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The Magic Stick of Manitu


In order to establish ties with a musical race from another galaxy, the assistant of an interstellar diplomat becomes enchanted with the alien nation; meanwhile her boss devises the best way to exploit them.



Air Dates

  • First Run - March 19, 1982
  • Repeat - June 15, 1982





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15 Responses to Episode 1304

In "The Magic Stick Of Manitou" episode, we find out that the beautiful music on his planet is played on a flute made from human bone. Ok this is a little creepy if you're not used to this kind of thing, but many cultures use bone (both human and animal) for instruments and clothing, etc. so it's really not that scary if you think about how many cultural traditions include this. I fail to understand why the flute being carved of bone is supposed to be so scary and why we are supposed to be so terrified at the end. I say, it's kinda' like, so what? Of course, we are suppose to deduce that that other guy was killed and they used his bone for the new flute. But even so, isn't this what many cultures have done - even on this planet? They use the remains of the dead for all kinds of things.


I think it harkens back to an old Twilight Zone episode that came out some years earlier, in which aliens arrived on our planet, with the promise that they would help man. In fact, they even had a book with them titled "How to Serve Man." I haven't heard this episode in a long time. I will be listening to it this weekend. It is from March 1982. I don't really see the connection between using the bones of the dead to make musical instruments (a very common practice among many indigenous cultures) and a cookbook for cannibals, lol. Only later did someone decipher it to the point where humankind discovered it was a cookbook.


I don't think it was based on the "Twilight Zone" at all and I don't think it was one of the "charming" stories either, lol. (smile) In other words, it wasn't a horror tale. Form what I remember about the episode, it was about an earth delegation (in the future) who wanted to mine minerals on another earth-like planet and the leaders of this other planet did not appreciate the earth humans intrusion. The main character, who wanted to develop this planet, was a capitalistic person who was an exploiter. The people on this planet were relatively peaceful and they just wanted to keep to themselves. The fact that they used bone for their flutes (including the man who wanted to mine their planet) was not necessarily typical of their culture, which was by and large peaceful and non-aggressive. At least, this was my impression, based on the story. The woman, who was part of the earth expedition team, fell in love with the leader of the planet and they listened to music together.


As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favories! Right behind "Death Is A Woman" and "The Judge's House". It has an old-fashioned, "X-Minus-One" 50's Sci-Fi feel to it. The idea of vastly different cultures coming to clash-- and in this case the more "Primative" one actually prevailing! I loved all the veiled hints as to what was actually going on throughout the tale, the mysterious rumors, the sinister-- but vague-- history of Manitu. The lead actors were all at the top of their game in this one-- especially Fred Gwynne. He comes across as perfectly arrogant, lecherous and self-centered. But, as Tammy Grimes said, at least "He has music in his bones". I loved when Keir Dullea told him "You will never return to us--that is--until you are a "changed man." Keir Dullea really brought this tale to life. His character is deeply sympathetic-- a "chief" who is trying to protect his cherished people from the encroachment of civilization and also trying to protect the woman of his dreams. The bittersweet romance between Idri and Arlena is a nice subplot to the overall story. This would have made an interesting "Star Trek" or "Twilight Zone" episode. Very Different, very Original-- Great Choice! Until Next time.......Remember "To Hear the Music!"


love these shows with fred in them. keeping a separate play list in my ipod for them, and i keep adding them as y'all post them. good stuff.

Patti Javier

Yeah, the Gwynne role in this one was much different than his other roles. Being a pompous self-centered jerk was nice too see. A good Sci-Fi episode, and I'm not really a Sci-Fi guy. Heh heh! Really liked this one!


I wanted to present Mr. Gwynne in a role that he is not often found in. As many have stated, it is really unusual to hear him in an arrogant, almost hateful role. He plays the part well, as he always does. I also appreciate that you mentioned "Star Trek" and "Twilight Zone". Those are my two all time favourite TV series. Yes, I'm a nerd. I'm glad all of you are enjoying these shows. The Marathon was a great suggestion.

Paulo Q.

I too liked the vague hints and the anticipation of the "underdog" ultimately prevailing. I really enjoy stories like this, where the humble displays a quiet inner-strength that, if pressed far enough, will deal with arrogance. The best part is that it is done swiftly and quietly and then moves on. As others have mentioned, this would be a good episode in an anthology type TV show, with great video potential. I actually enjoyed Fred Gwynne's role as being an "undesireable character". He does it very well and provides a nice contrast to the alien character. If anyone is interested in a similar roll, where he's "the bad guy", listen to "The Slave"... a somewhat frustrating episode, but it has it's moments. I'm on a Fred Gwynne marathon!


Thanks for the kind words about my recommendation and review. I too am a huge "Trek" and "Twilight Zone" fan. Actually though, I don't think you need to be a nerd to appreciate them-- just a fan of quality T.V. and what it was once capable of. I saw a great cartoon in Garfield today-- Garfield sits in front of a turned off television. His owner, John walks by and comments: "Wouldn't it be more entertaining if you turned the television on?" Garfield thinks to himself: "I used to think so." Very prophetic and it truly reminds me why I appreciate my OTR collection more and more as time goes by.

D. Berg

The revelation at the end of the episode concerning the human bones used for musical instruments stands as one of the best RMT endings. It reminds me of the T Zone line "It's a cookbook!" What are the best twist endings in RMT history? I too love "The Twilight Zone"; I also enjoyed "Outer Limits" and "Night Gallery" although the quality of these two shows did not match Zone. I am puzzled that later attempts to revive this genre failed. With all the junk on TV, you would think some intelligent writers/producers could and would craft a series along the lines of Twilight Zone.

H.M. Osio

I agree, great episode and nice to hear Fred in this type of roll. I like the sci-ones every now and then. I've been listening to some of Fred's episodes in my shop while working. I listened to "The Luck Sisters" this morning. Very good one.


The ending to this RMT is just like the ending to "Twilight Zone" 's "To Serve Man" ("It's a Cook-Book!!!!") He also posed a great question-- What are some of the better twist endings in RMT history? Some of mine would include: "Death Is a woman" (when they come to the realization that all three of them are pursuing or being pursued by the same woman-- and the tradegy that ensues!) "The Ghost Driver" (When they realize there really was a ghost involved) "This Deadly Fraternity"(When they realize--too late! who truly wants revenge on them!) "The Dagger of Almohades" (when the doctor realizes who it was he just performed a lipectomy on!) "Garden of the Moon" (An ending straight out of "To Serve Man"!) "Terror in the Air" (When they realize a dead man saved their aircraft!) "I Warn You Three Times" (She really is a Witch!) "The Dominant Personality" (When you come to realize who was really doing the hypnotizing) "The Rise and Fall of the Fourth Reich" (What they really saved Hitler for!) "The Guillotine" ("I recognize this woman!They guillotined her-- Yesterday!) "Stranded" (When you realize what planet they're really on!) Until next time.

Brian Pontillas

"The Magic Stick of Manitou" was one of the better episodes Mystery Theater aired. Mr. Brock--you kind of knew was going to get his just deserts by episode's end. Wow, what an ending. This episode would be a great first listen. 5 stars.


Loved Marian Seldes in "The Magic Stick of Manitou"


It's true that a lot of cultures have used bones for many things, (both animal and human bones), but usually they use bone from people who have died already or animals that were hunted for food or skins, etc. However, I think on Manitu, they actually made it a practice to kill people *specifically* to make musical instruments out of them. You could say it was a kind of big "marketplace" (even if they didn't use money there) and you got the feeling they killed people just for their body parts. Also, it is implied that this is what they do with practically all the visitors who "disappeared" before. During the episode, it is mentioned that people went to Manitu and were never seen or heard from again. By the end of the episode, I think the listener is supposed to figure out that this goes way beyond a tribal culture's use of bones to make things. On the surface, they *seem* like such a peaceful culture, but underneath they are really after human bones for the quality of "sound" they make in musical instruments. They will stop at nothing to get those parts and since everyone on Manitu loves music, there is always a great demand for more of these musical flutes. I think that's what is supposed to make it scary. I really wasn't all that scared, but I thought the episode was done very well, so it remains interesting.


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