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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle-dot-com

The Thing from Another World The Thing from Another World
Screenplay by Charles Lederer
Directed by Christian Nyby
Released in 1951

A flying saucer crashes in the Arctic near a U.S. scientific research outpost and the unwary humans dig up from the ice a frozen being from outer space.


Read the complete screenplay at


Didja Know?


The Thing from Another World is loosely based on the 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell (writing as Don A. Stuart).


If director Christian Nyby's name sounds familiar to Apostles, it may be because his son, Christian I. Nyby II, directed several episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. Nyby, Sr. was a prolific television director as well. 


Didja Notice?


This version of the story is set in the Arctic (around the North Pole) rather than the Antarctic (South Pole) as in "Who Goes There?" and the 1982 film version The Thing.


The story opens at an Officers' Club in Anchorage, Alaska. The base it's on goes unnamed, but would presumably be Elmendorf Air Force Base since the military personnel in the movie are U.S. Air Force officers and Elmendorf was established in Anchorage in 1940.


The reporter, Scotty, comes into the Officers' Club and comments that it's 25 below outside. Although such temperatures have been experienced in Anchorage, it is not frequent. Average winter temperatures there are 5-30 degrees Fahrenheit.


The characters all have different names than those in "Who Goes There?" and there are no real parallels between the characters in the film and in the short story. However, there is one supporting character, Lt. MacPherson, who is occasionally called "Mac", as MacReady is also called in The Thing (possibly The Thing scriptwriter Bill Lancaster borrowed the nickname for MacReady after hearing it in this film, because the McReady in the short story is never called that).


In the Officers' Club, Eddie comments that Scotty is a warm weather man. This may have been Bill Lancaster's inspiration for MacReady's interest in warm climes in the script of The Thing.


Eddie says he and Scotty first met in Accra, where it was 105 degrees in the shade. Most likely he is referring to the capital city of the country of Ghana in Africa.


Scotty and Mac comment that Dr. Carrington was at Bikini. This most likely refers to Bikini Atoll, a series of islands in the Pacific controlled by the U.S. from 1945-1986 and where the U.S. conducted a series of nuclear blast tests from 1946-1958.


The main character in the film is a pilot named Captain Patrick Hendry rather than the McReady of the short story.


Hendry's copilot comments that Peary went to the North Pole and retired with a sack-full of medals. This is a reference to Robert Edwin Peary, who, for some time, was credited as the first explorer to reach the geographic North Pole in 1909, although it has also been contended that it was actually Dr. Frederick Cook who reached it the year before.


As in the short story, the U.S. research base detects a magnetic anomaly in the region that causes them to investigate.


Notice that the U.S. Air Force plane flown by Captain Hendry has both wheels and skis on its landing gear, for landings on the Arctic ice. The plane is a Douglas C-47.


When Dr. Carrington dictates a note to Nikki, he lets us know that the story has opened on November 2. The year is never stated, but would likely be 1950/51 when the movie was filmed/released.


Dr. Carrington says the crash site is 48 miles due east of the outpost. In "Who Goes There?", it is located 80 miles southwest of the outpost.


Reading back Dr. Carrington's notes to Captain Hendry, Nikki mentions the magnetometer registered a deviation the day before. As the name suggests, a magnetometer is a device for measuring magnetic fields.


At 16:13 on the DVD, the researchers first spot the saucer crash site from the air. Why does it appear there are already vehicle tracks across the surface of the impact zone? When they land to investigate, not only are the tracks gone, but the impact zone appears to be quite a bit smaller!


Just as in the short story, the researchers decide they will melt the ship out of the ice with thermite bombs.


Scotty calls the saucer discovery the biggest story since the parting of the Red Sea. This, of course, is a reference to the flight of the Israelites from Egypt across the Red Sea in the Biblical Book of Exodus.


Notice that at 23:05 on the DVD, the sled dogs are not reacting to the explosion and flames off-screen!


Dr. Carrington says the alien "got out or was thrown out" of the saucer, similar to MacReady's line in The Thing.


At 25:20 on the DVD, Lt. MacPherson is reading from an issue of Air Force Magazine.


Eddie mentions having been stationed on Bulan Island. Bulan Island is a small island in Indonesia.


Reporter Scotty is upset that permission to send out his story is being delayed by the military as each succeeding officer in the chain of command passes the buck on to the next. He wonders who Truman will ask when it gets to him and Eddie answers, "Margaret." This exchange is a reference to the current President Harry S. Truman and his daughter, Margaret.


At 34:37 on the DVD, Bob mentions a mission over Rechenberg. This is most likely a reference to Rechenberg-Bienenmühle, Germany and probably a reference to events during WWII.


At 38:54 on the DVD, we get our first glimpse of the alien, still in ice. The head looks rather like the stereotypical aliens of modern-day abduction lore.


At 39:52 on the DVD, we see that apparently the sled dogs are made to sleep entirely outside at night in the Arctic, without even a wooden shelter as a kennel!


The dogs start to bark like crazy when the Thing wakes up even though it seems unlikely they could know it was awake from outside while it was still inside.


In their argument that the alien appears to be a highly evolved, thinking plant creature, Drs. Carrington and Stern comment on a couple of Earth's own "thinking" plants such as the telegraph vine and the acanthus century plant. Unfortunately, it seems that scriptwriter Lederer grabbed a few plant names and threw them in without research! The telegraph vine does not communicate with others of its species; it's name was simply derived from the movements of the plant's small leaflets as they sample the intensity of the sunlight for the larger leaves, which resemble a semaphore telegraph. The "acanthus century plant" is actually two separate plants, neither of which traps and eats small mammals as described in the film. (There are other plants that behave in manners similar to the ones described, but these aren't them!)


When Scotty hears about the "intelligent" Earth plants, he says, "That's one for Ripley." This is a reference to Ripley's Believe It or Not, a franchise of books, comic strips, comic books, radio shows, television programs, museums and more that tell the bizarre but true stories of people, places, and things in this world.


At 54:20 on the DVD, we see that the C-47 airplane piloted by Captain Hendry is apparently called, ironically, Tropical Tilly.


We get our first good look at the Thing as Hendry throws open the greenhouse door at 57:34 on the DVD. Somehow, the eyes do not appear to be large and black as they did on the face frozen in the ice.


Bob tells the others that after dousing the creature in kerosene, they can use a veri pistol to ignite it. A veri pistol is another name for a flare gun.


When asked if he knows how to fire the veri pistol, Lt. MacPherson mentions he saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York. Sergeant York is a 1941 biographical film starring Gary Cooper about Alvin York, a poor enlisted man in the U.S. Army during WWI, who was a skilled marksman.


Scotty mentions having been at Alamein, Bouganville, and Okinawa. These are all locations where campaigns were fought during WWII.


As they await the creature's approach, MacPherson worriedly asks the others, "What if it can read our minds?" This is a callback to the suggested telepathy of the Thing in "Who Goes There?"


Scotty mentions he was at the execution of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray. This references back to a sensational crime in 1927, the two illicit lovers having murdered Ruth's husband, which led to the arrest, trial, and execution of the pair. Scotty goes on to say he didn't get a picture because "they didn't allow cameras...but one guy--" before getting interrupted as the Thing approaches the building. What he was about to say is that a photographer for the Chicago Tribune, Tom Howard, smuggled in a special camera strapped to his ankle and got a now famous picture of Ruth Snyder's execution in the electric chair.


Dr. Carrington's attempt to sabotage the base's defense against the Thing by turning off the generator and holding the others at bay with a gun is derived from Blair's paranoid attempts to stop the Thing, or anyone else, from escaping the base in "Who Goes There?"


At the end of the film, the outpost is referred to as Polar Expedition 6. 


Unanswered Questions


Why does the saucer crash? We never learn the reason. 


Memorable Dialog


only dames.wav

making like an octopus.wav

holy cat.wav

we found a flying saucer.wav

the key to the stars.wav

Bulletin 629-49, item 6700, extract 75,131.wav

they sure don't breed them for beauty.wav

we can see the thing.wav

visitors from other worlds.wav

super carrot.wav

an intellectual carrot.wav

the hand became alive.wav

it lives on blood.wav

before somebody makes a salad.wav

a flying saucer and a man from Mars.wav

a field of cabbages.wav

turn the human race into food.wav

frightened school boys.wav

what do you do with a vegetable?.wav

what can we learn from that thing?.wav

that sure made the world happy.wav

Come on, Mister Martian.wav

what if he can read our minds?.wav

I'm not your enemy.wav


keep watching the sky.wav 


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