This Island Earth - help me make sense of it

Okay, so I was watching Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie last night, and so much of the movie it spoofs, This Island Earth, doesn’t make sense.

Why does Ruth pretend not to remember Cal when she meets him at the airport?
Why does Steve decide to make a run for it after Cal and Ruth jump out of the car?
Why do the scientists all agree happily to work for Exeter and his pals, but refuse to discuss their work in front of them? (Notice how Steve abruptly cuts off his conversation with Ruth when one of Exeter’s friends walks by.)

There’s probably more, but I fell asleep in the middle of it - not because I was bored, but because I was really, really tired. I’ll finish it off again tonight. I love MST3K and I’m so glad I got the DVD before they stopped selling them!

The MST3K version was edited down. I’m sure your questions would not be answered by a viewing of the unabridged work :smiley: In regards to Ruth? Shame , pure shame!

I was just watching this last night myself.

Here’s one: if Exeter’s people are so scientifically advanced, why do they need the best of Earth’s scientists? Cal Meachem, the world’s leading nuclear physicist, is on the verge of discovering a nuclear reactor powerful enough to “power an automobile factory” (That’s Cal for you, always thinking big), but the Metalunans already have nuclear reactors powerful enough to generate a meteor-incinerating forcefield around their entire planet. What the hell is Cal supposed to do for them? Mop the floors? Sure, they later say that they need Earth’s plutonium (?) deposits, because they’ve used theirs up, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t they have been kidnapping Earth’s greatest surveyors and excavators?

I now return you to normal view.
Nor-mal View!
Nor-mal View!
Nor-mal View!
Nor-mal View!
Nor-mal View!
Nor-mal View!

Wasn’t Cal working on a way to turn Lead into Uranium?* That’d be pretty handy for a planet that’s run out of fissile materials.

*And no, I have no idea how that could possibly work without expending huge amounts of energy. Maybe he was trading it between universes for “Plutonium 186.”

Ah, yes, the Secret Government Eggo Project. “Contact Dr. Jemima.”

Increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around.

What’s this “and the rest” crap?

Tang? I love Tang!

Huh. So that’s squirrel pudding.

Give Uncle Scrotor a hug!

“The railings are magnetized.”

“And if your hands were made of metal, that’d mean something.”

Damn! I wrote a long reply to this, and the hamsters ate it! This is harder than building an Interociter. Let me try again:
I’ve got the perfect screen name for replying to this.

As has been mentioned above, you shouldn’t go by the MST3K version, which has been severely cut. Unfortunately, if you want the real story, you ahouldn’t go by the original movie version, either – they cut the novel so badly that they never even explain what the title means. They effectivelt jettisoned the original story after Cal Meacham (no relation) boards the alien plane and heads off for his “job interview”. They then fabricated their own original story, apparently basing it on the more lurid SF magazine covers, adding such elements as bare-brained and lobster-clawed “mutants”, flying saucers, doomed alien civilizations, and magnetized hand rails. Ain’t none of this in the book. (And I read an interview with one of those responsible for these changes a few years ago. They’re proud of what they wrought! Some people shouldn’t be let loose near an unfilmed script.)

The novel by Raymond F. Jones was the result of spot-welding together a series of short stories he wrote, starting with “The Alien Machine”, which is almost faithfully rendered in the film. Technologist Cal Meacham receives a mysterious package of parts made by highly-advanced alien technology. Out of curiousity, he orders the whole shebang from the alien catalog, and he figures out how to put them together. Unlike the film, in the story there is no schematic – he has to dope it out for himself. This is, after all, an aptitude test, so sending him the instructions would be counterproductive. Cal even has to rebuild a broken part. There are cute touches, too – you get glimpses of some of the othger alien “aptitude tests”, like the one sent to the mechanical engineer.

Cal builds the Interociter, and is contacted over it by the Alien leader, a guy named “Mr. Jorganasvara” (again, unlike the movie’s “Mr. Exeter”. Maybe the filmmakers thought “Jorganasvara” sounded too Swedish, or too Indian, or something. Too foreign, anyway. So “Exeter” sounds nice a British, because, God knows, we wouldn’t want any foreign aliens invloved.) He’s invited to fly to an in-person interview, and the Interociter self-destructs.

It turns out that Jorganasvara’s people (they’re not from “Metaluna”, if memory serves, but I’ll use that name for simplicity here) are a super-civilization at war with another super-civilization. Earth is in a backwater of the war, just as many Pacific islands were caught in the war between Japan and the US in WWII. Like them, we are far below the combatants in tech and resources, and, again like them, we have a stake in the outcome of the bAttle, and can help. The “Metalunans” want us to build Interociters for them (they can be used as weapons, it turns out), thus freeing the Metalunan scientists to work on more advanced weapons. We’re being asked to contribute to the war effort to the extent of our abilities, just like those Pacific Islanders were asked to help build landing strips and the like =–= hence the title of the book and the movie.

I suspect the film makers dropped this aspect like a hot potato because it didn’t cast us Earth people in such a good light – we were mere low-class helpers in a war beyond our ability. We ought to be leading the effort. So they changed it to make the earth scientists being brought over to do the work for people who have already developed interstellar travel. This is, of course, ludicrous, but that hasn’t stopped this basic idea from showing up a lot in science fiction. The Earth folks beating or helping the much more advanced alien visitors. One of the things I liked about the book TIE is that it put us in the proper perspexctive, for once.

There were no “mutants”, no planets being bombed into suns (!!!), no flying saucers (in the book, the “Metalunan” craft is, as was so often in pre- and immediately post-UFO days, an ovoid), no dying civilzations. The book has recently been reprinted, at long last, and is worth a read.

That one’s my absolute favorite. Well, that, and “I’d like to thank me for flying Me Airways.”

By the way, this Island Earth is the movie that started Russel Johnson on the carrer path that ended up with him playing The Professor on Gilligan’s Island. Before this he’d played a telephone line worker in It Came from Outer Space, but with TIE he finally got to play a Scientist! He went on to play a scientist in Attack of the Crab Monster and in an episode of The Twilight Zone (where he travels in time – something about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination). Thus, he was already typecast by the time they needed a scientist type for Sherwood Schwartz’ immortal and perpetually rerun comedy.

Cal, thanks for the background on the original storyline. It does make much more sense that way and sounds like a much more interesting story.

How does the MST3K version of the movie differ from the original? They obviously cut it quite a bit, beyond the point where it made sense from scene to scene. I don’t understand why they didn’t leave more in and riff on it, since the MST3K movie is only 74 minutes long altogether.

“You know what my kids would say-”

“Oh god, my waffles!”

Hey, Cal, weren’t we just talking about this the other day? :slight_smile:

If I recall correctly, in the story Cal Meacham (the other CalMeacham) told his friend that the catalog which he was working from “wasn’t like any catalog I’ve every seen”, that it appeared to have been written specifically to allow a bright enough person to dope out the basic operating principles of the interociter and to assemble the highly complex mechanism based on the clues contained therein.

Yup. For years I post as CalMeacham, and not a peep about TIE. Now twice in a week or so. Always seems to work that way.
I, too, was bothered by them cutting so much from the movie for the MST3K version. I suspect it was part of the deal – they couldn’t use the movie unless it was severely pared down. But they ended up with the MST3K movie being shorter than an episode of the MST3K TV show – even without commercials! It’s the only case of the movie version of a non-serial being shorter than the TV show that inspired it that I know of. And if they left the movie whole there’s a lot more material they coulda riffed on.

“Eat at Joe’s, Eat at Joe’s, Eat at Joe’s.”

“Why’d they put a toilet in the middle of the living room?”

“It’s the Brak show, starring me! I’m Brak!”