Space Envy

YES, it is tatty British TV scifi (TBTVSF for short). Which is, in itself, admirable. But note the date! 1967 — BEFORE 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was in cinemas but undoubtedly WHILE Kubrick was working on it. And watch the space station-space shuttle link-up at the start! Highly reminiscent. What must Kubrick have felt when he saw this?

Well, we need not wonder, since I have here Kubes’ notes, dictated to personal secretary Isadore “Beeves” Krassovitz as he watched the show (Kubrick always had a short-hand typist on hand as he watched television, in case he made any remarkable observations during Crown Court), then recorded onto quarter-inch tape by voice artist Martin Jarvis, attempting a Bronx accent.


0.16 Shit. This is EXACTLY like our first space sequence. Only… so much better! We are dead. DEAD. How do we top this? The music — it’s goddamn magnificent! The majesty of interplanetary travel, and yet, so perky! I’m gonna really have to shuffle through my record collection. It’ll never be as good as this.

0.28 Even their title’s better than ours.

0.35 Special effects by “National Interest Pictures.” Make a note of that. We have to get a spy in there to find out how they’re doing this stuff. We have traveling mattes and Schuftan and slitscan but this is WAY ADVANCED. It’s almost like they have access to alien technology or something.

1.22 The heroes are called Power and Tempo. And what do we got? Dave and Frank. We are boned.

1.36 Note how the stars are twinkling in a realistic fashion even though we’re in space and there’s no atmosphere to make them twinkle. That’s the kind of detail 2001 has got to have.

1.55 Actors are too emotional. But wait — that guy poking an ice cube tray with a pen light is Derek Fowlds, future star of Yes, Minister! I’m gonna have to cast the future star of a rival sitcom to compete. Maybe I can get the guy from Rising Damp? Or the guy from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin? Hell, I’ll get both. That’ll make it really futuristic.

2:06 I like how the TV monitor is in black and white. No way they could afford colo(u)r TV in space. Still, better look into it.

2:13 Their chairs are made of egg cartons. Nice.


2:48 Look at the size of that TV set! Is that realistic? Why don’t I have one that big?

2:56 Mini-skirts are never, ever, going to go out of style.

3:46 When the Discovery enters the “tunnels of light” it’s gonna have to look every bit as good as this dry ice fog effect they got here or we’re gonna be laughed off the screen.

3.50 Hey, the set’s bouncing up and down as if they were actually moving! How the hell are they doing that?

4.00 A masterstroke. Only now, four minutes in, do they tell us the name of the episode, “CLOUD OF DEATH.” Maybe I could use text on screen to introduce the various “chapters” of my film. Like at the beginning, it could say “DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” or something. But I know what’ll happen — they’ll say I stole it from Solarnauts.

4.25 Now they’re blowing shit up! How come I never thought of that? We got all these models, and we never thought of doing some kind of space dogfight and blowing them up. First thing tomorrow I’m gonna find Arthur C Clarke in that tree in Ceylon he lives in and smack his stupid face. Even if I have to fly there!

5.00 Those zigzag wipes are awesome. I would never be that bold. I go from a monkey tossing a femur to a nuclear missile station in space and what do I do? I cut! What a goddamn tragic missed opportunity. Still, I guess those wipes might get tiresome over the course of a movie that’s 141 minutes long as mine is destined to be.

5:24 Jesus, that bald guy’s head is coming right out of the TV. What an amazing way to visualize an alien intelligence — a guy with no hair! That’s it, I can’t compete. We’ll just have to keep our aliens offscreen. I was gonna use guys with no beards, but this show has me licked. I don’t think I can watch anymore (sob!)




I find Kubrick an irresistible comedy character. He did try to sue the makers of Space 1999 for infringing his title… “That date is only two years away from 2001!” One sees his point, but he does rather miss the crux of the matter, legalistically, that you can’t copyright a title.


10 Responses to “Space Envy”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    From the protection of his bunker, SK could have live-blogged so much intriguing TV (“Footballers’ Wives” for example) , if only he had lived another 10-15 years. . .


  2. but then how much debt does the Solarnauts owe to Star Trek which debuted the year before? The bridge in particular seems rather similar though of course that could be a common influence…

  3. All TV scifi seems to look more or less similar, and even 2001 and the real space programme don’t seem to change the production designers’ approach. Hard to imagine how different the first Star Wars (grungy) and then Alien (murky) must have seemed.

  4. Kubrick was a Control Freak Supreme. Note his freakout over the music on this TV show. This may be why he dumped Alex North’s score and used his “temp track” (“Thus Spake Zarathustra,” “The Blue Danube”) instead.

  5. David E yes, but this whole piece is a made-up parody by me. The only true bit is the Spece 1999 thing at the end.

  6. Nice! In my head all these things are being said in the same petulant-sounding voice Kubrick uses when he’s screaming imprecations at Shelley Duvall in “The Making of the Shining”.

    I also like how bubbles moving through colored Lucite pipes are used to show (I think) vehicles travelling through pneumatic tubes. Didn’t “Logan’s Run” use a similar trick? It wasn’t just Kubrick who ripped this off.

  7. I think MAYBE Logan’s Run had actual shadowy objects gliding along its tubes, but can’t recall for sure.

    Yes, the Bronx whine is essential for this reading.

  8. judydean Says:

    What would Kubrick have done had he known that the zenith of Derek Fowlds’ career was not to be Yes, Minister but playing Mr Derek, fall guy to the incomparable Basil Brush?

  9. You’re right, I finally bothered to check and you can see that there’s a tiny model inside the “Logan’s Run” Lucite tubing. The film’s actually not quite as cheap-looking as I remembered it.

    “2001” is a film I’ve never quite decided if I entirely like and I’ve seen it a good half-dozen times over the past two decades. It’s interesting if nothing else to see Clarke’s belief in human potentiality at war with Kubrick’s clinical pessimism.

  10. A.I. serves as Kubrick’s clearest statement on that: human potentiality lies in our machines!

    J’adore 2001, which likewise looks forward to a post-human future, though it requires outside help for evolution to get us there. I think that plotline allows Clarke and Kubrick’s philosophies to blend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: