I feel as if I know this radio drama by heart, because it is always on when I stream SciFi Old Time Radio. Presented by the two premier science fiction shows of radio’s golden age, Dimension X (July 12, 1951) and X-Minus-One (January 11, 1956), Time and Time Again was adapted from a short story by acclaimed Sc-Fi author H. Beam Piper.

The story revolves around the classic trope of a time traveler awaking in the body of his younger self with full knowledge of the future. I was hoping for something with a bit more whimsy, like last month’s Sam, This Is You, but this concept is grim and the production from X-Minus-One I chose to listen to unfolds with a sober seriousness that I found somewhat dull.  Also, though cast members are name-checked at the end, it’s difficult to pinpoint which voice actor played which part. So, I’ll give a shout-out to the two actors I could find the most info for: Jack Grimes, prolific on both live action and animated TV (Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Jimmy Olsen, Chim Chim/Sparky on Speed Racer) and man of a gazillion voices on radio, as well as the multi-talented Peter Fernandez, voice actor (Mothra vs. Godzilla, ever-loving Speed on Speed Racer!), writer (English dialogue for Speed Racer, the little-known-for-a-reason 1971 movie Hot Pants), and dialogue coach (numerous Anime).

Okay, now on to the recap…

We open in the far-off future of 1975, the year Rubik’s Cube and Saturday Night Live were born and two guys named Steve—Wozniak and Jobs—teamed up. World War III is raging. Medics searching for survivors of a napalm blast find Captain Alan Hartley, wounded and near death, groaning in pain. “Oh, that must be the Hartley who’s a well-known author,” one of the medics says in admiration. The other medic is more concerned with relieving Hartley’s agony and shoots him full of happy juice.

A piano flourish segues to a jangling alarm clock and Alan groaning again, but this time because he’s roused out of a sound sleep. He’s in a familiar sun-splashed bedroom, and a familiar voice is calling for him to wake up—his dad.

Jack Grimes, Space Cadet

“I’m awake,” Alan squeaks in an adolescent voice. Something’s totally screwy, he thinks.

Groggy and confused, Alan gets out of bed. He goes all déjà vu-ish when his dad greets him with a hearty “Happy 13th birthday” and hands him a wrapped present Alan knows is a rifle before he opens it.

Has this happened before? Alan mumbles.

He comes down to breakfast, thinking he’s dreaming. I know he’s dreaming when his dad gives him 2-bits to pick up the newspaper, a gallon of milk, a side of beef and maybe buy a car on the way home. Haha, okay Dad gives him 50 cents to pick up the Times and a popsicle for his 13-year-old self.

Peter (“Speed Racer”) Fernandez & some souvenirs

Alan works it out on the way to the store. He’s experienced some kind of mind shift and his adult consciousness has transferred to his younger self. He picks up the paper and gasps in surprise when he gets a look at today’s date—August 6, 1945, the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

On the way home, he runs into a friend, Larry Morton, who suggests skipping Sunday school and heading to the fishing hole. Alan’s all, no, I have some important business to conduct at home. Larry gets all huffy and calls him “fancypants.” Alan retorts with a convo-killing burn, “Go take a flying jet to the moon!”

At home, Dad and Alan talk about the war. Not the future 1975 war in which Alan will be injured, but The War happening right now. They’re interrupted by neighbor Frank Gutchell, who’s stopped by to borrow a cup of sugar and by that, I mean he wants to borrow Dad’s gun. He’s got a dog that’s feeling poorly yada, yada and Dad offers his shotgun. No, something smaller, Gutchell insists, something he can put in his pocket, so people won’t see him carrying a gun on a Sunday.

So, I’m getting suspicious about this dude, but Dad’s all, sure, nothing strange about that, and offers to let Gutchell take his pick of the apparently limitless supply of firearms he owns. Apparently, he’s an auxiliary policeman or perhaps a cast member on The Untouchables.

Alan tells Dad he’ll get the pistol and runs upstairs. He knows the real reason Gutchell wants to borrow a gun—to shoot his wife, a tragedy that will weigh heavily on his father. Alan calls the police, reports Gutchell, then brings a Luger, without the cartridge downstairs. The unsuspecting would-be killer thanks the kid and goes on his murderous way. So, Alan has just changed the future.

Speed Racer’s Spritle (voice by Fernandez in the 2000s reboot) & Chim Chim (Grimes)

Alan fesses up to Dad what he knows about Gutchell. Dad’s just shy of apoplectic, but twenty minutes later he believes the boy when the cops show up and tell him they caught Gutchell attempting to shoot his wife. Dad now demands answers about how his son knew and also why he’s now using college-level words and discussing military strategy with his old man.

“Last night you were still my little boy,” Dad says, getting choked up. “This morning I don’t know. You’ve been strange all day. What’s happened to you?”

Alan spills the beans, about the future, about the war, about lying near death in a field hospital after the Siege of Buffalo during the invasion of Canada in the third world war. Dad goes apoplectic again, “What were you doing in Buffalo?” Uh, Dad, I think there’s more important questions to ask, like, invading Canada? Really? What, was there a valuable supply of maple syrup the US wanted to get its hands on?

Grimes had a small role as “Goofy” in this 1945 gem involving a thief named Peg-Leg and a stolen Stradivarius

Dubious Dad peppers Alan with questions, including the most important, how the heck did the kid travel back in time? Something Alan can’t answer. All he knows is his 43-year-old consciousness is now in his 13-year-old body.

“You believe me, don’t you?” he asks his dad when he finishes. Dad’s all sure, sure as he reaches for a glass and a bottle of Glenlivet. After a couple of snorts, Dad does what all time travel skeptics do—demands some kind of proof.

Alan obliges by telling his father an announcement of an atom bomb being unleashed on Hiroshima will be made today at 11:17am. Conveniently, it’s 11:16, so Dad doesn’t have to wait long before he has his proof.

Church bells ring, horns honk, the local factories blow their whistles in celebration. Alan’s friend Larry Morton rolls by on his bike to inform Alan and Dad he’s got to find his pop on the golf course, as one does when celebrating the end of the war.Now Dad is all-in, and he’s curious about the future and poor Alan’s fate in 1975. Alan’s got a plan—change the future. In the original timeline, Alan explains, he’d gone off fishing with his pal Larry and wasn’t home to stop his dad from lending his gun to Gutchell. The man killed his wife then himself.

Alan warms to his change-the-future plan, suggesting he and Dad do everything they can to influence future politics and industry. Alan’s fondness for playing the ponies, and his memory of all winners over the next twenty years will give them a nest egg for buying friends and purchasing people. He tells Dad he’ll have to run for office, and with Alan’s knowledge of the future, he can help him get elected president in 1960 and stop the policies that led to World War III. “Who wouldn’t vote for a politician who’s always right?” Alan chortles.

Dad’s unsure, saying he’s just a little ol’ country lawyer like Matlock and doesn’t know anything about international events. Alan, getting a bit too big for his 13-year-old britches here, cackles, “Well I do! If we can stop a murder, we can stop a war. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”

Fernandez voiced Robot Randy on this show

“I guess so,” Dad hems and haws, as if Alan’s asking him to try tofu and not plotting to take over the world. Alan says they can get started right away, since Dad will get a call in a few minutes from some city political types in the city asking him to join their party. A tad coincidental, no? On cue, the phone rings, Dad chit-chats a minute with the party maven on the line then turns to Alan to ask what he should say, when…

“Ohhhhhh….” Alan groans, hitting the floor, out cold.

Cut to adult Alan in the future. He’s dead.

Dramatic music and we’re back in 1945 with Alan’s dad shaking him awake, begging him to tell him what happened. But with future Alan dead, his consciousness has fled, leaving kid Alan confused and with a headache the size of an asteroid.

Dad realizes what happened and vows to change the future himself without adult Alan’s help. The show ends with Dad raising a fist to the sky, Scarlett O’Hara-style, and proclaiming, “I can’t let you die like that in 1975 Alan. I’ve got to save your life.”

Want to hear the entire audio broadcast? You can enjoy it here:

 

Janet Raye Stevens
Contrary to what her kids will tell you, author Janet Raye Stevens was not around during the 1940s, though she regularly time travels to WWII while writing her mystery and romance stories. When she isn’t visiting 1944, Janet spends her time drinking tea (Earl Grey, hot), plotting revenge (best served cold), and indulging in all things time travel. Janet lives with her family in the Massachusetts suburbs, where, as we all know, nothing is as it seems.

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