What was the plan? They must have had one. You don’t just launch astronauts into space without having a plan for them. So what was it?
I’m sorry. I’m rambling. I do that sometimes when I can’t figure something out. I’m talking about a classic science fiction movie, PLANET OF THE APES. I’m thinking specifically about the 1968 version staring Charlton Heston.
Heston plays astronaut George Taylor who, as we all know, survives the crash of the spaceship and a journey through a desolate wasteland only to be hunted down and captured by talking apes. We all know the movie, some of us can quote famous lines from the movie all day. “Take yer stinkin’ paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” and such.
But back up for a moment. How does the movie begin? Charlton Heston is alone aboard his spaceship making a log entry. His fellow astronauts are in cryosleep and he’s uttering a monologue for the benefit of the ship’s log just prior to joining them in suspended animation.
Asleep are astronauts Landon, Dodge and Stewart.
Dodge and Landon are men. Stewart is a woman.
So anyone who has seen the movie knows what happens to Stewart. Her cryochamber fails and she ages in her sleep. When the others wake they have aged hardly at all while Stewart is a dessicated skeleton.
So much for the first woman in space.
The ship has crashed at this point so there’s no time for sentiment, not that these three mugs seem to be overly sentimental, particularly not Taylor. The ship sinks in the lake and Stewart’s body sinks with it never to be seen again.
But… hang on…
According to Taylor’s final log entry the crew of the ship (which, apparently was named the Icarus, a rather ill-conceived name for a ship that is intended to travel between the stars and eventually orbit one) the crew were six months into their flight before they bedded down in their cryo chambers.
So… three men and one woman share cramped quarters for six month on a mission that is, no mistake, a one-way trip. Taylor says it: “…old Mother Earth has aged a few thousand years since our departure — while we have scarcely aged at all… the men who sent us on this journey have long since been moldering in forgotten graves.”
So I have to wonder, what was that six months like? Three men and one woman in cramped quarters. I mean, sure, there have been female astronauts in real life and some have spent time on the International Space Station working side-by-side with men with no apparent problems, so why should this have been any different?
I know this was a movie and in a movie your characters have to be interesting and engaging. Boring, straight, type “A” personalities don’t make for interesting movie heroes, at least they didn’t in the late 60’s. So, given what we saw of them, the three male astronauts… what would that six month voyage have been like? Was their soft music and cocktails or was it all work and cold showers?
But here’s the most telling bit. Later on in the film, after all the others are dead or lobotomized, Taylor is talking to his mute girlfriend Nova “Did I tell you about Stewart?” he says. “Now there was a lovely girl. The most precious cargo we brought along. She was… to be the new “Eve”.”
New “Eve”. New “Eve”?
Wait. So this one way mission to… where? Another planet? Or were they supposed to return home? Doubtful because the astronauts do not even consider for a moment that they are back on Earth. This mission was intended to colonize a new planet? With three men and one woman?
Okay, I’m sorry, but if that’s true – and maybe it isn’t. Maybe Taylor has gone a little bit bonkers at this point in the movie – but if that’s true then that has to be the stupidest plan ever.
Or am I missing something?