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Wolf 359 Recap

Scientist Jonathan Meredith and the head of the Dundee Foundation, Philip Exeter Dundee, tell James Custer that they've simulated the planet Wolf 359 in their desert laboratory and the conditions are exactly like the planet. Dundee notes that the simulated is blinking so fast it can't be seen, and each blink is one day. Custer clarifies that they've created an authentic piece of a planet eight light years away, and Jonathan says that he named it "Dundee's Planet" after the foundation. Jonathan says that there's speeded-up vegetation on the simulated planet, just like there is on Dundee's Planet.

Technician Peter Jellicoe reports that the monitoring device is hooked up, and Jonathan checks the magnified view and sees forests on the simulated planet. He has Custer and Dundee take a look, and Jonathan says that animate life shouldn't evolve. After they leave, a white batlike creature forms on the planet.

Later, Jonathan grills stakes for Custer, Dundee, and Jonathan's wife Ethel. The scientist explains that the attachment gives them the chance to check the simulation at a heightened magnification. Each second of their times equals 11 and a half days, and says that the attachment will record events that go by at an eye blink. Dundee tells Jonathan that he's lucky to have a wife like Ethel, and they have other scientists working in seclusion in different locations.

Later after Dundee and Custer leave, Jonathan joins Ethel in bed and says that everyone liked the dinner. Jonathan says that the project will be wrapped up in a few months and they can return to civilization. They kiss and turn off the lights, and Ethel takes Jonathan's hand.

In the simulation, the creature emerges from the planet and moves into the lab.

Ethel hears a coyote howling and sits up, startled. She goes to the window and sees it, and more coyotes approach the house and howl as well. Ethel sees the door to the lab and goes in, unaware that the creature is hovering over the simulation in the next room.

The next day, Ethel joins Jonathan at breakfast. She says that she must have had a bad dream, and Jonathan goes to the lab where Peter is already working. He's been studying a culture of lichen from Wolf 359 and it died overnight. The ants in the soil sample are also dead, and Jonathan dismisses it as inconsequential. They go to the simulation room and check the photos. A white blur appears in one photo and they're unable to identify it. Ethel comes in and Jonathan has her take a look at it, but she doesn't recognize it either. Once Ethel leaves, Jonathan suggests that something moved between the lens and the ground. He says that the shapes look like the jaw of a gigantic beast, and wonders if life began on Planet Dundee simulation like it did on their planet. He checks the attachment view and sees the creature, and has Peter look at it as well. Neither of them knows what it is, but Peter figures that it knows they're there and is looking at him. He takes the remaining photos on the roll of film and notes that it must have stayed in one place for weeks of its time.

The two men examine the photos but there's no sign of the creature. Jonathan wonders if it was a hallucination and suggests that they keep the information to themselves until they know more about it. Peter goes to finish up and Jonathan quickly leaves. Ethel gives him a martini and notices that Jonathan is shivering. She figures that he's overworking and Jonathan tells her that Peter is finishing up. Jonathan admits that he was frightened but doesn't know of what, and says that they're watching the accelerated evolution on Planet Dundee. He goes to shave and shower before dinner, and Ethel enters the simulation room. She looks in the attachment and sees the creature, and then flinches back as it swoops toward her. Peter hears her and runs in, and Ethel tells him that she saw something.

Jonathan arrives and takes Ethel back to the house. She says that she saw what he saw earlier and got a feeling from the monstrous thing. Jonathan admits that he had the same feeling and Ethel says that he should destroy Planet Dundee. He refuses, saying that the simulation lets them watch evolution at work, and then suggests that they go into town and have dinner while Peter minds the lab.

The Merediths go to a club for dinner and dancing. She thanks him for taking himself away from what he really wants to be doing, and says that she won't say anything more about ending the simulation after that night. Ethel explains that she felt pure evil from the creature and they should run from it as fast as they can. Jonathan tells her that he's going to send her back East to their home and suggests that they have one more dance before going back.

Peter checks the simulation and sees electricity flashing over the surface. The creature emerges from the planet, grows, and advances on Peter.

Jonathan and Ethel return home and Jonathan notices that Peter's car is gone when he shouldn't have left. Ethel goes inside and Jonathan finds a nearby tree, petrified into dust. A cactus on the porch is in a similar condition. Ethel calls Jonathan inside and shows him a cage with their dead parakeet. She breaks into tears and Jonathan suggests that she lie down. He goes into the lab and discovers that the lab rats are dead. Jonathan goes into the simulation room and finds the photos on the floor but no sign of Peter. He looks at Planet Dundee and sees the creature in the lab. It advances on Peter and he runs to the door as it withdraws back into the simulation when the light from outside hits it.

Later that night, Jonathan drives Ethel to the airport. He refuses to discuss why he's taking her there and snaps at her when she questions him. When Jonathan returns the next afternoon, Peter is working in the lab. Peter says that he stayed in town and got frightened when he was there the previous night. Jonathan asks what frightened him, and Jonathan notes that he ran out and left their work unprotected. He tells Peter that he's fired and leaves.

Later, Jonathan makes a tape log saying that he sent Peter and Ethel away to protect them. He would go as well but his observations of Planet Dundee are too important. Jonathan figures that the light from the door drove the creature back, and suspects that it's the spirit of the planet, apart from its animal life. He suggests that it's some form of evil and the light is anathema to it. Within a day, Planet Dundee will catch up to Earth's 20th century and then Jonathan will be able to see their own future unfold... if he survives.

Jonathan continues monitoring Planet Dundee. The phone rings but Jonathan ignores it and says that the brutality of Earth is in Planet Dundee as well. Exhausted from his vigil, Jonathan passes out on the bed. The creature enters his bedroom and hovers over the unconscious scientist. When a car pulls up outside, the headlight shines through the window and the creature withdraws.

Peter and Dundee are in the car, and Peter pounds on the front door. When he gets no answer, he breaks in and finds Jonathan unconscious on the bed. When Jonathan wakes up, he says that "he" was there in the room. Peter explains that he called Dundee because he was worried about Jonathan's condition, and Jonathan tells Dundee to take Peter back to town because he doesn't want any interference. Dundee says that Jonathan needs rest, and grabs Peter and yells at both men to get out. Once they leave, Jonathan says that he's going to finish as much of his work as he can and the creature won't stop him.

Jonathan takes more photos of Planet Dundee as it passes into the equivalent of the 19th century, and then the nuclear age and scientific warfare. Jonathan notes that in a few minutes Planet Dundee will pass into its future and he'll know what will happen to Earth. The creature emerges from the simulation and approaches Jonathan, and he backs into the bedroom. Undeterred, the creature passes through the door and smothers Jonathan.

Ethel arrives by taxi and hears Jonathan yelling for help. She finds him and Jonathan tells her to destroy the planet by breaking the glass around the simulation. Ethel runs back to the lab and does so. Jonathan watches as the creature fades away. Ethel comes in and confirms that she destroyed Planet Dundee, and Jonathan tells her that he wanted to see into the future but it's just as well that he didn't. His wife says that he told her that she needed him by not answering when she phoned.

Later, Jonathan makes a recommendation to the Dundee Foundation that they should select a different planet to colonize. As Ethel joins him, Jonathan hopes that the planet they choose will be a planet of some love and warmth like Earth.

Written by Gadfly on Apr 21, 2019

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