I'm trying to remember the name of the short story, or TV episode, where the plot is that it's set at a mission control centre on Earth somewhere, and they are awaiting the signal from a probe which has been sent to a world outside our solar system.

The twist of it is that one of the people there is an alien from that world; they saw the probe, and destroyed it and came looking for us after they realised it wasn't hostile, and are offering to swap their FTL technology for our probe technology if the signal is received etc.

Any ideas what this was?


This is almost certainly "Like Banquo's Ghost" by Larry Niven
from the short story collection Shape of Space (1969)

First appeared in Worlds of If, September 1968. A short story about the first meeting between humanity and an alien race that destroys Earth's slower-than-light probe, and then arrives for a visit in faster-than-light ships. Is it the dawn of a new era or the first shot in the War of the Worlds?"

I honestly don't know if it was ever adapted for TV.

"Is that where you shot it down?"
"Yes, at perihelion," said Butch. "How were we to know it was not hostile? We would not have believed it was possible at all. An instrument package, with no external guidance, finding its way over such a distance!" He stood up. "A remarkable achievement! Remarkable! To have done so much with so little!
"Thanks," I said. Thanks for the pat on the head."

  • 1
    That was a really good read. It's worth it, to anybody reading this answer, to spend five minutes on the short story. Nov 14 '14 at 10:17
  • 1
    I remember a short-short where the Voyager probe is found by alien races who are outraged at the naked bodies on the plate and decide to wipe us out as perverts.
    – Oldcat
    Nov 14 '14 at 23:35
  • Great, thanks MajorMattMason - that was the story I was remembering.
    – Rolf
    Nov 27 '14 at 12:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.