"This film invites you to step into the future, a half century from today…”
The titles begin with a scrolling text similar to that made famous by Star Wars. I'm sure this had been used before, but my first thought was Star Wars.
Actually this science fiction film -- Spaceflight IC-1: An Adventure in Space -- invites you to step into the year 2015 (I'm sure that it sounded really futuristic back then), but as we know, it really hasn't turned out to be that futuristic. I mean where are the reusable rocket ships, the daily commute-to-work jet-packs and the flying cars?
The film begins with a uniformed American military type explaining the premise of Spaceflight IC-1 and introducing us to the main characters. We have a cross section of people on board the Interstellar Colony (IC) ship – doctors, teachers, engineers and a spacefarer (Doctor Garth) of the future whose body has been replace by components duplicating the functions of his original organs. As played by John Lee, Garth is referred to as a “closed-cycle man” and can compute faster than the humans, monitor the ships systems and -- since he has no bodily needs, such as food or water -- can be on duty 24 hours a day. Basically all you see of him is his head inside a glass dome on top of a large box. (I'm sure it seemed a good idea at the time, but it seems a tiny bit silly now.) We did, of course, see the similar idea of machines looking after a crew with the robot in TV's Lost in Space; HAL9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey; the computer in the John Carpenter classic Dark Star; and the android Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Still, none of them ever appeared as a disembodied head in a fish bowl.
The colony ship is comprised of husbands, wives and children heading on their way to a new earth. All have been chosen for the age, health and intelligence. The mission is funded by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. The mission is under the command of a governing body called RULE, which seems to be some sort of a New World Order.
The ship’s captain, Mead Ralston (played by Bill Williams a pretty well known Hollywood film and television actor back then), is a bit of a disciplinarian who feels slightly guilty over the fact that he and his wife have yet to have children, even though that’s the main purpose of the ship. He also obeys the rules set for the mission no matter the cost. He has been given absolute authority and expects absolute discipline.
When one member of the crew discovers she is seriously ill and asks the captain about having a child before she dies, he basically informs her that all children must be approved by the governing council and that no evidence of genetic impurity must be present. So eugenics is alive and well and flourishing in the year 2015.
The children we see onboard seem to have extremely advanced psychic ability, although not a great deal is made of this. They easily “read” playing cards hidden from them by the teacher. One even feels pain when their father is attacked.
Onboard, as well as the fully functioning humans and the much less functional Dr. Garth, are four crew members in suspended animation, a bit like those characters in the thought-provoking 2001: A Space Odyssey. However these “caskets” seem a bit more wooden box with windows rather than the hi-tech hibernation chambers of the space ship Discovery in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic.
I did actually see bits of the set that I thought were very Star Treky (made up word), thinking they must have taken ideas from episodes that they had seen; it was only when I checked the date of release I noticed it was from 1965, one year after the un-aired Star Trek pilot ‘The Cage’ had been made and one year before the series aired on US television. So who took what ideas from whom? I think if you watched early episodes of Star Trek in black and white, you would feel comfortable with this film.
Is it brilliant? No.
Is it entertaining? Yes.
It’s also just slightly over an hour long making it a good way to pass some time.
So get your mug of tea and some chocolate digestive biscuits (other brands are available) and give it a go and see what you think. And if you think “I’ll never get those 65 minutes of my life back”, well you would have just squandered them away doing something else.