Viking Night: Forbidden Planet
By Bruce Hall
August 24, 2016
One of the unexpected pleasures of revisiting old sci-fi classics is getting to see what we thought space travel was going to be like before space travel actually existed. Back then, nobody had any idea what space was going to be like. A writer could literally dream up anything, and who was to say whether it was plausible?
Maybe there really is a planet ruled by bronze skinned Amazon robot women. Maybe they’re dialed into planetary war against the evil race of fish-people who live on their moon. Maybe they need me to teach them the unpredictability of human emotions to finally give gain the edge in their eons long struggle with the Calamari Syndicate, as I have chosen to call them.
Obviously, once victorious, I would be obligated to serve as their king.
Yeah, laugh if you want. Good science fiction used to be harder to come by than it is today. Case in point - Forbidden Planet. MGM’s ambitious 1956 classic quickly became an institution, inspiring a generation of fans and filmmakers alike. And then, like most things, it faded off the pop culture radar. I’m sure I saw it as a child, probably around the same time I read Huckleberry Finn for the first time. Like that small cultural window of time when roller skates made a comeback, it became one of those lovely experiences from childhood that we don’t ever expect to have again.
I mean, when am I going to read Huckleberry Finn again, and why? And God knows I’ll die before I try on another pair of skates (I’d probably die if I did, truth be told). But I did just watch Forbidden Planet again, because someday I’m going to write the article that finally gets me out of that cubicle. And let me tell you, this movie really took me back. It’s not that I remembered it all that well, but it’s just the kind of thing I would have loved when I was a young-un. It doesn’t happen often enough, but it’s a lot of fun when something you enjoyed long ago still lives up to your expectations.
Forbidden Planet takes place in a universe where we didn’t land on the moon until sometime in the late 21st century. That probably sounds lame, but you’ll be glad to know we make up for it by also discovering how to build sweet looking flying saucers that can travel through hyperspace. Of course, these ships are crewed entirely with square jawed, white male Protestant boys with snappy haircuts and sharp uniforms.
This story concerns one such vessel, the gallantly named Starship C-57D. At the head of the crew is Commander JJ Adams (Leslie Nielsen), who seems to have an informal command partnership with best buds Lt. Farman (Jack Kelly) and the ship’s doctor, who is conveniently referred to as “Doc” (Warren Stevens). The C-57D has spent an entire year traveling to the Altair system, where another ship disappeared two decades earlier. Their mission is to ascertain what happened, and recover any survivors.