Visit to a Small Planet by Gore Vidal

Start Your Free Trial

Download Visit to a Small Planet Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Drama for Students)

Act I
Visit to a Small Planet opens with a view of television news commentator Roger Spelding's comfortably middle-class home near Manassas, Virginia. General Tom Powers, a friend of Roger's, is explaining to him that an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) has, for the last twelve hours, been spotted hovering over the Spelding's home. When Roger dismisses the idea, Powers convinces him to look outside—which he does, seeing the craft. Roger, who was planning to announce to a television audience that UFOs do not exist, panics and asks Powers for permission to break the story. The general refuses, stating that this information is "classified."

Ellen, Roger's nineteen year-old daughter, then appears on the terrace with her boyfriend Conrad Mayberry, whom Roger dismisses as "the boy farmer." She and Conrad discuss their plans for the future; these plans are interrupted, however, when the UFO lands outside the house. The hatch opens and Kreton, the visitor from outer space, enters the room. He looks very human, sporting side-whiskers and the garb of an 1860s gentleman. Kreton asks the Speldings to take him to General Robert E. Lee. After some confusion, Kreton explains that he has been studying the inhabitants of Earth as a ' 'hobby''; he hoped to see the Civil War Battle of Bull Run. He soon realizes, however, that he must have set the wrong coordinates for his time-traveling spacecraft. Invited by Roger (who hopes to interview him on his television show) to come inside, Kreton accepts, thrilled with the prospect of seeing "a real house.''

General Powers returns with an aide and in Roger's study begins questioning Kreton. We learn that Kreton is not only from another planet but from another dimension, one where its inhabitants do not die and have the power to read minds—a power that Kreton demonstrates on the general. After being ordered by Powers to search Kreton's ship, the aide returns, explaining that the door has been shut and that there has been "some kind of invisible wall" constructed around it. When asked by Powers how he managed to create this force field, Kreton dryly responds, "I don't think I could ever explain it to you.'' Powers then announces that no one present is allowed to leave the house. The general presses his investigation of Kreton, speculating that he "has been sent here by another civilization for the express purpose of reconnoitering prior to invasion." Kreton denies that he has been "sent here" by anybody—but then explains that he intends to "take charge" of the entire world. When Powers attempts to arrest him, Kreton surrounds himself with another invisible force-field. The curtain closes as the audience hears all of the characters' thoughts and Kreton saying,' 'Tomorrow will be a wonderful day for all of us. Sleep tight!"

Act II, Scene 1
The next morning Kreton is found in the living room examining a globe and talking to Rosemary, the Speldings' cat, whose thoughts he can also read and understand. Roger has left for Washington with General Powers, Reba (Roger's wife) has received permission to go shopping and Conrad is still asleep upstairs. Ellen brings Kreton his breakfast, which he refuses because he never eats. He also tells Ellen that the inhabitants of his world have given up reproducing, since they never die. Finally, he explains that after they ' 'wiped out'' diseases such as scarlet fever, mumps, and the common cold, the inhabitants of his planet rid themselves of "the ultimate disease:" passion. As a result, Kreton explains "We feel nothing. We do nothing. We are perfect." Ellen learns that this lack of passion or any strong emotion is what initially led Kreton to travel to earth and escape his dull commander, Delton 4.

Ellen and Kreton grow friendlier, and Ellen convinces the alien to give her a lesson in the mind-tricks that he has been using throughout the play. Eventually, she is able to levitate a vase over the fireplace mantle for a few seconds, much to the surprise of Conrad, who watches...

(The entire section is 1,313 words.)