Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Radio: The Veldt (Dimension X)

Our celebration of what's left of the sixtieth anniversary of the classic NBC radio series Dimension X continues with Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt."

I once posted on this blog the version produced nearly four years later for X Minus One, but don't bother to find it, because both the file and the player went offline long ago, and I haven't gotten around to fixing that yet.  And all I said there that's worth repeating now is:

Yes, it's virtual reality, imagined about forty years before "virtual reality." (I just checked Wikipedia to make sure I had the time right, and found this: "An early short science fiction story--'The Veldt'--about an all too real 'virtual reality' was included in the 1951 book The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury and may be the first fictional work to fully describe the concept.")

(Although, checking the link now, I see that that quote is no longer part of their article on virtual reality.  Oh, well.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation's holodeck is also somewhat reminiscent of this story's nursery.  In theory, the reason in Trek why the user can seem to be in a large environment in a not-too-large room is that there are holographic images on the walls, floor, and ceiling, as in the nursery here.  Where TNG did "The Veldt" one better, of course, was in creating closer objects with force fields, so the user can interact with them.  In "The Veldt"... well, I'm not sure what happens, but it's not part of the factory specs.

I suppose this makes "The Veldt" the first "holodeck accident" story, 37 years before TNG (or even 24 years before a startlingly forward-looking animated Trek episode called "The Practical Joker").  But don't hold that against it.

I wish I could say more about the original story, but, er, I haven't read it.  I ordered a collection including it, but it didn't make it here for the anniversary.  Imagine how I feldt.  (Sorry, I had to get a "dt" joke in here somewhere.  If I do any more, you may want to get out the beldt, and raise some weldts on my peldt.)

As last week, this recording has some apparent crosstalk from another station, but it's not as bad.

A line about the futuristic house that's become pretty funny in the interim: "The soundproofed Happy Life home had cost $30,000, installed."

I'm guessing children Peter and Wendy were named after the characters in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.  (Incidentally, I find, Googling the issue, that Barrie did not, as many people claim, invent the name "Wendy."  Isn't the Internet wonderful?)

I can't help imagining this house as the same one in "There Will Come Soft Rains," earlier in its life.  (Although as I recall, that one was custom-designed, whereas this one seems to be off the shelf.)

Note that the producers seem to have accidentally left the nursery "echo" filter on for the announcer's throw to the title.

This adaptation is far superior to the later X Minus One version.  That one had a narrative envelope which allowed Ernest Kinoy (who scripted both versions) to use Ray Bradbury's descriptions in dialogue as the characters recount the events, rather than via a narrator, as here.  Unfortunately, it seriously blunted the impact of the story, literalizing and softening Bradbury's unexplained ending into some psychological episode and promising that the characters will eventually be all better.

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