X Minus One — “Marionettes, Inc.” by Ray Bradbury

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X Minus One aired “Marionettes, Inc.” on December 21, 1955 as its 30th episode. It first appeared as a short story by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012, photo at right) in the March 1949 issue of Startling Stories (cover at left). It is also one of the featured stories in Bradbury’s 1951 collection The Illustrated Man.

Consensus among radio historians has set the number of X Minus One episodes at 126 (counting rebroadcasts), with 119 in circulation. The show was cancelled on January 9, 1958 following its 126th episode, and was the longest running SF show in radio history (which isn’t saying much when you realize it didn’t make it through three years, while many other radio shows had successful runs of 8, 10, and even 20 years). It was an extension, or revival if you will, of Dimension X, which ran from April 1950 through September 1951, airing 50 episodes. The first 15 X Minus One shows were remakes of Dimension X adaptations of stories first appearing in Astounding Science Fiction, but after that the remaining shows were dramatizations of stories from Galaxy. For those trying to keep a chronology of the important adult SF series’ straight, here’s the breakdown:

2000 Plus — March 15, 1950

Dimension X — April 8, 1950

X Minus One — April 24, 1955

Exploring Tomorrow — December 4, 1957

“Marionettes, Inc.” is a tale of domesticity, of the troubles between a man and his nagging wife, and the unusual manner in which the husband remedies the situation and returns bliss to his marriage while regaining his own independence. But with a clever twist that is well worth waiting for. Dimension X aired it first, on August 30, 1951, and while both versions are virtually identical there are a few inconsequential alterations in dialog, with the latter version presented here offering a slight upgrade in what few real sound effects there are. So sit back and enjoy this classic tale, and if you are married or living with a significant other, pay close attention to your partner’s behavior, for people don’t change overnight…or do they?

Play Time: 29:07

{After listening to this episode of X Minus One the neighborhood gang (always transformed into little angels just before Christmas), decided to burn off some of their restless energy and make one last trip to the corner newsstand before the Big Day. Astounding SF (1930-present, now Analog) was a never-miss selection, and even young boys were not immune to the charms of a pretty woman in a skimpy bathing suit though it was the dead of winter in the real world. The cover was no doubt calculated to cheer up the magazine’s loyal readership and divert tired minds from the cold (sons and father’s alike). In 1955 Astounding was, as always, a monthly. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (1949-present) was in its early golden years and proudly featured heavy-hitters on its covers like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, and Theodore Sturgeon. It went monthly in August of 1952 and was thus in December of 1955. The venerable Startling Stories (1939-55) was doing its best to hang with solid veteran magazines and newcomers alike, and could still attract popular authors such as James Gunn, Robert L. Young, Margaret St. Clair, and others, but despite this and combining itself with two other failing magazines–hoping perhaps to fold what was left of their readerships into its own–lost the struggle. Reduced to a quarterly schedule for its final seven issues, this Fall 1955 issue was to be its last. The fact that there was still one lone Fall issue hiding behind other magazines in late December spoke volumes.}

       [Left: Astounding, December 1955 – Center: F&SF, December 1955 – Right: Startling Stories, Fall 1955]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.