The Man Who Fell to Earth (1987 film)

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The Man Who Fell to Earth
Genre Action
Created by Characters:
Walter Tevis
Paul Mayersberg
Developed by David Gerber
Starring Lewis Smith
James Laurenson
Bruce McGill
Beverly D'Angelo
Wil Wheaton
Robert Picardo
Composer(s) Doug Timm
David Nielsen
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) David Gerber
Producer(s) Christopher Chulack
Richard Kletter (co-producer)
Lewis Chesler (supervising producer)
Cinematography Frederick Moore
Editor(s) John Carnochan
Gail Yasunaga
Running time 100 minutes
Production company(s) David Gerber Productions
MGM Television
Distributor ABC
Original network ABC
Original release August 23, 1987

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1987 television film created for a proposed television series based on Walter Tevis's 1963 novel and Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film.

Plot differences[edit]

There are some distinct changes from the novel. Most notably, the names of the main characters have been changed -- while World Enterprises retains its name from the source material, Thomas Jerome Newton's name has been changed to John Dory (Lewis Smith), Oliver Farnsworth's name becomes Felix Hawthorne (James Laurenson), and Nathan Bryce's name becomes Vernon Gage (Bruce McGill). Yet, in spite of these changes, the plot itself and much of the detail remains intact from the source material; when John Dory meets Hawthorne, the dialogue is almost identical to the original dialogue between Newton and Farnsworth.

In some ways, this adaptation was closer to the source material than the 1976 film adaptation -- the alien's affection for oatmeal is retained in this adaptation, as is his tendency to sleep rarely. With improved special effects, one can see him remove his human contact lenses, the earlobes, and other elements of disguise, rather than simply relying on implication. The name of his home planet, Anthea, is disclosed aloud in this version, whereas it remained unnamed in the previous cinematic adaptation.

However, this adaptation also takes some liberties with the literary material as well. The Betty Jo character, known as Eva Milton (Beverly D'Angelo) in this version, is a resident of New York and has a kleptomaniacal son named Billy (Wil Wheaton), a new addition to the cast of characters. Rather than a set of identical golden rings, Dory carries with him a pouch of diamonds. Alcohol has no effect on him, but tomato juice intoxicates him. Anthea's environmental devastation is the consequence of meteor showers rather than nuclear war. Rather than pills to ease his nausea, he carries a small glowing crystal that allows him to heal himself and others, as well as providing some telekinetic abilities. Also, in addition to Dory, three other Antheans fly with him in his spacecraft, but are killed in the crash-landing on Earth; their remains add to the government's investigation of Dory's alien origins.

This rendition of the material also borrows from Roeg's film -- Dory owns a wall of many television sets, which are simultaneously tuned to different channels. The World Enterprises base is in New Mexico, as it is in the original film. John Dory's appearance in his natural alien form is identical to that of Thomas Jerome Newton, as portrayed by David Bowie in 1976, when his prosthetics are removed.

John Dory is, however, characterized as more clever and less naive than Thomas Jerome Newton in previous adaptations. He is observant of others attempting to discover his secret identity -- he easily locates a hidden camera in his house, realizes that his phone line is being tapped, and prevents a secretary from acquiring a sample of his blood from a stained handkerchief. When the antagonist, Agent Richard Morse (Robert Picardo), tape records him, he knowingly quips "I think your tape's run out."

External links[edit]