After Rutger Hauer and Keir Dullea recreate their most famous lines as part of what seems like a serious version of the old “This Episode” highlights from the Anderson series, Dominic Sandbrook’s investigation into “Space” starts from a personal perspective as he recalls going to see Star Wars as a youngster. That’s the cue for footage, reminiscences and assessments from many involved both with that film, and with others from the genre – so we’re treated to Anthony Daniels, Alan Ladd Jnr., John Carpenter, Douglas Trumbull and Richard Dreyfuss talking about Star Wars; Dullea (and archive footage of Arthur C. Clarke) on 2001; Nicholas Meyer, Neil Gaiman, Ronald D. Moore William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek, as well as the accurate prophecies of Jules Verne; and Gale Ann Hurd and Veronica Cartwright on Alien.
Although this is definitely screen oriented, there is some analysis of the literary roots, particularly when discussing the depiction of alien worlds. Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula K. Le Guin discuss Frank Herbert’s work on Dune, and Le Guin also reveals some of the thoughts behind The Left Hand of Darkness which Gaiman admits affected him greatly. That’s the segue into talk about Avatar (“the geekiest movie of all time”?) with Sandbrook appropriately at the Eden Project.
The actual images that inspired Robinson’s Mars series are shown, while the author himself has some controversial opinions about much science fiction – which are contrasted with a certain Arthur Dent’s travels (illustrated with the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy TV series’ wonderful effects from the first episode, Peter Jones’ dulcet tones talking about the Babel Fish and assorted further clips), whose praises are sung by Gaiman. The final section deals with Battlestar Galactica, the Mormon roots of the original, and the reasoning behind the changes made for the 2003 remake, with both Ron Moore and Edward James Olmos discussing the links to 9/11 and the War on Terror.
Verdict: There’s obviously much in here that will be familiar to fans of the genre, and the bias is clearly towards the screen, but this is a fascinating overview of the topic. 9/10