The time is 1950. America is still flushed with the victory of World War Two, but as the Atomic Age has dawned, the future is not as secure as it should be. Less than a year ago the Soviets have detonated their own atomic device, and there is a fresh war brewing in Korea. Radio broadcasters through the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War produced a large amount of propaganda programs that in their way furthered the defense of the nation.
One of network efforts would be The Quick and the Dead. News producer Fred Friendly produced the project and it has been reported that part of Friendly's agenda was to present the horrors of Atomic War insuch way that there would be a public outcry demanding that the use of Atomic Weapons in Korea would never be considered. However, the series leaned heavily on the expertise of William Laurence, one of the very few science and technology reporters selected by the Army to document the highly secret Manhattan Project. Although highly respected at the time,Laurence has since been criticized for sanitizing and even glamorizing the harsh realities of atomic warfare. The confluence of these two viewpoints resulted in a documentary that remains rather impartial to the use of nuclear weapons.
The series features Bob Hope in the role of a taxpayer who realizes that a large portion of what he pays the government is going to finance these nuclear ambitions, and wants to know more about them. Bob Hope is an interesting choice for the role. As a well respected and recognizable comedian, his investigation becomes Everyman learning more about Atomic science, both the horrific weapons and the promise of Atomic Power and Science. Hope is also a bit of a darling of the Military Industrial Complex thanks to his selfless work on behalf of the troops and the war bond drives.
Producer Friendly effectively mixes the conversation between Laurence and Hope with "Clips". Both actual and dramatized recording of the events in the development of the Atomic Age will be used to tell the story. These include a dramatization of Laurence witnessing the first Atomic Bomb test in the desert of New Mexico, Fermi's early research with the Atomic Pile in the squash courts at the University of Chicago, and Einstein's letter to President Roosevelt warning of possible Nazi progress towards Hitler's bomb. Also featured in the series are interviews with Col. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, which dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima, Robert Oppenheimer, "father" of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves, the Army's general in charge of the logistics and security of the Manhattan Project, and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, David Lilienthal.
Although the field of Nuclear Science, in both peaceful and military applications has grown exponentially in the last sixty years, the four part series remains a useful and entertaining primer of not only the Atomic Age, but the promise and the threats of Nuclear Power. See also: