When the space invaders come, they won’t be little green men!
A Friday, late afternoon: A science fiction convention is getting underway at a downtown Montreal hotel. In this same hotel, straight-laced salesman Lyle Talbot is working out of his room on a major account. A big sale is pending, provided Talbot’s company can deliver quickly and make a few modifications to the product to meet the client’s needs. Talbot has got his people back at the plant working overtime to produce a sample which incorporates the requested modifications. He instructs them to FedEx it to him at the hotel without delay so that he’ll have it for his Monday morning meeting with the client. In the meantime, he’ll be reworking the pricing.
Yes, Plant 9 From Outer Space, in which a sinister, intelligent cabbage from a distant planet plots to take over the world! During the course of the afternoon and into the evening, Talbot repeatedly comes into contact with the science fiction fans attending the convention, who he pegs as a bunch of weirdos. He grows increasingly annoyed with these fans, who constantly interrupt his work by knocking on his door looking for something they call “the con suite.”
But while getting himself a drink from a vending machine down the hall, Talbot encounters a group of fans unlike the others. He is first accosted by a wild-eyed, panic-stricken fan who screams like a lunatic about their being “here already” and Talbot being “next.” As this fellow flees the scene, Talbot spies that which has so frightened him: a dire looking group of fans who march after their quarry like a platoon of sinister zombies. One of these zombies carries a cabbage! Talbot is a little disturbed, even a bit spooked, by what he has witnessed and hastens back to his room.
There, he receives a phone call from his office; he can expect his sample to arrive tomorrow afternoon. Presently, he decides to put his work away for the night and watch some TV before going to bed. But his TV isn’t working so he calls the front desk to have someone come up and fix it. Another fan at the door while the hotel staffer works on the TV prompts Talbot to ask the man “Who are these people?” The staffer explains that a science fiction convention is taking place at the hotel this weekend and that the strangely attired folk are science fiction fans.
The following afternoon, an angry Talbot is on the phone to Federal Express. His sample has not arrived and he wants to know where it is. Stressing the importance of the sample to his making a sale Monday morning, Talbot insists that FedEx get their people “on this right away!”
On the case almost immediately are Special Agents Meddler and Scurry, who investigate the “conventionally unexplainable circumstances surrounding damaged/misdirected/lost packages,” the so called FedEx files Meddler is a believer in the paranormal and is convinced of the existence of extraterrestrials. His partner Scurry is a skeptic, certain that no mystery is without some kind of rational explanation.
Meddler’s curiosity has been piqued by this case. In recent months, he has come across several reports of “unusual package tampering” at science fiction conventions. Further, there have been sightings of fans at these conventions carrying cabbages around, just like those observed by Talbot! It doesn’t take Meddler long to conclude that they are likely “dealing with sentient plant life from outer space.” Scurry is incredulous and disputes his theory, but Meddler is insistent, the only question in his mind being: Why are they here?
Lyle Talbot will soon discover the answer to that question. As he finishes up a room-service salad, he hears another knock at his door. Answering it, he comes face to face with the zombie-fans he’d seen by the vending machine the night before! They advance into the room, forcing a confounded and fearful Talbot to retreat against the far wall as they form a cordon across the entrance and cut him off from escape. Talbot notices that one of them is carrying his missing package! Talbot sees not his sample, but a cabbage removed from the package. He begs an explanation.
The zombies are science fiction fans whose minds and bodies have been taken over by the cabbage, a highly intelligent and hostile form of vegetable life from another world! The ninth plant selected to cross the void of outer space on a mission to conquer Earth (thus, Plant 9 From Outer Space!), we learn that this cabbage is paving the way for the colonization of our planet by its botanical brethren. We also learn that the cabbage, knowing that science fiction fans are the “underbrush” of our society, is now “assimilating” from amongst more important groups, such as businessmen! Talbot attempts to fend off the zombies but resistance proves futile; he is quickly subdued and turned into one of the cabbage’s minions.
It is early Monday morning and Meddler and Scurry have been unsuccessful in locating Talbot’s missing package. Talbot, readying to check out, has a vacant look about him as he dismisses the agents, telling them that all is well and that he has received his package. Meddler and Scurry are puzzled. Why didn’t their office inform them that the package was found? Something is fishy, here, and the agents push their way into the room to take a closer look. Meddler inspects the package and finds the cabbage inside! He suspects that this cabbage is a highly intelligent and hostile form of vegetable life from another world on a mission to conquer Earth. Talbot, he believes, is under the cabbage’s control and could soon be “FedExing the seeds of humanity’s destruction to cities all over the globe!” Meddler draws his gun on Talbot but a voice from the doorway orders him to “Put the gun down.”
The enigmatic Gum-Chewing Man has come to collect Talbot and the package. Gum-Chewing Man’s identity is not known to Meddler and Scurry so they have given him this particular monicker in honour of his chicle-masticating habit. Working covertly from deep within Federal Express’ management structure, he is not to be trusted, a shady character dedicated to suppressing the truth. Meddler accuses Gum-Chewing Man of conspiring with the alien, of covering up the truth, which results in Gum-Chewing Man threatening to shut down the FedEx files. Scurry knows that Gum-Chewing Man means what he says, and that with the FedEx files mothballed, Meddler would be out of a job, unable to continue his crusade for the truth. She talks her partner into surrendering Talbot and the package so that he can live to fight another day.
Just as she is about to follow a dejected Meddler out of the room, Scurry notices something on the floor and stoops to pick it up. It is a piece of a cabbage leaf! While probably from the salad that Talbot had been eating, Scurry wants to be sure and FedExes it to a lab to be analyzed. If it is not from Talbot’s salad, if it does prove to be of extraterrestrial origin, Meddler will have solid proof in support of his conjecture.
But the lab never receives her package.