Monday, June 18, 2012



Ray Bradbury

Fritz Weaver

'The Martian Chronicles'

Adapted from another source

An alternate Toobworld

According to Ralph Dumain of "AutoDidact":
The tale of the priests is based upon Bradbury’s short story “The Fire Balloons”, excised from the original edition of "The Martian Chronicles" and restored for the first time in the 40th anniversary edition (New York: Doubleday, 1990; pp. 90-108), and anthologized again thereafter.

Upon introduction to Col. Wilder, Fr. Peregrine explains his mission, but he also harbors a personal curiosity about the Martians. He enquires concerning a rumor about blue spheres, but no substantiation is forthcoming. Peregrine wants to exchange ideas with Martians if any can be found. He wants to see the old Martian cities. Wilder compares Mars to the Wild West: colonization is proceeding too abruptly, there is too much corruption, and spiritual guidance is needed. Wilder confides in the priests: he wonders if the Spender who attacked his fellow members of the third expedition was the real Spender. Perhaps there are still Martians afoot. Wilder shows them the ruins of a Martian city. Pieces of it are being dismantled to be sent back to Earth. While others drive back to the Earth settlement, the priests stay behind, choosing to walk back on their own. Fr. Peregrine is actually the one who takes charge.

The two priests debate theological issues as they hike back to home base. By dusk they are lost. Three blue spheres appear. Stone is afraid, convinced it’s the devil’s work. Peregrine is unafraid; he tries to communicate, showing his cross. The spheres depart.

But Peregrine’s shouting appears to provoke an avalanche. As rocks rain down from the mountainside, the priests prostrate themselves on the ground, fearing the worst. But a blue sphere descends from the sky, picks them up, and moves them to a safe spot. Peregrine is elated: this proves that the spheres have souls and free will. Stone as usual wants to limit his attention to Earth souls that need saving; he is averse to non-human creatures. Peregrine asks: “Can’t you recognize the human in the inhuman?” Stone replies: “I would rather recognize the inhuman in the human.”

This exchange typifies their contrasting attitudes. They camp for the night. Peregrine argues that the blue spheres know sin and moral life and have free will. He argues that saving Earthmen is the Martians’ atonement for their original sin of killing the members of the first expeditions. Stone thinks Peregrine has his own interests at heart, committing the sin of pride. Peregrine confesses that his initial motivation to become a priest was to meet Christ in person.

This confession sets up the assumptions behind Peregrine’s later encounter with the Martian changeling.

Wilder... sends out a search party for the missing priests.

The priests spend the night on the cliff. Around dawn the blue spheres descend, and Peregrine awakens. While Stone sleeps, Peregrine sets out to prove that the spheres are intelligent. He jumps off the cliff, but instead of plunging to his death, he is saved in mid-fall by a sphere, as he anticipated. Overjoyed, Peregrine tells the sphere he will build a church for the Martians with a blue sphere instead of a cross. The sphere identifies itself and its fellows as the Old Ones, who have no bodies and are immortal, living in grace, each a temple unto itself, and having no need of any church or salvation, unlike Earthmen.

Afterwards, Peregrine awakens Stone and tells him the story, emphasizing that he heard His voice. The voice-over narration concludes that there is a truth on every planet and that the priests’ Christianity is a partial truth in the mosaic of a larger truth to be discovered.

The contrast between Peregrine’s affirmative, expansive attitude and Stone’s narrowed, negative attitude gives this tale a large part of its interest. I find Peregrine’s expression of faith noteworthy. For all the talk of sin and seeking after Christ, he has a positive attitude toward the Martian spheres, derived, I would say, not from any faith in God apart from people but from faith in his fellow intelligent creatures. In effect, Peregrine jumps off the cliff placing his faith in the good will of the spheres.

DVD Verdict:
Fritz Weaver as the thoughtful priest is interesting as well. Fathers Peregrine (Fritz Weaver) and Stone (Roddy McDowell) have come to bring the word of God to Mars. Father Peregrine becomes obsessed with meeting the Martians, whom he suspects still live somewhere in the hills. He's willing to go to extreme lengths to find them, too. Eventually, he gets a bit more than he suspected out of the process.

A group of missionaries (Father Peregrine and Father Stone) are rescued from a landslide by a group of mysterious lights who claim to be the "Old Ones"; immortal non-corporeal Martians from over 250 million years ago who now live in the hills.

DVD Verdict
[The Martian changeling] flees to the local church, where he runs across Father Peregrine. Who almost kills him…not out of spite or anger, but because his deeply-held vision is that of Jesus, complete with wounds and pierced side.

Father Peregrine later sees a vision of Jesus Christ in his church in First Town, but the vision requests him to go away with words "I am not what I seem! I am not that vision!" Peregrine concludes that the vision in fact is a Martian who involuntarily looks like anybody other people have in mind: David Lustig, Jesus or anybody else. 

DVD Verdict
The story of Father Peregrine is original to this version.
(More on the true story behind the story coming in the next post.)


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