Stranger in the Desert

I was inspired to build a diorama after watching “Science Fiction Theatre” Episode 05 “Stranger In The Desert”:, from 1955:

This episode is fairly entertaining, featuring two prospectors looking for riches in the desert who meet a kindly old man – the “Stranger”.

The episodes of “Science Fiction Theatre” were generally simplistic, but this is understandable considering the era and length – they’re only 30 minutes long. The writers had a thing about “grandpa” aliens, jeeps and old desert coots (several episodes feature one or all of these elements).


The two prospectors are not very smart; it’s a surprise that they didn’t die from radiation poisoning before the first commercial break. I was drawn by the Jeep, which looked dusty and well used.

I had the excellent Tamiya Jeep (Kit No. 35219) and I combined it with the matching Eduard PE set and Archer instrument and placards. The Eduard photoetch easily tripled the time required to assemble the kit and I didn’t even use all the parts.

I don’t think this kit really needs PE, other than in a few noticeable spots – there are no pedals and the fuel can and holding straps are poorly represented. They could have easily been replaced with scratchbuilt parts. I managed to loose the PE “T” latches for the hood and windscreen, so I made a couple of replacement parts from plastic. Other than that, it’s straight out of the box (and PE) build. The Tamiya kit went together well and it was a very enjoyable build.

The first image in the gallery below shows the completed build, before weathering. At this stage, the Jeep is painted blue, with a light green hood (or bonnet). It’s hard to tell from the faded colors in the video, but that jeep seems to be blue with a discolored (or just dusty) hood. My Jeep’s blue turned greenish after I applied some weathering.

The license plate on the model is an accurate representation of a 1952 California license plate. I wasn’t sure if the plate colors changed in 1955 or 1956 and it wasn’t obvious after a brief online search, so I used the closest I could find. The license “7J2 014” is for the date I finished this model (month 7, July 2014). I printed the plates on regular paper, then coated the back with Elmer’s Rotted Wood stabilizer, which is basically a PVA glue. When applied to paper and allowed to dry, the paper acts like plastic and can be bent and twisted.

The Stranger in the desert

In the episode, the stranger was a kindly alien old man; that’s too easy. Here’s the real Stranger:

It’s half of a blue plastic Easter egg. It was placed in a nylon (donated by my wife) and stretched against the fabric. I held the nylon in place with a clip, then sprayed it with Testor’s Metalizer. The bottom half is from a Glencoe re-release of the ancient Lindberg (or Strombecker?) Moon Lander kit. The legs are from a Pegasus Alpha Centauri UFO (donated by my friend Jeffry Fontaine) and the cone at the bottom and the hatches over the landing gear are from a robot detailing set.

I also included the two not very bright prospectors getting close and personal with the Stranger. The figures are from the two ICM Russian tankers in Afghanistan sets, with some minor mods. The base is coated with some light weight spackle. The volcanic rock is from the Mojave desert.

The standing figure is sporting a scratchbuilt Geiger counter, resin hands from Verlinden and a New Worlds Miniature resin head. The boonie hat is from a DML figure set and was slightly modified.
The guy with his nose in the stranger’s business is unmodified. The gear in the jeep is mostly from a Tamiya set.

Completed diorama

I tried to replicate the desert pavement that is common in the Mojave desert (in spots it can look like a paved road). I glued sand from the Kelso sand dunes (in the Mojave) to the base but didn’t quite get the effect I was looking for. There are sections (especially near lava fields) that look like the ground work in this diorama, so it is somewhat authentic.

This is one of my favorite builds – everything went together with few issues. It was a great deal of fun.

updated February 17 2020

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