Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer, Bruce Davis, Greg Peyton, Cheyenne Barton
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Amazon Studios’s sci-fi drama directed by Andrew Patterson. Set in small town 1950s Cayuga, New Mexico over the course of a single night. The story follows young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick), and radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz), who discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and future forever.
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TV Show Narrator: [first lines] You are entering a realm between clandestine and forgotten, a slipstream caught between channels, the secret museum of mankind, the private library of shadows. All taking place on a stage forged from mystery, and found only on a frequency caught between logic and myth. You are entering Paradox Theater. Tonight’s episode, The Vast of Night.
Fay Crocker: Everett, can I bring you my tape recorder so you can show me how it works?
Everett Sloan: I don’t know what you said, Fay. You sound like a mouse being eaten by a possum.
Sam: So we just use the same reel as last time?
Everett Sloan: Yeah, yeah. Same reel each game.
Sam: But that’s going to cause some cross talk eventually. Right? I mean, won’t it?
Everett Sloan: Read the Bible, Sam?
Everett Sloan: There’s your answer.
Sam: Answer to what?
Everett Sloan: Answer to everything.
Sam: But that doesn’t…
Everett Sloan: Yeah, eventually, cross talk. Yeah, but no one’s going to buy a new tape for every game.
Fay Crocker: [into the microphone] This is Fay Crocker.
Everett Sloan: It’s not recording nothing.
Fay Crocker: No, I know. It’s just, I’ve never held a microphone before. I’m practicing.
Everett Sloan: Well, I did not tell you to practice. I told you to shut up.
Fay Crocker: I’m not shutting up! It’s my recorder.
Everett Sloan: Woh, look out. That was good. That’s how you got to be when we’re recording. That was queen of Cayuga. You’re Five Hundred Watt Fay.
Fay Crocker: [into the microphone] This is Fay Crocker. I have never, up until now, held a microphone.
Everett Sloan: You need a cigarette. Everyone smokes with a microphone.
Fay Crocker: I don’t want to smoke right now.
Everett Sloan: Fay, don’t cramp the cool. It’s just something to hold. It’s like a prop. It’ll make you more confident.
Fay Crocker: [into the microphone] Bacon, bacon, nine-forty.
Everett Sloan: What is that?
Fay Crocker: I heard it in a war movie.
Everett Sloan: They don’t say “bacon, bacon, nine-forty” during a war.
Fay Crocker: Well, maybe we’re thinking about different wars.
Everett Sloan: No, no, this is not war radio. You got to say something buzzing.
[as Fay is practicing interviewing]
Everett Sloan: Ask her what her feelings are on chipmunks.
Fay Crocker: What’s your feelings on chipmunks?
Susan Oliver: Well, they’re cute, so long as they stay out of people’s cars, and houses, and hair.
Fay Crocker: You want to hear your biscuit?
Susan Oliver: What? My biscuit?
Fay Crocker: Yeah, we made a biscuit.
Everett Sloan: No. It’s not called a biscuit.
Fay Crocker: But you said we were baking biscuits.
Everett Sloan: A recording is not a biscuit.
[referring to the tape recorder]
Fay Crocker: Can we fix it?
Everett Sloan: Shh. It’s not really broken. Mr. Stemmons is just a nowhere man. He’s a full-on pale one. We had to get out of that conversation.
Fay Crocker: So it’s not really broken?
Everett Sloan: No. You can’t waste tape, Fay. Not on a tombstone like Mr. Stemmons.
Fay Crocker: Double-dealing devil-dog. That had me so scared. You know I paid for that with my own money.
Everett Sloan: You can always do that if someone’s a wet rag. You just tell them, “I’m sorry, it’s broken. We’ll have to reschedule.” Then you just never reschedule.
Fay Crocker: Well, I can’t do that to someone.
Everett Sloan: Oh, yeah, you can. Why not?
Fay Crocker: Because it’s lying.
Everett Sloan: It’s not lying. It’s stopping someone from embarrassing themselves.
Fay Crocker: Not if you don’t make them feel embarrassed.
Everett Sloan: Putting up the numbers means you got to get what you want out of people, not be afraid to cut them off, or tell them to shut up.
Fay Crocker: I’m not putting up any numbers.
Marjorie Seward: Do you have your own show now, Fay?
Everett Sloan: Oh, yeah, she does. It’s called Teenage Rendezvous, and her radio name is Cayuga Queen. She takes requests and tells stories of young love.
Fay Crocker: That’s a great idea. I should get my own show.
Everett Sloan: Alright, start studying for your license. Oh, and learn how to ask a question.
Fay Crocker: What license?
Everett Sloan: A radio license, FCC.
Everett Sloan: Tell me the craziest caller you ever had.
Fay Crocker: Oh, I know what I can tell you. Not about a caller, but about some science I was reading. Can I tell you about that?
Everett Sloan: You certainly can, Fay Cordelia Crocker.
Fay Crocker: That’s not my middle name.
Everett Sloan: I know it isn’t. I don’t care. I mean, I didn’t know, but I definitely don’t care.
Everett Sloan: Come on, let me have it. Razz my berries.
Fay Crocker: Alright. Well, did you know that there was actually an experiment done earlier this year, in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a radio controlled car? By RCA. Like a full-sized one?
Everett Sloan: Woh, lay dead.
Fay Crocker: Yep. It’s called “electronic highway control”.
[referring to what she read in the science article]
Fay Crocker: You press a button on the dash of the car, that says “electronic drive,” and the car starts to drive itself.
Everett Sloan: That’s incredible.
Fay Crocker: Yeah, I know.
Everett Sloan: A voice comes through the radio and tells you what direction to go?
Fay Crocker: Uh-huh. It’s in this article. Read it.
Everett Sloan: Does it say when this is going to happen?
Fay Crocker: 1974. And by 1990, all roads will be electronic.
Everett Sloan: Oh, really?
Fay Crocker: You don’t believe me, do you? You’re just pulling my leg.
Everett Sloan: No, I’m not pulling your leg. I love it. I’m interviewing you. I’m playing a part.
[after reading the article from her science magazine]
Fay Crocker: So the train travels between two thousand and five thousand miles per hour in these tubes, all across the country. That’s how it’s all going to be. It’s called vacuum tube transportation. And all these tubes, they crisscross all of the world, so we’re going to sit in cars that run through the tubes, like little hot dogs through a garden hose.
Everett Sloan: So wait a minute now.
Fay Crocker: It’s going to be everywhere by the year 2000.
Fay Crocker: I’m going to end with this one, because my mom doesn’t think this is ever going to happen, and she said they just say things like this to sell magazines.
Everett Sloan: What an intriguing setup, Fay. Please, go on.
Fay Crocker: Okay. Well, in the future, every baby will be assigned a telephone number at birth, and it’ll be his for life. And we’ll all have palm sized dials, like a clamshell with no receiver. Or, well, I guess we’ll have little speakers and microphones instead. And on one side, you’ll have the dial. And on the back, the back will be a Lilliput screen, so like
a miniature television screen. And you can keep it in your pocket, so you can call your friend in Rome, or New York, or anywhere, and see his face on your dial, and have a conversation with them, in color.
Fay Crocker: This article’s a couple years old. But, oh, it also said that if you call your friend, and he doesn’t answer, then you know they’re dead.
Everett Sloan: [laughs] What? Why would you know they’re dead?
Fay Crocker: Because they always have it with them, so they can always answer.
Everett Sloan: I don’t believe that.
Fay Crocker: What? Here, you can see a picture of it.
Everett Sloan: That sounds like a space novel.
Fay Crocker: I know.
Everett Sloan: I think I agree with your mom, you know. She’s a wise keeper. Actually, I believe the train tubes and the highways, but the tiny TV telephones, that’s cuckoo.
[after calling Everett]
Fay Crocker: A sound came through the board and interrupted your radio show. I don’t know. It’s just never come through over here before.
Everett Sloan: You said it interrupted my show?
Fay Crocker: Yeah, through the radio.
Everett Sloan: What did it sound like?
Fay Crocker: I don’t know. I can connect you through if you want.
Everett Sloan: Did it sound Mexican?
Fay Crocker: No, it didn’t sound Mexican.
Everett Sloan: Because we cross signals with this station in Mexico…
Fay Crocker: It sounded like something that could be unsafe.
[after Fay plays the recorded sound that interrupted Everett’s radio show
Everett Sloan: I’ve never heard that before.
Everett Sloan: Send me that signal again, and I’ll put it on the air. If anyone’s out there listening, maybe they’ll know something.
Fay Crocker: And you sure we won’t get in trouble?
Everett Sloan: I don’t care. This is good radio.
Everett Sloan: [on his radio show] Hey, listen up, becaue we got a quick query for anyone that wants to take a crack. We’ve got a sound that like seems to be sort of bouncing around the valley tonight. And we’d like to know your thoughts. We’re standing by the phones, and we’d love to know if there’s an old expert, or youth ham operator, we don’t know about, that’s tangling up our antenna. And for the caller who can help us out and tell us what the sound is, we’ve got a free piece of Elvis’s carpet, pulled directly from his floor in Memphis. Lines are open. Please call with any information.
[after Everett gets a call from Billy, who when he was in the military was assigned to build ventilations rooms]
Billy: Then one morning, we woke up and reported to duty, and there was something enormous in that hole, covered in a tarp.
Everett Sloan: What do you mean?
Billy: It was bigger than an airplane, but no one was allowed to see it. And there were guards surrounding it all day.
Everett Sloan: Well, what did it look like?
Billy: It was mostly smooth, but it looked broken, or damaged, because there were some rough patches.
Everett Sloan: You think it was American?
Billy: There was no way to know.
Billy: And then when they were done with us, they got us all boarded on a plane. And when the propellers had started spinning, and we were about to take off, and the radio started
playing this sound.
Everett Sloan: What sound?
Billy: The same sound you just played tonight.
Everett Sloan: You sure it was the same?
Billy: Oh, I couldn’t forget it.
Billy: And when we finally took off, and I looked out the window, you could see guys were starting to cover the airstrip with dirt, like we never been there. And then the sound disappeared and we got further away. And when I got back, then I started getting really sick. And in the next few weeks, I developed some kind of lung condition. So now I didn’t breathe so good. And I think whatever, that area of the desert caused it, or something. Maybe radiation. Because I was always healthy.
Billy: See, everybody only knows pieces in the military. Nobody knows the whole thing. And that’s part of the plan. Which is why they pieced together teams from all over the country, and only brought us in for one task at a time. So no one would know everything.
Everett Sloan: Wait, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to be clearer. Is this sound a military sound?
Billy: That’s what we asked this guy at Walker.
Everett Sloan: And what did he say?
Billy: He said it wasn’t military. It wasn’t military from any country. It was coming from
thousands of feet higher than anything could fly.
Everett Sloan: How did he know that?
Billy: Because he was a radar operator.
Everett Sloan: I’m assuming this was before Sputnik.
Billy: This was years before Sputnik. And signals like yours have been caught going back and forth.
Everett Sloan: What do you mean?
Billy: Like communication. Like one says something here in this part of the sky, and another says something back. Sometimes they were recorded at Sputnik heights, and sometimes just a few hundred feet off the ground.
Everett Sloan: Where?
Billy: Lots of places. All over.
Everett Sloan: What do you mean all over?
[suddenly the line clicks and the call is ended]
[after Billy calls back]
Everett Sloan: Billy, I have to ask. Why are you telling us all this? Is this going to get us in trouble?
Billy: I suppose I’m telling you because I’m sick. And I’m old. And no one listens to us. And I want people to know what we did for them.
Everett Sloan: Why do you think no one listens to you?
Billy: I think part of it’s because I’m black. I’m sorry if that’s a problem.
Everett Sloan: No, I don’t think it is. I thought that might be the case. We’ve just never had a black caller before.
Billy: But everyone on these details were black, or Mexican. All of us doing sweat work.
Everett Sloan: You think they did that on purpose?
Billy: I know they did.
Everett Sloan: Why?
Billy: Because who’s going to listen to us?
[referring to the recorded tape of the sound]
Everett Sloan: Billy, what do you think it’ll do if we can find it and play it?
Billy: I don’t know. But if you’re going to do it, you better do it. Because something’s up there now, and they don’t stay for long.
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