A man is in a spaceship with only his family (wife and kids) on another planet. I believe it was for some sort of mission, or maybe Earth was dying and they were trying to recolonize or something.

One or two astronauts arrive and the man is very excited to see them. But a plot twist reveals that the wife and kids are robot replicas of the human versions who have actually died, and the man created them to replace them because he couldn't bear the loss.

The man ends up dying, I think from a heart attack; it ends with the robot wife making a robot version of him to replace him.

A teacher showed our class this a very long time ago; it was definitely older, I can’t remember just how old. I originally swore it was an episode of The Twilight Zone, but after searching I don’t think it is anymore.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you be more precise about when you saw this?
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 13 at 20:22
  • 1
    I think both answers below are based on the same source material. I remember also hearing this story on an old-time sci-fi radio show.
    – ArlettaS
    Commented Apr 14 at 11:57

2 Answers 2


The Long Years (1990) from "The Ray Bradbury Theater".

From this IMDb review:

Earth sends a mission to Mars to pick up, and return to the Earth, a family of pioneers. The head of the household is John Hathaway (Robert Culp). The rescue party notice something very strange: whilst Hathaway looks his age, his wife and two kids don't look their age at all and they never seem to eat or drink anything. The astonished Earth party say nothing at first, and go-along as if everything was as it should be.

The leader, Capt Wilder (excellently played by George Touliatos) finally gets the truth out of John Hathaway. I'm no great fan of Robert Culp, I found him to be stiff/wooden too often and better at playing "mean" types (eg his radio jockey in "A Cry For Help") but the scene where he explains that his wife, son, and (gorgeous looking) daughter died of illness years ago and that he had constructed android versions of them was very well done. If WE had that ability, might not we do the same?

As the final pay-off, Hathaway suffers a heart attack. The rescue party bury him with his family and leave. To make the family complete again, the android wife makes an android of John Hathaway.

Found with the Google query Sci-Fi episode family spaceship replace robots which brought up Movie where a family on Mars misses the last departing spaceship, and are replaced by identical looking robots.

  • This seems spot on, except for the fact that she said she saw it in a class (presumably in high school or earlier) a long time ago, and that it was (presumably at the time she watched it) quite old. Could there be a 60s/70s version of this same thing?
    – bubbleking
    Commented Apr 15 at 22:39

Could be The Martian Chronicles Episode 3, Full version on YouTube

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Episode 3, 29 January 1980

As established at the end of the second episode, Mars was evacuated shortly before a worldwide nuclear war terminated all life on Earth. Wilder travels back to Earth in November 2006 in the hope he can rescue his brother and his family. He returns to the Zeus project mission control facility but discovers a video recording the deaths of everyone, including his brother, when enemy neutron bombs detonated nearby.

Only a few scattered humans remain on Mars. One of them is Benjamin Driscoll, the lone inhabitant of First Town. One day, as he wanders around the abandoned settlement, he hears a telephone ringing. Initially confused, he soon realizes it is an opportunity for companionship. After breaking into a home just in time to miss another call, Driscoll sits down with a phone book of Mars and starts dialing at A. After days of no answers, he changes his strategy and starts calling hotels; then, guessing where he thinks a woman would most likely spend her time, he calls the biggest beauty salon on Mars, in New Texas City. When a woman answers, he flies 1,500 miles to New Texas City to meet her.

Genevieve Selsor turns out to be thoroughly narcissistic and entirely obsessed with her own good looks. Driscoll asks her out on a date, during which she reveals that she decided to stay behind simply because "they wouldn't let me take all my clothes with me back to Earth." She enjoys having access to all the clothes, makeup, footwear, and so forth in New Texas City without having to pay for anything. At the same time, she laments that she has to do all the cooking and technical maintenance herself. She rejects Driscoll's advances but still expects him to make a nice breakfast while repairing her sauna. This is a significant departure from the original 1950 short story, "Silent Towns", in which Selsor is not self-absorbed and expectant of Driscoll's labor; instead, she is overweight, sticky with chocolate and desires to watch movies. The male character (named Walter Gripp in the original) finds her too expectant and clingy, as she shows Gripp her ideal wedding dress. In both versions of the story, Gripp/Driscoll decides that solitude is preferable to her continued company and abandons her.

Meanwhile, Peter Hathaway has retired on Mars with his wife, Alice, and daughter, Margarite. A mechanical tinkerer, Hathaway has wired an abandoned town below his house to sound alive at night with noise and phone calls. One night, Hathaway sights a rocket in orbit and puts on a laser light show to signal the rocket. At first he thinks his attempt has failed, but then the rocket returns to land. It carries Father Stone and Colonel Wilder, who have returned from Earth. They reunite with Hathaway, who is troubled by his heart when they break the news of Earth's nuclear destruction, but brings the crew to his house for breakfast. Wilder remarks that Alice looks just as she was as when he last saw her, at their wedding. After breakfast, Wilder explores the surrounding area, particularly some headstones he saw earlier. He returns, pale, having learned that Hathaway's wife and daughter died in July 2000 from an unknown virus.

As the Hathaways toast their guests, Peter Hathaway's heart finally fails. As he dies, he begs Wilder not to call his family because they "would not understand." Wilder then confirms that Alice and Margarite are robots built by Hathaway to replace the dead originals. Wilder and Stone depart, and the robots continue with their meaningless daily rituals until the chance arrival of Ben Driscoll. The Hathaway robots appear relieved when Driscoll decides to stay with them.

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