Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my world vision was shaped by TV. It was a narrow vision. There wasn’t the plethora of stations there are today. This was B.C., Before Cable (No one will ever pay to watch TV. Not when they can get it for free.) There were the Big Three Broadcasters and some small, local stations. Programming consisted mostly of variety shows, game shows, some drama (Perry Mason, GE Theatre) and a few comedies (I Love Lucy, Car 54). But those were on the national channels. The local channels showed lots and lots of old movies. And thoses were my favorites. In particular, I was very strongly influenced by the cheesy, black and white sci-fi pics. This was the time of the fledgling space program. I loved movies like “Forbidden Planet” with it’s Monsters from the Id. But my all-time favorite was “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
In “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, TDTESS for short, Michael Rennie played Klaatu, a very human-like alien who comes to Earth to warn us. Our human shennaigans have pissed off the rest of the Universe. We better clean up our act or face TOTAL DESTRUCTION (cue ominous music). And to prove he means business, he brings along Gort, a giant robot. Sort of an early version of the Terminator without the skin.
Gort has this Cyclopian eye that doubles as “A DEATH RAY” (now known as a powerful laser). When he gets hassled, he slowly opens that eye and ZZAAPP, hassle gone. Freaked this little six year old girl out I tell you.
Of course, the people in charge don’t buy Klaatu’s warning and try to capture and/or kill him. But Klaatu escapes and meets some nice non-asshole Earthings who take him in. He tells them that if he is not back at the spaceship by a certain time, Gort is going to be really pissed off and start turning that DEATH RAY on everything in sight. He tells this one very friendly Earthling named Helen that if anything should happen to him, she must tell Gort “Klaatu barada nikto” or he will destroy everything.
“Klaatu barada nikto”. That is a very important phrase to know. At least in my six year old thought process. I believed that I absolutely needed to remember it in case aliens ever invaded. If I could tell them “Klaatu barada nikto”, I could stop them from destroying Earth. I assumed all aliens spoke the same language. This was before Star Trek taught us that aliens spoke lots of different languages – Klingon, Vulcan, Lizard-People talk (which is just a lot of hissing but, hey, I’m not judging).
So I repeated it over and over again – “Klaatu barada nikto. Klaatu barada nikto” – until I was sure I would never forget it. Life on Earth as we know it depended on me being able to face invaders from space and saying “Klaatu barada nikto”.
This morning I was standing on the platform waiting for the train and I got the sense someone (or something) was staring at me. I turned and saw this.
Most people would think is was just a halogen lamp. But I recognized it as the updated, 5.0 version of Gort. Very quietly, I whispered “Klaatu barada nikto. Klaatu barada nikto.” Well, it worked. No one and nothing at Purdys Station got zzaapped this morning.
No need to thank me. Just thank God my six year old mind understood the importance of speaking an alien language.