrow, its writers, actors, and stories.
2. Speaking of Rod Serling, did he write any of the scripts of Tales of Tomorrow?
No, but he did submit a script about time travel for the series which was never produced. A summary of its plot is included in the book.
3. What were some other unproduced episodes of Tales of Tomorrow?
Two stories by Ray Bradbury – “Zero Hour” and “Marionettes, Inc.” were supposed to be adapted for the series. The first story was not produced because the TV anthology, Lights Out, had adapted it for a 1951 presentation. The second one was not made because the producer could not figure out how to portray life-sized marionettes.
4. Many episodes of Tales of Tomorrow are available on DVD and on the Internet. What does your book offer that can’t be derived from watching those episodes?
My book not only provides summaries of the episodes, but also the short stories on which many of the presentations were based, along with behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the episodes. In addition, episodes of the series such as “Thanks,” “Squeeze Play,” and “Ink,” which are not available, on line are detailed in the book.
5. Tales of Tomorrow was one of the first series to feature the writings of many science fiction writers from the 1940s and 1950s. Who were some of them?
The first season of the show, in particular, featured adaptations of the stories of writers like Theodore Sturgeon, Frederic Brown, Henry Kuttner, Nelson Bond, Julian C. May, Arthur C. Clarke, and others.
6. Who were some of the writers for the second season of the show?
Two writers in particular wrote many of the second season installments – Mann Rubin and Frank de Felitta. The latter wrote an episode, “The Great Silence,” that was done almost without spoken dialogue. He also scripted “The Window” about phantom broadcasts from a New York City apartment showing a husband and wife and a pending murder which kept interrupting the regularly scheduled Tales of Tomorrow episode.
Mann Rubin scripted several ingenious installments including one about a time bank where people on earth can deposit their spare time to be used by beings from another planet, another one about a man losing his identity due to mass hypnosis of his friends, and one about a struggling writer whose articles come true after he has written them.
7. Tales of Tomorrow also presented adaptations of classic science fiction stories. What were some of them?
The series did its own adaptations of “Frankenstein,” “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
8. Several actors who later had successful movie careers appeared on the series. Name some of them.
The series was done live from New York City. Actors just starting their careers on Broadway appeared on Tales of Tomorrow. James Dean, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward were just some of the actors who went on to major movie roles.
9. Tales of Tomorrow also inspired a radio show. Tell us about that.
Many television series in the 1950s were actually adaptations of successful radio series. For Tales of Tomorrow the reverse was true. The moderately successful TV show gave rise to a short-lived radio series beginning in 1953. It adapted stories from Galaxy Science Fiction magazine like “Martians Never Die” and “The Girls from Earth.”
10. An appendix in the book describes a CBS series that was similar to Tales of Tomorrow at the time. What was its name and what was it about?
Out There premiered on CBS on Sundays at 6:00 pm in 1951 and also presented TV adaptations of stories by famous science fiction writers such as Robert Heinlein, Milton Lesser, and Ray Bradbury. Unlike Tales of Tomorrow, no kinescopes of this series appear to exist.