Friday, February 6, 2015

Sci-Fi Gems Week: Silent Running

Welcome back boys and girls for Day 4 of Sci-Fi Gems Week. I had a tough call on what to cover today. On one hand the well known cult classic Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange which has probably been covered more times than I could count or the lesser known Douglas Trumbull film Silent Running. Well for all you Kubrick and McDowell fans I am sorry but the more obscure seemed the best way to go. Besides zany Bruce Dern is in this flick so how can you go wrong? This is Silent Running.

Portrait of the sleep deprived.

In the far away future all plant life on Earth is gone and the planet is covered in various gases as oxygen is almost null and void. A handful of species have been preserved in gigantic greenhouse like domes connected to American Airline space freighters (so they will probably crash or lose a door in mid-geosynchronous orbit) just a stone throw from Saturn, Botanist and ecologist specialist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern of Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The War Wagon, Hang 'Em High, The Cowboys, The Burbs and Nebraska) spends most of his time in the domes tending to crops, accelerating growth and even bringing animal life to fruition. Just then as if by some plot device, orders from from Earth states they are tired of footing the bill for the costs of these domes. They are ordered to destroy all the domes and return back to commercial use for goods and services.


Horrified at this information Lowell attacks his crew members ,killing one in the process and even traps two more in one of the domes as it is jettisoned and blown up. Four of the six domes have been destroyed initially and the fifth has been removed as well. With the assistance of the service droids or drones, Lowell hijacks his ship The Valley Forge in a desperate attempt to save the sixth dome.

His only companions consist of three drones he cruelly named Huey, Lewie and Dewey. I guess he was a huge Disney fan or maybe their residuals paid for this star freighter. The plants do not seem to thrive as heavily as they did prior when Lowell realizes it is due to lack of direct sunlight and proceeds to run about installing UV lamps to fix this oversight when another frieghter name of the Berkshire attempts contact with the Valley Forge. Knowing full well he will go to trial for his 3 counts of murder not to mention to direct violation of the dome's destruction, Lowell must take action in order to preserve the sixth and last dome. Can Lowell and the drones be able to pull a fast one thus saving the forest? Will Lowell go to trial and will the bots be melted to slag? And what of Timmy still stuck in the airlock?

And now some trivia on the film. The several shots of both the Valley Forge and its sister ships were later re-used for Battlestar Galactica as agricultural ships in the refugee fleet. The same named aircraft carrier Valley Forge which saw World War II, Korea and Vietnam was decommissioned and used after a few modifications and paint as the Valley Forge star freighter in the movie. It was later scrapped after all filming on it was completed. The Saturn sequence was originally intended for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey but the tech needed for the visual effects team to do was not ready for use at that time.

Creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Cinematic Titanic, Joel Hodgson states that Silent Running was a major inspiration for his own show... and yet not that many references in the show to said movie. More like little nods or homage. Not receiving enough of an audience alone, Silent Running was released as a double feature alongside Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain. I say give both movies a view.

Damn Tandi equipment!! Nothing works right!!!