Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Quiet Please -- "Northern Lights"

E-mail Print

Quiet Please aired "Northern Lights" on January 30, 1949 as episode 85 of approximately 109. The show ran from June of 1947 through June of 1949 and was the creation of Wyllis Cooper (1899-1955, photo top right), who also created Lights Out (1934-47). After seeing that Lights Out was a success and capitalizing on its fame, in 1936 Cooper left the show and moved to Hollywood, leaving his creation in the capable hands of young genius Arch Oboler. While in Hollywood Cooper would pen the screenplay for the 1939 horror flick Son of Frankenstein, where he introduced the character of Ygor.

Unlike many other radio shows, Quiet, Please eschewed full orchestras, a full sprectrum of special sound effects, and a large cast of characters. Its claim to fame, individual attraction and strength came from its scripts, the primary viewpoint lead character always voiced by Ernest Chappell (1903-1983, photo lower right). Chappell's narration related each week's story as if he were speaking directly to the audience, involving the listener on a more intimate level. Quiet, Please was known more for its weird or supernatural suspense or horror excursions, but as you will hear here, it was no stranger to the science fiction genre, as "Northern Lights" is pure science fiction and nothing else.

"Northern Lights" involves two experimental scientists who have created a prototype time travel machine (they've given it a goofy name I can't even pronounce, so listen for it), and naturally something goes wrong--or right--and what they retrieve is what appears to be a seemingly harmless brown woolly worm. But not so fast. The woolly worm they've nicknamed Isabella is a more bizarre creature with an even more bizarre story than you could ever imagine. Its connection to the Northern Lights is even more unbelievable, as is its purpose as a member of...  But no more, lest I give too much away. This is one of the whackiest,  most imaginative SF concoctions I've come across in some time. Weird is piled on top of weird at every turn and the denoument is a real corker.

None other than Harlan Ellison has stated what a huge fan of Quiet, Please he was during the 1940s, one particular episode staying with him for his entire life. While not that specific episode, I hope you can understand how episodes like this one might capture the youthful imaginations of boys and girls alike, and make Quiet, Please a show to remember.

Speaking of the ending being a real corker, I was taken by it so much that I emailed the (alleged) 98% of all climate scientists around the world who, by consensus, have determined that man-made global warming is an undeniable truth. After listening to "Northern Lights," every single one of them has changed his mind and now adheres to and professes the real reason for climate change was accurately given in Wyllis Cooper's innocuous radio script some 65 years ago in "Northern Lights." Can you handle the truth?

Play Time: 28:49

{Having read the January 1949 issues of their favorite SF magazines, examples of which are pictured below, eager young listeners to this episode of Quiet, Please found it a hard one to top.}

[Left: Amazing, Jan. 1949 -- Center: The Shadow, Winter 1949 -- Right: Weird Tales, Jan. 1949]