The Final Frontier

A pictorial retrospective on representations of space travel in cinema (1900-2010):


Men travel to the Moon in formal evening wear. First casualty? The Moon! Astronauts are not yet allowed to carry guns into space, they are instead equipped with umbrellas, which they use to fend off the violently savage “moon people.” Their vanquishing of the terrible moon dwellers represents the first conquests of an alien civilizations by Man.


Robin Hood is an alien (who knew?) and the space economy is in such shambles, bad-ass intergalactic overlords are forced to wear hand-me-down, drag-queen outfits. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the NRA, astronauts obtain carry permits and zap guns become the weapon of choice.


Men in jump-suits, armed to the teeth, travel to distant planets in flying saucers in search of the last remaining virgins in all the galaxy. They find only one and courting her involves fighting off invisible space monsters, an overprotective father and her robotic chaperone.


Humans travel across the galaxy to meddle in the affairs of alien civilizations and mate with their females. Zap guns get two settings; stun and kill. The prime directive is put in place by Starfleet for the benefit of all and promptly ignored by its most handsome captain who plays by his own rules.


Space resembles feudal Japan. Zap guns are still the weapon of choice but lightsabres are making a comeback. A smuggler, an idealistic farm boy, and an old man are all that stand between an evil, genocidal Empire with the most powerful weapon ever devised and the innocent, poorly armed people of the galaxy.


By this point space is full of merchandizing potential… and so very, very kitsch. Space empires are obsessed with balls of every shape and size. A second ultimate weapon is built and again destroyed, this time with the help of cuddly teddy bears and fish-headed starship captains (the result, no doubt, of inter-species mating).


The Earth faces constant threat from rogue meteors looking to crush the meddling human race. Under these circumstances astronauts are no longer deemed qualified for space travel by NASA; off-shore oil-drillers, however, are another story (you better believe they’re strapped).


Space still resembles feudal Japan; lightsabres are in vogue and outdated racial stereotypes from the 1930s attempt a comeback. Children are genetically engineered to be super-intelligent roboticists and race-car drivers.


Human beings travel across the galaxy to meddle in the affairs of alien civilizations and mate with their females (this time in three dimensions). Zap guns are considered passe – good ol’ fashion firearms and giant robots, presumably built by hyper-intelligent children in far-east sweatshops, are standard issue. The latest fad? Cloning alien bodies for our own amusement, which we can control via the internet.


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