Review Tales of Tomorrow (1951)

Doctor Omega

Member: Rank 10



Tales of Tomorrow is an American anthology science fiction series that was performed and broadcast live[1] on ABC from 1951 to 1953. The series covered such stories as Frankenstein, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea starring Thomas Mitchell as Captain Nemo, and many others featuring such performers as Boris Karloff, Brian Keith, Lee J. Cobb, Veronica Lake, Rod Steiger, Bruce Cabot, Franchot Tone, Gene Lockhart, Walter Abel, Cloris Leachman, Leslie Nielsen, and Paul Newman. The series had many similarities to the later Twilight Zone which also covered one of the same stories, "What You Need". In total it ran for eighty-five 30-minute episodes. It was called “the best science-fiction fare on TV today” by Paul Fairman, editor of If.


The idea for this science fiction television series was developed by Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahamson, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The original title was planned as Tomorrow is Yours.[3] A deal was struck with Richard Gordon and George Foley, giving the producers of the show first choice of any of the 2,000 short stories and 13 novels by the various members of the League.

Tales of Tomorrow was the first dramatized showcase for several authors, including Arthur C. Clarke.[4] Other early science fiction writers whose work was reflected in the series included Fredric Brown ("The Last Man on Earth" and "Age of Peril"), Philip Wylie("Blunder"), C. M. Kornbluth ("The Little Black Bag") and Stanley G. Weinbaum ("The Miraculous Serum"). The show was intended for adults; at the time, most science fiction productions were targeted to children.[5] The producers wanted to blend mystery and science fiction, and emphasize fast pacing and suspense.[6]

Broadcast history

For the first few months, Tales of Tomorrow alternated the 9:30 to 10pm ET timeslot with Versatile Varieties, which had its last broadcast on December 14, 1951.

Radio series

While the television version of Tales of Tomorrow was still being produced in 1953, ABC decided to try a radio version. The radio show ran from January 1 to April 9, 1953.[7] Unlike the TV version, scripts were adapted from stories appearing in Galaxy Science Fiction;[8] the contemporary series Dimension X has previously had a similar relationship with Astounding Science Fiction magazine.

The radio series was not successful. After only a few episodes, on February 26 it moved to CBS for the remainder of its 15-episode run.[9] The TV version was canceled shortly afterward. A few years after its cancellation, the radio series X Minus One (a 1955 revival of Dimension X) debuted, sharing a similar relationship with Galaxy Science Fiction. Four of the fifteen Tales of Tomorrow stories were later adapted for X Minus One: "The Stars Are the Styx", "The Moon Is Green", "The Girls from Earth", and "The Old Die Rich".[9][10]

Public domain episodes

Most of the TV episodes are in the United States public domain. Additionally, five of the surviving radio series episodes are now in the public domain in the United States and available for free download at Internet Archive. Live TV episodes were captured on kinescope.

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Doctor Omega

Member: Rank 10

In a production of "Frankenstein," Lon Chaney Jr. played the monster. An urban legend states that Chaney was intoxicated during the live TV broadcast, due to his heavy drinking. In the broadcast (which is available on YouTube), Chaney is handed a chair - but instead of smashing it, he sets it down, and shouts "Break! Break!" while making smashing motions with his hands. However, Chaney later explained in an interview that he was not drunk. Before the broadcast, he had spent four hours in the makeup chair, having his monster makeup applied. When the performance started, Chaney assumed it was a dress rehearsal, and thus, did not break the chair when it was handed to him. Between scenes, the director informed Chaney that the broadcast was happening live, so in subsequent scenes, Chaney didn't hold back and freely broke pieces of the set. (In the YouTube video of the broadcast, he falls out a window and later smashes Dr. Frankenstein's lab equipment.)