Sunday, October 05, 2008

In Space, No One Can Hear You Snore

This week’s Mis-Treatment (formerly Silly Sci-Fi Summary) takes us to stormy Venus—and it is actually two movies in one, for double the pain.

Previous entries in this series are:
The Wasp Woman
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
Auteur/Perpetrator: Curtis Harrington (credited as John Sebastian, but not the singer-songwriter who was in the Lovin’ Spoonful)
Star of Shame: Basil Rathbone
Monster(s): Guys in lizard suits; flying reptile puppets

In 1962, Soviet director Pavel Klushantsev made Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), the tale of astronauts exploring a turbulent planet Venus. The original movie was purchased by Roger “I Can Make Any Movie for $99.95” Corman, who reedited it, changed the names of the actors to American-sounding names, and hired director Curtis Harrington to film a few extra scenes starring Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, and released it in the U.S. in 1965 as Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. So if it seems like Rathbone (who appears only on a cheapo set that is supposed to be a moonbase) and Domergue (who sits alone in a spaceship with only her voluminous hair for company) seem like they are not in the same movie as the rest of the cast—well, they aren’t! As a result, all their interaction is done over the radio and they conveniently “lose radio contact” at opportune times, which explains why Basil Rathbone vanishes about halfway through the movie. (Hmm...he could star as Sherlock Holmes and try to find his character.) The result, which has a kind of What’s Up, Tiger Lily feel to it, is more like Planeta Bore.

The original Russian movie hopefully had better dialog than what was dubbed in, but the special effects are pretty cheesy. It’s also damn near impossible to figure out who anybody is—they all sound alike and in their space suits they all kind of look alike.

Judging by the quality of the print that was included in my science-fiction box set, this film was remastered, if by “remastered” you mean unwound from the reel, tied to the back of an ATV, and dragged through a gravel pit.

And we begin with the titles superimposed on some abstract paintings—kind of like bad Picasso. Our stars are Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, and she is really the only faith I have in this movie. I have to say, Faith Domergue would be great to have in bed—her droning monotone could cure the worst insomnia. Oh, and it was directed and written by “John Sebastian.” Hot town, summer in the city, indeed.

That done, we cut to the inky redness (huh?) of space. The narrator (there’s always a narrator in these movies) tells us, “The year is 2020.” (“2020: The Year of Perfect Vision.” There could be a movie in that. And it would probably be better than this one.) “The moon has been explored and colonized—and the next space goal is about to be reached.” Well, that’s because the defense sucks. “The first landing on the planet Venus by man.” Oh, that space goal; never mind. An international space agency has sent three ships—the Sirius, the Vega, and the Capella—the 300 million miles to Venus. I didn’t know Venus was that far away; the Sun is only 93 million miles away. Perhaps they shouldn’t have gone by way of Jupiter. And right off the bat there is trouble; the Capella is hit by a meteor and destroyed. Oops.

On the lunar base (Luna 7), Basil Rathbone (Dr. Hartman) is informed and he is not happy. It must have been Moriarty who did it.

Meanwhile, in the Russian footage—I mean, in the Sirius—everyone is green and pasty and they are despondent about the destruction of the Capella. “With a meteorite, there is no fair or unfair. You get hit...and die.” Throughout this movie, these guys are the gloomiest bunch of cosmonauts—I mean, astronauts I have ever seen.

Basil Rathbone calls the Sirius and informs them—and the Vega—that they are to stay in orbit around Venus and not do anything until the Asta (Nick and Nora Charles’ dog?) blasts off and arrives. They all start griping about having to wait. One of them—Andrei (is that his name?)—makes a noise that sounds like a duck quacking. Enough fowl language. Apparently, the original idea was to send down a robot to explore Venus—so why did they need three ships? Anyway, Andrei (?) says he can land on Venus himself and see more than a robot could. The other two are in agreement—but they wonder what Dr. Hartman would think. Oh, he’s not even in this movie so I wouldn’t worry about it. They then discuss the robot on the auxiliary craft. What auxiliary craft? It’s not even five minutes in and I’m confused already.

We then cut to another ship—the Asta? (The writing on the side is in Russian.) Close up of a balding man muttering “Awaken, John.” (It was a bold choice of the sound editor to have all the voiceover actors read their lines with marbles in their mouths.) John is the robot. Is John the best name for a robot? Then again, in Russian it would have been “Ivan,” which would have at least sounded a bit cooler.

The robot speaks in the halting, word-by-word manner we have come to associate with talking robots. “You must be extra precise,” the balding man says to John the robot. Aren’t robots usually precise? I mean, they have computerized brains so they probably don’t just guesstimate things. John is instructed to recalculate the landing details. Let me see if I get this: it will be bald guy, John, and “Sherman” on one ship (hopefully not going through Atlanta) and “Commander Lockhart, Walters, and Ferneau” (oh, that’s Andrei—I had to look this up online; it’s mumbled so incoherently that it takes some replaying and consulting IMDb to figure out who is who and where they are) on the other ship. That is, the guys on the Sirius. “The problem: land on Venus then return.” So why do they need three ships and five guys for this?

There is some random intercutting to some guy (I’m guessing Sherman?) and then to Faith Domergue (her character’s name is Marsha Evans) who for some reason is all alone on the Vega. Does she have cooties? The robot says something unintelligible and seems to think that it should be the one to stay behind. I thought that’s the only reason they brought the robot?

Marsha calls Basil Rathbone and reiterates that “Mumble mumble, Sherman, and robot will land in the auxiliary spacecraft.” Basil Rathbone puts his leg up, which is the only real blocking his scenes have. Marsha explains that she will keep the Vega in orbit to ensure the safe return of the Sirius with all men. But what about the auxiliary ship? Is that the Asta? No, wait: she says there is no need to wait for the arrival of the Asta. So...there were four ships? Where did the fourth one come from? I’m so confused. Help!

On a side note, Marsha’s hair helmet was specially designed by the space agency to store three days’ worth of air, food, and water. It can also be used as a flotation device in the event of a water landing.

Basil Rathbone then leans down to talk into the microphone. “Your plan is very logical.” It is? “But I am concerned about the psychological danger of you remaining alone too long on the Vega.” Well, why did they send her alone? Oy vega. And all the others are not exactly pictures of perfect mental health. Marsha says she’ll be fine, and Sherman’s voice chimes in and seconds it. “Don’t you know women are tougher than men?” Basil’s assistant (not Dr. Watson) then brings over a file folder and Basil consults it. He chuckles. “You’re quite right, Sherman.” They have data on this? So they have been arguing over how tough she is to not go down on the planet and just stay alone in the ship. Is that right? “I’ll call you again at 0400 hours,” she says. Four in the morning?

On the Sirius (I think), Lockhart (maybe?) is shaving while Walters (I think?) its in the bathroom eating. Can that be right? A voice comes over the radio telling Lockhart (?) that the Vega is calling. But the voice (a male voice) says that they just received permission to land, followed by the Sirius. But I thought they were the Sirius. Dah! Who are these people and what ship are they on? “Kern’s robot calculated the details.” Then maybe the robot isn’t being “extra precise.” Who’s Kern? Oh, I think he’s the balding guy. But wasn’t he on the auxiliary ship? But then is that the Sirius? I mean, let’s get serious.

They pan up and Andrei (?) has been watching them thoughtfully. “I’m ready, Skipper,” he says hesitantly. But wasn’t he Mr. Gung Ho a few minutes ago? Or was that yet a third movie? We pan down to Walters (?): “I’m with you also,” he says sadly. Why did they come if they’re so unexcited about the whole thing? Did they run out of Prozac?

Then Lockhart (?) says something that even after five replays doesn’t make any sense: “Sherman, make room for a spaceship.” Where? In his garage? “I’ll join you there....maybe. Good luck.” Then Sherman replies, “I’ll see you on Venus.” What the heck is going on?

There are clouds, which I guess is supposed to be Venus. Marsha rattles off some random numbers, while the folks in the other movie look at various instruments. Andrei (?) sees a red spot; “It could be Hades,” he is told. Um, yeah. Marsha then records her log, “We are gathering all possible data for our landing on Venus.” Hopefully the data includes who the heck is actually landing. The ultimate question: Is there life on Venus? The penultimate question: Who is landing?

Meanwhile, someone (Lockhart?) stares out the window, and says, dourly, “Unlikely, Marsha. That planet is a fire below us.” It is? “Is it a new world, or will it consume us all?” Jeepers, what a downer. Andrei (?) muses about the red spot.

Marsha tells them (on the Sirius) that Kern, Sherman, and “Automaton John” are ready to embark. Ah. “100 hours.” Huh? Someone’s voice (Lockhart’s?) comes over Marsha’s radio and wishes Kern and Sherman good luck, and expresses how envious he is that they will be the first humans to set foot on Venus. Whoever they are.

And they’re off. Apparently. Everyone watches the landing ship as it descends into white clouds. “I don’t like the looks of this.” We don’t actually see anyone in the landing ship; we just hear them over a variety of radios. In fact, the main loudspeaker in the Sirius could very well be the ship’s fourth crewmember. At any rate, it’s the only one I can conclusively identify.

Control is given to the robot who immediately screws things up. “This landing place is strange,” we hear. “This truly is a prehistoric planet.” What? Do uninhabited planets usually have some kind of recorded history? The landing ship lands and gives the Sirius their coordinates. Remember that: they know where the ship landed. They say there is water beneath them, and they are drifting. There is what sounds like the engines firing, and everyone starts getting worried. Marsha calls the Sirius in a panic. Is she sure she doesn’t mind being alone? Commander Lockhart (?) says that the landing ship’s signal was broken by the horizon, and he’s sure they’ve landed. Shouldn’t they have picked a landing spot where they could radio the other ships? Anyway, they can make contact again in an hour.

Sometime later, I think, Andrei (?) is sweating profusely and shouting “Kern! Sherman!” into the radio. “It’s hopeless,” he says. Even he doesn’t know who is supposed to have landed. The others start moping around despondently. Jeez, it’s like a shipful of Morrisseys. They decide to break orbit and go down to Venus to look for the others. Lockhart (?) calls Marsha and tells her the plan. “If something should happen, don’t you be afraid....You can help us best if you stay brave and keep faith.” Well, she is Faith, so that shouldn’t be too hard.

At that point, Basil Rathbone calls. “You should feel free to discontinue the expedition at your own discretion.” But then: “All of earth is awaiting the results of your expedition. Best of success.” What? Anyway, Lockhart (?) tells Basil the plan, such as it is, and adds, “My people are proud and privileged to be chosen members of this expedition.” Take that. “Well, my boys,” says Basil Rathbone to his assistant, “All we can do now is wait.” No shit, Sherlock. (Doh!)

The Sirius then lands...I think. Well, some ship lands. “We’re landed,” pronounces Andrei (?) dramatically, “Voila.” “Don’t begin celebrating yet.” On this ship? Not much chance of that. They stand up and start jumping around. “It sure feels strange to have weight.” Oh, the novelty wears off; trust me.

Outside, they see nothing but clouds and rocks. They turn on the “outside sound pickup” and hear an odd moaning noise, followed by a shrill, piercing whine. For some reason, they think it is a human sound. Lockhart (?) tells Andrei (?) to get his spacesuit on, as they are going outside. “I’ll be right behind you,” he replies. “That’ll be handy in case I slip. Now get popping.” OK, then. It is at this point that they all start turning into the Lockhorns and ragging on each other. Walters (?) says, “It’s 4.7 on oxygen.” What? “That’s pretty close,” says Lockhart (?). Huh? Are they speaking in code?

Outside, Andrei (?) starts walking slowly along the rocks. Meanwhile, Lockhart (?) and Walters (?) explain to each other that Marsha has just called and detected “radar movement,” which may be Sherman and the robot. As they call to Andrei (?) to return to the ship, he is attacked by a weird tentacled plant thing that kind of looks like a giant Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion. At the ship, they hear Andrei (?) making strange groaning noises. They run and free him from the Bloomin’ Onion. Andrei (?) denies having called out as he was being attacked.

Lockhart (?) calls Marsha and chides her for not having given them detailed information about where the others are. She laughs it off; “I was so glad to hear you made a safe landing, I forgot to tell you.” She’s sure she doesn’t mind being alone up there? They are “across the bay” from them. They couldn’t have landed closer? I mean, didn’t they establish earlier that the landing ship had given them their coordinates? “We’ll have to go by air. Is the car ready?” They apparently brought a hovercar. Here is more snippy dialogue:
“Will the car make it there?”
“It does or we walk.”
“I’d sure like a four-lane freeway.”
“You’d get a flat.”
What? But it’s a hovercar—oh, never mind.

They ask Marsha about the robot. “Apparently, they’re having some difficulty with him. He was loaded aboard the ship partially disassembled. I’m afraid they haven’t been able to reassemble him yet.” But wait— I thought the robot had landed the ship. (That could explain rather a lot.) And how is it that Marsha is suddenly in contact with Sherman, et al.? I thought everyone was worried because no one had heard from them?

You know, it was a bold choice for the screenwriter to have written the American dialogue without actually having watched the original movie.

We then cut to a partially assembled robot lumbering across the rocks toward Kern (?) who is holding its head. Meanwhile, they are attacked by small jumping lizard creatures. Sherman (?) shoots them while Kern (?) finishes putting the robot together.

Good grief: baby got back. That robot has a huge butt. It is not so much a robot as a robutt.

Meanwhile, Kern (?) and Sherman (?) engage in some witty banter of their own:
“I’m wondering if we should be here at all.”
“Why don’t you catch a bus and go home.”
“Don’t think I wouldn’t if I could find one.”
Ah, the great spirit of interplanetary exploration! The two of them and the robutt do...something involving ropes.

Meanwhile, the others are in the hovercar trundling along the rocks. They stop and see a brontosaurus grazing on a barren cliff (?). They get a blood sample from it and find it hysterical. I know I can never draw blood from a giant reptile without laughing my head off. Where did they get these guys?

Cut back to Kern (?) and Sherman (?), who are finished with the ropes. “We have very little oxygen left,” says one of them. Well, maybe they should stop ragging on each other and conserve it. Kern (?) hopes the others are looking for them. “Through this heat?” says Sherman (?). It’s hot? No one else has said anything about heat. One of them has a torn suit; “the infection is getting through.” Huh? “Maybe we should take some quinsulin.” “No, we’d have to rest after.” Ah. “Must...keep...moving,” says Kern (?) in a way that would out-Shatner Shatner. And they lumber onward, the robutt ahead of them. True, the enormous metal ass is a bit of a beacon, I’ll give it that. (One could so easily make a Bender/Futurama reference here. But I shan’t.)

In the hovercar, the trio hears the piercing whine. “That voice again,” says Andrei (?), excitedly. “Almost sounds like a girl.” “Or a monster,” adds Walters (?). It is a fine line, I guess. How long have they been in space? More witty banter:
“That’s a human sound.”
“There are no humans here.”
“We’re here.”
So is one of them making the noise?

Lockhart (?) muses about the possibility that other men have been to Venus before. Walters (?) is having none of it. Andrei (?) goes off excited by the idea that the voice belongs to a girl. Walters (?) then adds, “I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind exploring planet Venus.” Does he realize what he just said? I guess the space program isn’t all that selective about who it lets in.

Kern (?), Sherman (?), and the robutt find a waterfall. The robutt does not like the water and says it is in danger. Kern (?) tells it to look for shelter. The other two are as equally wussy. The robutt finds a cave, and Kern (?) and Sherman (?) stagger into it. They collapse. Kern (?) starts deliriously going on about how useful mathematics is, before he passes out. Sherman (?), meanwhile, deliriously repeats “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.” What is he, Jan Brady all of a sudden?

“I await your order,” says the robutt. Well, I’m guessing it won’t be a Bloomin’ Onion.

Meanwhile, Marsha gets a call from...someone (not sure who). “Something’s wrong?” the voice says to her. “How can you tell?” “By the tone of your voice.” A remarkably perceptive man, as her voice has been a complete monotone throughout this movie. But she is upset that she can no longer make contact with Sherman. Oh, it was one of the guys in the hovercar. Then, they start losing contact with Marsha as a weird whooping noise drowns her out (it sounds like Curly from the Three Stooges is in Marsha’s ship).

They then make contact with John the robutt, who gives them their position. They then ask about Kern and Sherman. “They do not speak. They do not move.” Well, that’s extra precise, isn’t it? Are they dead? Sleeping? Watching this movie? Lockhart (?) then instructs the robutt to administer some kind of medicine to Kern and Sherman. This takes a while—“You must do this quickly”—and John drops what looks like a BreathSavers into the mouth of an unconscious man (is that a wise idea?), dumps water on his face, then closes his helmet. Oddly, this seems to help.

The hovercar is then attacked by a really goofy looking pterodactyl puppet. They call to Marsha who has suddenly changed clothes and is lying in bed reading. Huh? They try shooting down the puppet but it’s clumsy, awkward, lethargic flying makes it a tough target, and they end up diving into the water instead. Marsha has been watching, and freaks out when they vanish from her radar. She calls Basil Rathbone, “This is Marsha Evans,” she announces. “From the Spaceship Vega.” Oh, that Marsha. Not so elementary, I guess. Marsha admits that she has lost contact with everyone. She asks for instructions to land. (But she can’t—she’s not in the same movie.) Naturally, Basil forbids it (they only have the two sets), but conveniently they all lose radio contact. Marsha then has a voiceover moment where she deliberates what to do. Her droning monologue would make a good addition to the white noise machine I use when I have trouble sleeping.

To simulate the astronauts being under the water, the director placed an aquarium between the camera and the actors to give the illusion that they were underwater and surrounded by fish. Yeah. “That’s a shark’s tail,” says Walters (?), pointing to what looks like a minnow. “With the head of a dolphin,” adds Lockhart (?). No, it really isn’t. Andrei (?) bounces about and has a brief run-in with an octopus puppet. I want that puppet! Andrei (?) or Walters (?) finds a cave that he thinks was carved. He finds a weird rock that looks like one of those elephant ear pastries. Lockhart (?) then finds an idol, which Walters (?) thinks is just a petrified tree. Lockhart (?) pulls some seaweed away to reveal a ruby—and it does look like the eye of some kind of reptile bird thing. They all insist that there was some kind of civilization. “And I’ll bet there still is,” says Andrei (?).

Meanwhile, Kern (?), Sherman (?), and the robutt are fully recovered. Sherman (?) finds some kind of volcanic residue “that absorbs oxygen.” Huh? The robutt uses some ropes to pull down a large tree, which they then use to cross over a large chasm. Kern (?) asks the robutt to play some music as they cross, and it sounds like the only music the robutt has available is the collected works of Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute.

Meanwhile, after their underwater odyssey, Lockhart (?), Walters (?), and Andrei (?) pull the hovercar onto the shore. Every part of the hovercar is perfectly dry except for the radio (of course). “I’ve tried everything,” says Walters (?). “Have you tried a long string and an oatmeal box?” Is he Wilford Brimley all of a sudden? Lockhart (?) is still obsessed with the idea that there is a civilization on the planet surreptitiously watching them. If there is, they must be bored out of their minds. “Let’s face it. They built a city that is now under the sea.” Oh, right: one reptile bird statue and suddenly it’s an underwater city? That’s a bit of a reach, even for this guy (whoever he is). The shrill whine starts up again. “Beautiful song and a beautiful girl,” says Andrei (?). No, and...probably no. Andrei (?) then goes off and talks to the rock he found.

Lockhart (?) and Walters (?) are then about to drive off without Andrei (?), but they beckon him into the hovercar so they can rag on him about being in love with a Venusian woman.

Meanwhile, Kern (?), Sherman (?), and John the robutt are hanging out on some rocks. Kern (?) says “That’s strange. It’s suddenly gotten dark.” Um, could it be night? “There’s an ash cloud above us.” Oh, it’s—HUH?! They look out and suddenly see an erupting volcano. They are amazed by it. “No one on Earth has seen such a sight.” Tell that to the people of Pompeii. Or Krakatoa. Or... They want to get a better vantage point, which can only mean one thing: they will be trapped by lava flows. They busily collect samples...while the whole time the robutt just stands there and does nothing. A fine analytical tool it is.

As the lava covers the only path to safety, they climb on top of the robutt, which then wades through the lava. Oh, so a few drops of water would destroy it, but it can walk through molten lava with no problem? Well, only for a short while: as the temperature approaches 7500 degrees, the robutt announces that it’s self-preservation mechanism will force it to toss off the extra weight, which it proceeds to do. Kern (?) wastes no time in instructing Sherman (?) to yank out the robutt’s self-preservation mechanism. He is unable, however, and John grabs Kern (?) and tries to chuck him into the lava. The robutt suddenly goes dead, just as the hovercar shows up and rescues them. They leave the poor robutt standing in the lava, until it slowly tips over and falls face forward into the lava. “I never thought I’d see your ugly face again,” says Sherman (?) to his rescuer. Good one. They should have saved the robot instead. To Kern’s (?’s) credit, he does gaze on the remains of the robutt sadly. “As he knew his destruction was imminent, he called my name.” But did he get it correct? In this movie, that’s no easy feat. It takes a long time for the lava to completely cover the robot’s giant ass.

The guys all loaf around as they fix the hovercar (or something). Walters (?) or maybe Sherman (?) shows the others a picture of his children, triplets whom he has named 1, 2, and 3. He jokes about it. OK. Lockhart (?) is still on the “there must be a civilization here” kick, using as evidence the fact that on Earth humans once lived in the water when the air was toxic—uh, when was this? (Yeah, and humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs. Uh huh.) Kern (?) brings up the lizard people. “They may look like lizards, but couldn’t they be people?” Wow, that’s like, so deep. “They saw the ship, then put on their lizard costumes, and jumped up and down to spook us away.” Actually, now that you mention it... They argue about this for a while. “Here, you two. Have some coffee and rest your voices.” Coffee?

Andrei (?) then launches into an internal monologue about the so-called “woman” he keeps hearing. One of the others jolts him out of his reverie by donning some vegetation and pretending to be the Bloomin’ Onion creature. They all laugh. Isn’t this over yet?

They take the hovercar back to the ship. There is a strange shot of the sky, which seems to portend something. Actually, it portends a montage erupting, featuring the dorks collecting samples amidst cutaways to decidedly Earth-based lizards perched on rocks, looking bored (I know how they feel). After the montage has abated, they arrive back at the ship. “I think we’ve done a job we can be proud of.” Not in this movie!

They unload all their crap from the hovercar. They suddenly realize there is a recording from Marsha on the automatic recorder. The spaceship has an answering machine? She monotonously explains how she is about to come down to the planet to rescue them, but then the tape runs out. Doh! “This is a mess now,” they say. “Marsha’s mistake was the worst. The worst.” Jeepers, heap shame on Marsha, why don’t you? “We’d better make a plan. A good one.” What’s the problem—they don’t want a girl in their clubhouse?

Outside, it starts raining.

Lockhart (?) has a plan. Some of them will blast off and look for Marsha. No word on what the others are supposed to do. Hang out on the planet? And, hey, I thought what’s his name—Kern or Sherman—was running out of oxygen an hour ago. Kind of a dopey plan, but it’s rendered moot when it turns out that the spot of land the ship is parked on is breaking up and is being turned into a new waterway by an onrush of water. They are apparently too heavy to take off, so they unload as much of the crap they just collected as they can. They somehow figure out that Marsha didn’t land after all, and they call her to see what happened. Wait...shouldn’t they have tried that before coming up with their dippy plan? It turns out she had actually made contact with Basil Rathbone and was talked out of landing.

Meanwhile, Andrei (?) takes out his elephant ear pastry, chips away at it, and reveals a carving of a woman’s face. There is life on Venus after all! He implores them not to leave, but they do anyway.

And as they ship disappears into the sky, we cut down to a still lake, where we can see in the water the reflection of a female form approaching and apparently making that piercing whine. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.

Come on, narrator, bring it on home: “And so man’s search for intelligent life on other planets and in other galaxies will continue.” And I think this movie proves what Eric Idle sang in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: “Pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ’Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.”

The end.

It is to our credit as a species that we learn from the mistakes of others, so after this movie, I think I pretty much know what not to do if I were ever organizing an expedition to Venus (or any other planet). The first is to avoid taking three (or possibly four) separate ships. That’s like when a bunch of friends all try to meet up someplace and they all take separate cars. It’s no wonder that someone inevitably gets lost, and then someone has to go look for them, and then they get lost, and so on. Secondly, I’d avoid using a robot whose operating software was still in beta. No wonder things went awry. And if I were to put the robot in charge of landing the ship, I’d probably make sure its head was attached. Thirdly, while exploring the planet, I’d avoid standing at the base of an erupting volcano. (Plus, I’d also make sure I was familiar with Earth geology before becoming amazed by the same things on another planet.) Oh, and finally, I’d make sure everyone on the expedition wore one of those “Hello My Name Is” tags.

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