COLONEL JOHN WILDER
Colonel Wilder was in charge of the Zeus project to explore Mars for ten years because he believed mankind might escape environmental pollution and war on Earth by colonizing Mars instead.
AS SEEN IN:
'The Martian Chronicles'
"Zeus III" lands on Mars in June 2001. It is commanded by Col. Wilder himself with five other astronauts (Spender, Parkhill, Briggs, Cook, McClure) as subordinates. The crew discovers five ancient cities in the vicinity of the spacecraft, one of which apparently was inhabited only a few weeks ago. The scientists find that all of the Martians have died of chickenpox accidentally brought from Earth by the first two Zeus crews.
Wilder returns to the Red Planet in February 2004 with an entire fleet of spaceships, having been appointed director of the American colonization of Mars. By this time, all the Martians have been killed off by a strain of chickenpox. In six months, a dozen communities are laid down. They are named after the Zeus mission astronauts ("York Plain", "Blackville", "Wilder Mountain", "Spender Hill", "Briggs Canal" and "Lustig Creek"). The colonies grow rapidly over the next two years but not always successfully as the colonists bring the vices of Earth (graft, corruption, bureaucracy) with them.
In the final scene, Wilder, now alone, meets a Martian ghost from thousands of years before (whether the Martians are ghosts or shadows of the past is not made clear). Each can see the Mars he is accustomed to, but the other person is transparent to him and has the appearance of a phantom. Wilder sees ruins where the Martian sees a thriving city. Neither knows if he precedes the other in time, the point being that any one civilization is ultimately fleeting.
Wilder then takes his family into the ruins of a Martian city, saying they will live there and learn the Martian way. He then points into a pool of water at the family's reflection and states, "Those are the Martians", indicating that the humans will be the new citizens of Mars. Finally, he pushes a button on his remote control to blow up the last remaining Earth return rocketship.