A classic, not-a-little topical episode of Leslie Stevens’ The Outer Limits, originally broadcast on 30 September, 1963. The story closely echoes the plot of Bernard Newman’s The Flying Saucer, published in 1948 and discussed at some length in Mirage Men.
Newman’s novel (recently republished) took as its basis a statement made by British Foreign Secretary (and later PM) Anthony Eden to the UN on 1 March 1947 – four months before news of the Roswell ‘landing’ hit the press. Eden announced:
Sometimes I think the people of this distracted planet will never really get together until they find someone in [sic] Mars to get mad against…
It’s a sentiment that was close to UFO witness Ronald Reagan’s heart and one he also spoke to the UN about, 40 years later in September 1987:
Whether Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens knew of Newman’s novel, or had read some of the other SF stories based on the same premise is unclear. Wikipedia lists a few later, similar tales including Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘Unite and Conquer’ in Astounding Science Fiction (October 1948), ‘The Last War on Earth’ in Weird Science (#5, Jan/Feb 1951), and Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan.
It’s a theme that Manhattan Project scientist and conspiratorial ufologist Leon Davidson repeatedly referred to in the 1950s and ’60s, while ufological scuttlebutt has it that rocket man Wernher von Braun also believed the alien deception to be a reality. Clearly this idea of an intergalactic ‘false flag’ operation, was firmly in the air throughout the intangible, invisible and seemingly insurmountable Cold War.
Thanks to Paul Cornell for the tipoff