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Lyle Zapato

Gerald Heard & Plan 9 From Outer Space

Lyle Zapato | 2018-09-23.8000 LMT | Paraterrestrials | Entertainment | Retro

Did Gerald Heard's The Riddle Of The Flying Saucers influence Ed Wood's infamous 1959 movie Plan 9 From Outer Space?

In Plan 9 (viewable on YouTube), after watching stupid, stupid humanity progress from firecrackers to hydrogen bombs, aliens come to Earth to stop our inevitable discovery and use of "solaronite", a substance that would cause a chain-reaction, detonating the Sun and hence the entire universe. (Wood was a bit mistaken about the scale of the universe, but never mind.)

This is, more or less, one of the theories Heard puts forward in his book for the earthly visitation of flying saucers. In Heard's theory, our dalliances with atomic weapons -- which he argues affect sunspot activity -- could be a trigger action, causing the sun to irradiate all life in the solar system. The inhabitants of Mars, who have been observing us, are trying to either stop us -- by messing with missile tests -- or at least warn us of the danger we pose to both them and ourselves.

A possibly trivial similarity: Heard also theorized that smaller flying saucers would use larger ones as motherships that "act as the rest home" for their crews; Plan 9 shows saucers returning to a larger saucer-like "Space Station 7" for "regeneration".

Above: Scene from Plan 9 of flying saucers leaving Space Station 7. Below: Brisbane Telegraph illustration for serialized version of Riddle.

But a more explicit hint of Wood's inspiration can be found in Plan 9's epilogue, where narrator the Amazing Criswell does a sort-of title-drop of Heard's book:

My friend, you have seen this incident based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen? Perhaps on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, for they will be from outer space! Many scientists believe that another world is watching us this moment. We once laughed at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, the telephone, the electric light, vitamins, radio, and even television! And now some of us laugh at outer space. God help us... in the future.

The 1950 UK edition of Heard's book was subtitled Is Another World Watching?, which was used as the main title of the 1951 US edition, the one Wood presumably would have read.

However, Curt Collins, writing at the blog The Saucers That Time Forgot, links the plot of Plan 9 to Graham Doar's 1949 short story, "The Outer Limit", which involves saucering aliens quarantining Earth to stop the menace of our atomic bombs. While it's possible that Heard's theories were influenced by this story, I think there's more evidence of a direct link from Wood to Heard, given they both propose aliens concerned specifically about us wiping out life using the sun, as well as the title-drop.

Of course, there is the glaring omission that Wood's aliens look like normal humans in shiny blouses and tights, not large, bejeweled bees; but this could just be a compromise due to limited budget. Then again... Vampira.

Interestingly, both Heard and Wood appeared together in print. Sort of. Heard contributed the essay "Science Fiction, Morals, and Religion" for a 1953 book Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future (I have not read it). A 1979 reprint included an uncredited "Notes and Corrections" section that, according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, was written by Wood. (Wood wrote novels, short stories, and nonfiction pieces until his death in 1978.)

End of post.