Thursday, April 7, 2011

Forbidden Planet (Finally)

This post is a continuation of what was begun previously in The Return of the C-57D.

We're returning to Forbidden Planet. It's a classic movie and after having had the opportunity to watch it on a big screen at one of our all-time favorite local theaters some disturbing notions crept into my febrile brain.

Everything is not quite as it seems in this wonderful old movie. There's a dark and sinister side to it, One of Mythic proportions that casts a disquieting shadow over this classic gem of the 1950s cinema.

Come along with me now as we delve a bit deeper into the lurking horrors that await us deep below the surface of Altair 4. Bring a blaster. Mine's out for repairs.

The following is extracted from a version of the Forbidden Planet Script, a transcript really, that has been painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of Forbidden Planet by a guy named Drew who has made this available at his site: Script-o-Rama. (Please go visit Drew. He slaved away on this transcript and could use your support and encouragement. Or at least a Thank you.)

The Krell Public Relations Campaign

In times long past...

this planet was the home of a mighty and noble race of beings...
which called themselves the Krell.

Ethically, as well as technologically...
they were a million years ahead of humankind...
for in unlocking the mysteries of nature...
they had conquered even their baser selves...
and when, in the course of eons, they had abolished sickness...
and insanity and crime and all injustice...
they turned, still with high benevolence...outward toward space.

Long before the dawn of man's history, they had walked our Earth...
and brought back many biological specimens
The Krell are great, the Krell are good, the Krell know better than we do just what is going on with the universe--or do they? Then where are they? Did they "...succumb to a...to a sort of a planetary force here...some dark, terrible, incomprehensible force?" You bet they did. And with a little effort and a quick trip to Altair 4 you can too. But we'll get to that in a moment.

So we know that the Krell visited the Earth way back when. They brought back specimens such as tigers and deer. Okay, so maybe they missed the dinosaurs, but Altair 4 looks like a great place for some dinosaurs. Or maybe a nice Shen colony.

Ahem. Ignore the large reptile with the sword-axe in the peanut gallery. He can go back to his own blog. Or get back to work. We need more maps done pronto.

Hard to get good help these days.

Anyhow. The Krell seem to have almost the same hyper-rational fixation as the Metalunans from This Island Earth. (You can watch a version of This Island Earth at Mevio, if you're interested. It isn't the best quality, but it will give you some idea of the Metalunan=walking science anus theory.) For my money the Krell are probably related to the Metalunans. Something about the smug superiority complex and brain expanding machines just makes it seem appropriate. Metalunans are probably the scabby remnants of the ancient Krell civilization. They were dying out, granted they were getting a little help in hastening their eventual extinction by the Zagons.

Chris Nigro from the Warrenverse site likewise sees some parallels between Forbidden Planet and This Island Earth and even takes things a good bit farther, right into the Wold Newton Universe:
"I also have a great interest in the classic 1950s sci-fi film 'The Forbidden Planet' which, along with Universal's memorable sci-fi flick from the same decade 'This Island Earth,' may very well have worked in tandem to launch the sci-fi and space opera genres we are so familiar with today, paving the way for the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica franchises, as well as other major sci-fi flicks such as 'The Black Hole.' Though the events of 'This Island Earth' took place in the then present to when the film was produced (the 1950s) the events of 'The Forbidden Planet' took place in an alternate future, and I am wondering if that timeline could possibly be connected to one of the many divergent future time tracks of the WNU; there is at least one online Wold Newton article opining that the events from that movie can occur at some point on the Classic Star Trek timeline, which branches off from the WNU of the present, as made quite clear in Greg Cox's three Star Trek novels, ASSIGNMENT: ETERNITY and the two volumes of THE EUGENICS WARS, all three of which incorporate the enigmatic agent of an advanced alien race operating on Earth of the WNU from the 1960s to the 1990s. Gary Seven first appeared in the classic episode of "Star Trek" called 'Assignment: Earth,' which was intended as a pilot for a Gary Seven TV series that didn't end up happening." -- Chris Nigro
But we're getting off-track here. It's fun, but we'll have to come back to it another time. Maybe Chris will consent to be a guest blogger sometime and explore this tangent a bit farther.
Back to Forbidden Planet.
From Drew's Transcript again:
The heights they had reached...but then, seemingly on the threshold of some supreme accomplishment...which was to have crowned their entire history...this all but divine race perished in a single night.
This all but divine race perished in a single night. Really? A star-faring civilization that had reached multiple planets was expunged in one fell swoop? That's either a massive over-generalization, a bit of hyperbole, or something really, really rotten is going on deep below the crust of Altair 4.

The highly advanced, highly ethical, all but divine Krell built an impressive super-technological civilization, at least according to Morbius. He wouldn't lie. Would he? Didn't the brain-expansion machines down below in the alien labs located conveniently right beneath Morbius' cozy little chalet also enhance his ethical nature as well? Hmmm...


It didn't.

He should have been able to have used his super-enhanced brain to out-think and out-wit the lonely spacemen on the C-57D. But he didn't. He also revealed too much of what was down below the surface of the planet, much like a classic Bond villain. He put a lot of people in potential jeopardy and a genius like he was supposed to be, with highly advanced ethics like the Krell supposedly had would not have done things that way. Not unless deep down he wanted to do it. Or was being manipulated into doing it.

Keep that thought in mind as we move along a bit.

Whatever happened, it wiped away all traces of the Krell. Or at least most such traces.
In the centuries since that unexplained catastrophe...even their cloud-piercing towers...of glass and porcelain and adamantine steel...have crumbled back into the soil of Altair...and nothing, absolutely nothing remains above ground.
Okay. Sounds like a seriously cool post-apocalyptic dungeoncrawl on an alien planet in the making.

What did the Krell look like?
No record of their physical nature has survived...except, perhaps, in the form of this characteristic arch. I suggest you consider it in comparison to one of our...functionally designed human doorways
That arch is shaped like a truncated diamond. It would accomodate Daleks, but there is one other vaguely conical rugose race that also were supposedly super-advanced in their technology that spring to mind, But we'll wait on that for a moment.

Did someone say dungeoncrawl?

The alien ruins beneath the surface of Altair 4 are the most impressive, and one of the biggest Megadungeons of them all.

Morbius takes the intrepid Captain J. J. Adams and his chief medical officer (sound like anyone else's manner of handling an away team?) on a tour of the mega-huge underground Krell installation just beneath their feet. The place is 20 miles in each direction and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors. The entire alien complex had been operating and maintaining itself ever since the extinction of the Krell. When asked about its purpose, Morbius says he knows only that it can supply a practically limitless supply of power.

You can watch the Altair 4 Megadungeon sequence here at YouTube.
Over 8,000 square miles …that's 40 miles cubed, 8,000 cubic miles of complex, 7,800 levels, 401 great shafts = 400 surrounding a central shaft—that's if Morbius was accessing the Central Shaft. We'll just assume he was. He was a smart guy after all.
It's like someone was hell-bent to update Piranesi for the Atomic Age. They did a fantastic job.
That's one incredible Megadungeon. You couldn't map it with forty pounds of graph paper and a year locked in a padded cell. Not. That. Anyone. Has. Tried. That. Of course.
Down in the Altair 4 Megadungeon, in the Labs, Morbius shows off some of the tools and toys left behind by whomever built the place.
On this screen may be projected...the total scientific knowledge of the Krell...from its primitive beginning to the day of its annihilation...a sheer bulk surpassing many million earthly libraries.
Yeah. A massive, hidden repository of lost knowledge buried deep under the crust of a planet and maintained by super-high tech perpetually self-sufficient. Hmmm...where might we have read of anything like that before, like in 1934 perhaps?

Morbius knows a lot more than he's letting on. He has gained a great deal of Forbidden Knowledge.
Twenty years ago, I began here with...this page of geometrical theorems. Eventually I was able to deduce most of their huge, logical alphabet. I began to learn. The first practical result was my robot...which you gentlemen appear to find so remarkable. Child's play. I've come here every day now for two decades...painfully picking up a few of the least difficult fragments of their knowledge.
A logical alphabet. Geometry. Knowledge that is dangerous to those not properly prepared by the mind expanding mechanisms so as to withstand the shock of its revelation. Knowledge that is difficult to cope with even after letting the alien machines mess around inside your skull. Knowledge that is painfully obscure, esoteric, and incredibly ancient--left behind by a race that was expunged from physical existence in one evening, a near divine race of super geniuses who had been to Earth a long time ago.

In 1934, H. P. Lovecraft wrote a story titled The Shadow Out of Time. In this story he introduced an alien race, a Great Race...
"The Great Race ... waxed well-nigh omniscient, and turned to the task of setting up exchanges with the minds of other planets, and of exploring their pasts and futures. It sought likewise to fathom the past years and origin of that black, aeon-dead orb in far space whence its own mental heritage had come – for the mind of the Great Race was older than its bodily form. . . The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago."

—H. P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Out of Time
IA! IA! Krell Fhtagn!

The Krell are probably not the Great Race. Altair 4 is very likely one more world that the Great Race built one of their repositories of knowledge upon. The Krell, some offshoot of the Metalunans possibly, stumbled upon the Megadungeon-like Machine beneath Altair 4 and in their haste to sample forbidden knowledge they unleashed the Monster of the Id and it destroyed them.

It's a theory.
Another theory is that the Altair 4 installation is a back-up location for the Time Tunnel project.

You can watch episodes of the classic 1960's Sci-Fi TV series The Time Tunnel at Hulu.

Whomever built the Altair 4 Megadungeon could very likely have built a simple Time Tunnel and vice-versa.

Who wouldn't want to go exploring a massive 8,000 square mile Megadungeon built by alien time travelers?


  1. Forbidden Planet is one of my favorites, although I don't think I mentioned it in my first post this month (it's more of an inspiration for the Alternative V offshoot, Populuxe Planet Patrol.) I think I prefer the Great Race explanation of who built the megadungeon beneath the planet...

    One thing I get a kick out of in Forbidden Planet and several other SF sources in that era is their odd use of the word "instrumentalities". The Krell are said to have evolved beyond the need for instrumentalities -- and the audience is expected to know that this means they could do things by thinking about them, instead of using their hands/limbs or tools.

  2. The Great Race/Krell link is inspired. And Forbidden Planet is indeed a great film.

  3. Its so good to have you back & hitting these connections out of the park. I have visions of seeing a copy of "The Multiverse's Largest Mega~Dungeon" at my local FLS shop! Thank you so much for this! Truly demented er inspired!

  4. Awesome post for an awesome movie.

    Totally megadungeon material.

  5. @Talysman: We're enjoying your work on Alternative V and look forward to seeing it completed. It is a lot of fun. Let us know if you'd like some Bug Eyed Monsters for use on the blog or with the game itself.

    As for Instrumentalities, it's a term that gets bandied about in certain theological circles quite a bit, or at least it used to, right around the time that a lot of this sort of science fiction was getting written. Cordwainer Smith, for example was an Anglican. There's a rather intriguing connection there that we might have to dig into a bit more one of these days.

    @Trey: Glad you liked the linkage we came up with--it's one of those daft theories that might eventually pop up as a Wold Newton article.

    @Needles: We have only begun to set up the Multiverse's Largest Megadungeon...wait for the entry for T this month...

    @Trollsmyth: Glad you liked it--there's a ton of awesome stuff to loot in these old movies, and Forbidden Planet is still one of our all-time faves.

    @scottsz: Yeah, it is, but mapping it is going to take a lot of geomorphs...


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