Thursday, March 30, 2017

Power to the Little People

"All right, my little friends, comes now the new age, the age of — the age of Peter Craig. Let us begin to build the statue again. Let us commence to begin."

Peter Craig (Joe Maross)

Whether one believes in God or not, I suppose we have all wondered at some time in our lives, however fleetingly, what we might have done differently if we had been the Creator. Such musing is rooted in a desire for power. Ultimate power.

Perhaps we don't go quite that far in our musing. Perhaps we fantasize about being the one giving the orders instead of the one taking the orders. While it may be more muted in that scenario, it's still about power, though, isn't it?

Peter Craig (Joe Maross) didn't like being bossed around and not–so–secretly wished to be the boss. In the episode of Twilight Zone that premiered on this night in 1962, "The Little People," he was the No. 2 man in a two–astronaut crew in a spaceship exploring the heavens. As the No. 2 guy, clearly, he took his orders from the No. 1 guy, played by Claude Akins.

And he didn't like it.

When the episode began, the astronauts were stranded on some planet that viewers were told was millions of miles from Earth. They were in what appeared to be a canyon with no vegetation in sight. But the planet had oxygen, and it was quite warm with two suns blazing during the day.

The ship needed some repairs, and Akins set about the task. Craig, meanwhile, went on hikes that kept him away all day.

Akins became suspicious when he never saw Craig drinking from his canteen.

When pressed about it, Craig confessed. He had found a source of water, a little stream; as Akins pursued the matter, he learned that Craig had discovered a race of tiny people. They had built a tiny city on the banks of that "stream," which was a river to them.

Craig said he had been communicating with the little people. He didn't know their language, and they didn't know his, but they had managed to communicate through a form of language that appeared to be primarily mathematical.

The little people had been quite accommodating — mostly out of fear. Whenever angered Craig stomped on something in the little people's world, causing considerable carnage while devoting no more effort to it than one would give to stepping on an ant hill.

The little people were terrified, and they did everything they could to appease this "giant." They built a huge (in their estimation) statue of Craig overnight. He was becoming a god — their god through whose benevolence their destinies were determined.

And he didn't want to leave this planet where he was revered as a god — even though Akins had repaired the spaceship and was preparing to leave.

Craig told Akins to go — but, as far as he was concerned, Craig had no intention of leaving. Probably an ordinary–sized man on Earth, Craig was so big he could blot out the sun for the little people. He could cast them into eternal darkness with only his shadow.

The power was entirely his.

Until two space travelers arrived. They were as big compared to Craig as Craig had been to the little people. One reached down to pick up a ranting Craig and crushed him to death. Then the travelers left.

The little people, liberated by Craig's death, immediately tore down the statue they had built to Craig.

The ending always makes me think of something Florence Eldridge said to Fredric March in "Inherit the Wind" when he told her that a victory in that court case would be "a monument to God that would last a thousand years."
"Every man has to build his own monument. You can't do it for them. If you do, it becomes your monument. Not theirs. And they'll topple it the minute they find a flaw in it."