September 18, 2012 Evolution of Science Fiction
The evolution of Science Fiction is filling my slowly passing time this week. I’ve watched three very diverse movies on my days off: Another Earth, TiMER and The Forbidden Planet.
The Forbidden Planet is the earliest movie, being from 1956. It stars Leslie Nielson as a handsome pilot of a flying saucer. It’s really weird to see him as something more than the comedic white haired actor of Naked Gun and Airplane. Anyway, they land the planet Altaire, home of the Krell. The Krell had died out, but left behind an advanced laboratory. When a ship from earth lands there the crew is killed with the exception of Dr. Morbis and his family. Eventually they realize that the mysterious monster is the projected Id of Dr. Morbis. Morbis hits the self destruct button—giving his daughter and the crew 24 hours to leave The Forbidden Planet.
Despite being a bit hokey, it still managed to inspire Star Trek, Dr. Who and many other future Sci-Fi classics. It was the first Sci-Fi film to set entirely on another planet. It claims the first electonrica soundtrack and the first life-like robot. Interestingly, it parallels Shakespeare’s The Tempest in some ways. It is unique, yet not without hypertext I guess.
Fast-forward 55 years into the future and Science Fiction is barely recognizable by traditional standards. Another Earth is almost entirely a coming of age drama. The Science Fiction element starts out small—a blue dot in the night sky to be exact. It gets bigger and bigger as it draws closer and as it begins to play a larger role in the story. The distant star turns out to be another earth, hence the title. It appears to be a parallel world in which our doppelgangers exist.
Rhoda accidently hits a stopped car while driving drunk and looking up at the newly discovered Earth 2. She spends four years in prison for killing a woman and child in the accident. When she gets out she befriends the survivor of the crash—a music professor secluded in isolation. They become involved and then she gets the news. She won an essay contest, which means a free ride on the shuttle to Earth 2. He begs her not to go. She tells him the truth and then he tells her to leave. She leaves, but returns to give him her ticket. He accepts the ticket in the hopes of seeing his wife and child on Earth 2. At the end of the movie Rhoda sees her doppelganger standing before her.
In an even less obvious way, the comedy TiMER is Sci-Fi as well. It revolves around a technology that doesn’t actually exist, but very easily could—the soulmate timer. People get an implant on the inside of their wrist that tells them the exact day and time they will meet “the one.” Although it seems like a nifty idea, it causes problems as well. Some people meet the love of their life at age 15, while others have to wait until age 42 or older. Some, like Oona, get a blank timer. A blank timer means that your soulmate simply hasn’t gotten his (or her) timer yet. Questions arise, like would you remain chaste until you meet your soulmate or would you try to squeeze in as many one-night stands as possible?
The movie TiMER came to the conclusion that there is probably more than one love in our lives. Oona brings up the term “first love” because she believes that it implies a “second love” or three or four or more. Having a few heartbreaks makes us human. It creates character. Loving just one person all our lives doesn’t seem practical or realistic.
As I look back over the three movies, I realize that the 1956 movie was written by a man. It’s portrayal of Alataira as a sort of Eve is typically sexist. Its underlying theme of the destructive Id is also patriarchal or masculine as well.
Both Another Earth and TiMER were written by women. At one time Science Fiction was a very male-dominated genre, but women have embraced it and changed it for the better I think. They use the Science Fiction Elements to enhance the story they are telling rather than sticking to the formula created by movies like The Forbidden Planet.