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By Julie Montana
Ray Bradbury was one of the most influential and celebrated authors of the past century, exploring ideas like apocalyptic horrors, martian landscapes, and technological nightmares. But Bradbury’s mind was never contained to the page. In fact, he had tons of cool projects like comics, movies, radio plays, and more.
One hidden gem you may have missed is his syndicated anthology TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, which is available to stream in full on Peacock. Running from 1985 to1992, this collection adapts 65 of his most iconic short stories for the screen. Complete with an oh-so-’80s spooky synth soundtrack, each episode begins with an ominous montage of Bradbury entering his office and exploring his collection of trinkets from all over the world.
Each memento holds a story representing, as Bradbury tells us, everything from a “martian landscape” to a “small Illinois town where I grew up.”
In a search for the best of the best, SYFY WIRE rounded up (and ranked!) the top eight episodes to get you hooked before you binge the whole series. They run the gamut from poignant sci-fi allegories to deep cuts featuring young future stars (Hey! Is that Jeff Goldblum?!). As Bradbury wrote in his classic Fahrenheit 451, get ready to “stuff your eyes with wonder!”
8. “And the Moon Be Still as Bright” (Season 5, Episode 7)
Pulled from Ray Bradbury’s 1950 sci-fi fix-up novel The Martian Chronicles, this dark tale follows a group of astronauts and scientists attempting to establish the first human colony on Mars. The operative word here is “attempting” though, as one archaeologist sent to decode Martian artifacts finds his alliances may be less human than he thought.
Delving into themes of racism and who has the right to claim dominion over lands, Bradbury imagines a world in which survival and morality are at odds. In the end, a guilty conscience and a mysterious mask take control, but at what cost?
7. “The Skeleton” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Young Eugene Levy stars as hypochondriac Bert Harris who has finally had enough of the aching, uncomfortable trap of… his own skeleton? Needless to say, this episode is Bradbury’s foray into something equal parts absurd and comedic. Unlike the other features on this list, there is only a small gesture towards something grand and metaphorical. But if you love cheesy haunted house vibes, this is the episode for you!
Scene-stealer Peter Blais knocks it out of the park with his performance as the off-kilter “Bone Specialist” that Levy consults to rid him of his ailment. Every time he pops on screen it feels as if he’s one tongue flick away from a far less menacing Hannibal Lecter. This performance plays fantastically off of Levy’s nervous aura and the pair share a strangely funny predator/prey dynamic. Here, Bradbury proves that sometimes the cure is far worse than the disease.
6. “The Murderer” (Season 5, Episode 2)
Whether we want to admit it or not, each of us is trained to respond to the voice in our pocket. Every ring, vibration, or chime calls us in like Pavlov’s dogs. Now imagine a world in which ignoring a notification and even shutting off the source is considered a crime close to murder?
In "The Murderer," Bruce Weitz plays a man committed to a mental asylum after being driven off the edge by the ceaseless noise of his devices. Attempting to rehabilitate him, a psychologist (Cedric Smith) picks at his brain, unlocking a perspective he had never considered before. If you’re sick of email notifications and dream of completely unplugging, you might actually side with the “villain” of this story.
5. “The Town Where No One Got Off” (Season 2, Episode 1)
While on a train ride to an unknown destination, aspiring writer Cogswell (Jeff Goldblum) makes an unexpected stop at a dusty old town where no one has gotten off in the last twenty years. Exploring the empty streets, he finds suspicious characters at every turn, including a mysterious old man always a couple of paces behind. He eventually confronts this shadow and a duel of wits begins.
A young Jeff Goldblum, a deserted town with a creepy old man, and a dark twist? What's not to love!?
4. “By the Numbers” (Season 6, Episode13)
“Perfection through discipline” may be one father’s philosophy, but it can lead to disastrous, often traumatic effects. Though this story is less science and more fiction, it packs a hearty punch. A conversation between two apparent strangers on a train reveals a deep connection to a haunting past. Set in a flashback to a hotel pool, a drill sergeant dad (Ray Sharkey) orders his eager-to-please son (Ciaran Pennington) in increasingly convoluted regimens and rules. But eventually, the power of his iron fist gets redirected in a masterclass of dramatic irony.
How does that old quote go? “The sins of the father…”
3. “The Veldt” (Season 4 Episode 11)
Previously published in 1950 and performed for radio the next year, "The Veldt" is one of Ray Bradbury’s most well-known short stories — and for good reason!
Set in a not-so-distant future in which technology runs every part of one family’s home, a pair of siblings, Peter and Wendy (maybe some Neverland vibes?), start spending way too much time in their virtual reality playroom. Slowly, we learn that the African setting in their nursery is more than just a peaceful savannah — it is a stage for the kids to explore life, death, and the dynamic of hunter vs hunted. When their parents try to step in, they find it's too late to fix a relationship that was replaced by the comfort of screens. Want something deliciously dark and uncomfortably prophetic? This is the Bradbury tale for you.
2. “The Lake” (Season 4, Episode 3)
In the introduction to this episode, Bradbury admits that finishing this story (which was the first he ever published) was the moment he realized he was a true writer. Though it still has his signature twist, "The Lake" deals with tragedy, trauma, and grief in a much more grounded story than Bradbury fans may be used to. Out of all the stories on this list, this is by far the biggest tear-jerker.
Douglas (Gordon Thomson) returns to his lakeside childhood home and finds the innocent pieces of himself he left behind. By fulfilling a promise, someone he lost returns in an unexpected way. Dreamy, nostalgic, and gloomy all over, this episode is sure to get you right in the feels.
1. “A Sound of Thunder” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Time-traveling big game hunters. That’s not enough to sell you? What if we add in dinosaurs? "A Sound of Thunder" is arguably Ray Bradbury’s most iconic short story and it is beautifully brought to life in this episode. A cautionary tale about unintended consequences and the intricate weaving of the fabric of time, Bradbury explores what happens when greed, cowardice, and misplaced confidence rip open the seams of fate.
In the future, a time travel agency offers a “Time Safari” package where wealthy patrons choose any creature from any point in time and journey into the past to kill them. The agency does the all-important work of choosing an animal that is fated to die and a precise path that must be followed in order to avoid altering the environment and so too, the future. But when one traveler bites off a bit more than he can chew, the world is changed forever. Dark, high-concept, and just plain cool, this episode is packed full of everything we love about Ray Bradbury.
Stream all six seasons of The Ray Bradbury Theater on Peacock.