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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
The God Machine
Plot:
The cycle of procreation and the institution of marriage is regulated by a master computer in the future. Surprisingly, a young couple over-ride the system and fall in love. They rebel against the machine that tries to separate them.
Episode:
1054
Air Dates:
First Run - January 28, 1980
Repeat - May 13, 1980
Writer:
Listen:
Rating:
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9 Responses to Episode 1054


In a distant and de-humanized future controlled by a master computer, a man and woman are ordered to marry and produce a child which, genetic calculations indicate, will become a genius mathematician. However, its calculations did not include the two actually falling in love...

Eh, uh - OK I guess. Not really one to write home about, but OK Science Fiction I guess. Someone was messing with an old synthesizer for some of the sound effects.

Well, it's not a horror show. That's for sure. But I'm a bit of a science fiction fan and I enjoy shows that make statements about the future. Especially when you are in the future looking back on them. Is this show a prediction? I don't think so. It paints something of a caricature of 'political correctness.'

CBSRMT had a difficult relationship with science fiction. The show managed some excellent individual programs within the genre (generally written either by Henry Slesar or Alfred Bester--both pros in the field--or else adaptations of old classics), but the vast majority were pretty abysmal. Most of the writers had no background in the genre and little apparent knowledge of it--which accounts for the numerous episodes that are little more than thinly-disguised rewrites of PLANET OF THE APES, LOGAN'S RUN, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, various STAR TREK and TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, and the two SF literary classics that even non-SF people can be counted on to have read, BRAVE NEW WORLD and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. "The God Machine" falls into that last category. The very notion of computer-as-God had been done to death by 1980 (it's even in STAR TREK); to this, the episode adds a future in which people can't choose their own mates, where love has been forgotten/outlawed, and where rebels risk permanent mental "readjustment" (just as happens to Winston Smith at the end of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR). One could see all of these themes in pretty much any sci-fi TV show of the 1960s or '70s (or in the pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s). As a result, "The God Machine" is a weak, almost painfully derivative story; Sam Dann seems to have phoned this one in while watching too many bad sci-fi TV reruns. For a counter-example of how well RMT could do science fiction, I'd like to recommend Alfred Bester's "The Walking Dead" (5/20/76), a brilliant tale of a psychopathic robot adapted from his classic short story "Fondly Fahrenheit." Science fiction radio rarely got better than this!

The Walking Dead was certainly an excellent episode. I rated it highly and enjoyed it thoroughly. Bester was a great writer except for a couple clunkers (I think he wrote the awful "Through the Looking Glass"). Somebody wrote here that Bester spent his final years drinking himself to death. You're right. The computer-as-god theme was done over and over again through the 1970s. But it's like any other story in that it can be told badly, or somebody can retell it and make it better. AS I listened to the God Machine, I couldn't help but think of the fathers of the Sci-Fi genre like Asmiov, Bloch, Sturgeon, Ellison and Bradbury. The God Machine was a pretty powerful tale with strong characters. It's not high drama, or literature. But it is an entertaining story. This is one of those shows I heard as a kid and fell asleep through the third act. I waited many years to hear how it ended. The story was strong enough to stay in my mind all these years. That in and of itself is not enough. After all, Davey Jerrold's Jacket stayed with me too, and that's not a good one. But this show, among a few others, is what kept me thinking about CBSRMT for many years. When I listen to CBSRMT, I try to listen with that child's mind and not pick at the loose pieces of the premise. You succesfully disected this show and I wouldn't argue with any part of your analysis except its conclusion. But I think you are maybe being a little too analytical.

I liked this show, I give it a thumbs up !

I've only been a member here for a few days, but I'm impressed by the site and the members. The comments on this show are a case in point. It's nice to find people who can both think and write on literary (auditory?) matters. Is "The God Machine" derivative? Of course. The "1984" connections are clear. Yet a first-time listener (which none of us are) might well be captured and surprised by this story. It's a standard dystopia to be sure and the writing feels a bit padded at times, to give it sufficient length I guess. But in all I think the story works as a gentle warning of a society turned to the dark side. I don't think the analysis Chris provided is excessive; so long as we don't start doing deconstructionism. And I think at least half of the SF stories in the canon are rather good; even the simple space opera plots (good humans, bad aliens . . . or vice versa) can be just good plain fun. I agree that "Davey Jerrold's Jacket" is a weak effort. Unfortunately I'm not familiar with "The Walking Dead" . . . unless you're referring to some of the students in my classes.

why I enjoyed this episode has mostly to do with the performances of the cast. the tone by which they delivered was not so much their best work, as it was subtle and monotonally convincing. this episode built a strong mental image for me, much in the vein of Logan's Run or Planet of the Apes. a world of dark cooridoors and colorful, gaslit cityscapes. bleak, yet somehow electric. the story itself was not a new concept, but it was strong enough to hold me until the very end. i'm a sucker for sci-fi, so immediately i was drawn in. the whole bit about "sharing husbands and wives" seems to be fairly edgy for the times. if I were to lend a more thoughtfull analysis of the program, i might lean toward thinking that Sam Dann was making a social commentary on the whole "swinging" sub-culture which took root in the 1960's, but gained increased popularity by the end of the 1970's. by the mid-1980's, the subject went underground and the idea of "swinging" became taboo in the mainstream. so, for Sam Dann to touch on that concept, may have been both timely yet edgy. especially for the RMT. and that's one thing i enjoy most about these programs. through the use of the broadcasts and the writer's influence of the time, we are allowed to observe the zeitgeist of that point in time and reflect on just how it may be relevant or apply to our own history or moment in time. i mean, this program is over twenty years old, and the idea that a computer is playing matchmaker for an entire culture is downright silly... or is it? kudos for a terrific choice! i gave this one a full 5-stars, as i enjoyed it twice over a long weekend!

There's so much I want to say about this great CBSRMT episode. FIRST, Sam Dann wrote a magnificent tale of a Dystopian world where breeding is far more important than affection. Man made the computer, now the computer makes man. No one is allowed to think for themselves or use common sense. Love is treated as a fever/disease and sports have been outlawed. No freedom of choice and no happiness. Only adjustments are allowed. People use to rely on their instincts, but now they rely on an electronic device. FAITH VERSUS LOGIC as it seems. It's ironic that peoples' credences are irrelevant when the Master Computer gets to play God. Not only that, the Computer District plays the role of the Government, the Chief Programmer & the Genetic Headquarters represent City Hall/the Supreme Court. SECOND, the acting is superb. The chemistry between Thomas Y. 130-546 (played by Lloyd Battista) and Emma K. 998-727 (played by Patricia Elliot) is perfect for an Archaic couple. They love music because it feeds their souls, but others dislike it because it doesn't feed their stomachs. Myra the District Programmer (played by Teri Keane) and Walter V. 278-664 (played by Robert Kaliban) are the type of villains that you'd love to hate. They cared less about Thomas & Emma's feelings for each other. The villains acted Conservatively and our 2 main characters acted Liberally. THIRD, the music & sound effects were dead on. Music tunes of a doomed fate in ACT-1, a change of intensity in ACT-2, and a hellish theme at the end of ACT-3. Listen to the Nostalgic sounds of computer music beats, classical music, and a cassette tape rewinding (and that part happens at the 13-minute 27-second mark). And finally FOUR, E.G. Marshall gets your attention in every Act. At the 15-minute 52-second mark, he quotes Charles Darwin. At the end of ACT-3 where Thomas & Emma had to be "readjusted" at the 40-minute 40-second mark, E. G. Marshall gives the fans serious advice and know that this story is a Cautionary Tale. I highly recommend this sci-fi fantasy-mystery to all of you. It's one of the best!

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