2019-12-25 11:28:37 UTC
the 1998 movie version of _Lost in Space_, in which the starship Jupiter 2 was
lost both in space and in time. Back when the television program _Lost in Space_
was first broadcast, Isaac Asimov, in a 1966 article in _TV Guide_, was very
critical of the handling of astronomy in a second season episode, writing:
"So to suppose that one false move instantly sends a spaceship out of the Galaxy
is about like supposing that a kid on a tricycle, pedaling down main street in
Emporia, Kan., and forgetting to make a turn at the end of the block, instantly
goes shooting off the edge of the North American continent."
The 1998 movie specifically satisfies the question of how a ship traveling at
the stated speed can get lost so quickly, by means of an established science
fiction trope, but one that has not been over-used: an uncontrolled jump through
hyper-space. The first example I know of was in Edward E. Smith's 1934 novel
_The Skylark of Valeron_, where Richard Seaton and party use it to escape
from the pure intellects. Smith used it again in _Second Stage Lensmen_(1941)
where the Galactic Patrol ship Dauntless is transiting an enemy hyperspatial
tube when the tube's generators are shut down, sending the Dauntless into
a different universe. In Bob Shaw's 1967 novel _Night Walk_ hyper drive sends
the ship using it instantaneously to a seemingly random point in the Galaxy,
but a jump from any specific location always goes to the SAME point. Since
a jump takes very little energy and jumps can be made in rapid succession this
becomes a workable means of interstellar travel giving access to a subset of
the stars in the Galaxy. In Heinlein's _Starman Jones_ a ship that exceeds
the speed of light at a location other than a plotted congruency travels
to some place unknowable in advance and usually doesn't return. Poul Anderson
wrote a story whose title I forget where an explosion in its engine room
sends a ship instantly to a place so far outside their known space that
they cannot return at normal FTL speeds within the crew's lifetimes.
These are the only examples of this trope that come to mind; I am interested
in hearing of any others.
The writers of _Lost in Space_ also came up with their own reason why
a ship would have such a drive: a controlled hyperspace jump IS possible
but only between two "hypergates". They are travelling at sub-light speed
to an observed exoplanetary system to set up a hypergate there, allowing
two-way travel and colonization.
Now, the Christmas story:
The Jupiter 2 emerged from a semi-controlled hyper space jump into our solar
system in or near the year zero, CE. This was actually not such a bad situation
when you consider where they'd been so far, and they evaluated the possibility
of placing the ship in a distant cometary orbit and putting themselves into
cryogenic suspended animation until 2158, the year they left Earth. This was a
much longer interval than had been done before, but their medical officer,
Dr. Judy Robinson, was one of the people who had developed suspended animation
in the first place so it seemed that it might be possible.
Meanwhile, exploring the Earth from orbit and with drones, they found that
events in the middle east seemed to be a fairly close match to the Christian
nativity stories. There was a woman in the last stages of pregnancy and her
husband staying in a stable in the village of Bethlehem. They continued
surveillance and, as the woman went into labor, it become apparent the there
were complications and that both the mother and child would die without medical
intervention. The required intervention was well within the capabilities of
Dr. Judy Robinson and the resources of the ship, but should they? Was time
immutable, so that the Jupiter 2 party had always been part of the origin of
Christianity? If they didn't intervene would this change history? Had
Christianity been, over all, a force for good or for ill when you considered
such things as religious wars and the Spanish Inquisition? ( Ha! I'll bet you
didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!) The philosophical implications alone
They finally decided that they couldn't let the woman and child die. They put
the needed equipment into one of the shuttlecraft and, the region being sparsely
populated, were able to land near Bethlehem and walk in, with the robot carrying
the heavier gear, effectively disguised as a hand-cart. The middle east has long
been a cross-roads of three continents, and the contemporary mind-set was
accepting both of people with odd clothing from far-off lands and healers with
miraculous powers. Between the members of the landing party they had enough
knowledge of classical languages to make themselves understood. The local
midwives had of course realized that the situation was dire and were glad to
accept the help of the competent and confident seeming strangers. The situation
was in fact routine for Dr. Robinson, and in due course the birth was successful
and both mother and son were doing well. Although Judy would continue to monitor
the new family for several weeks, she did not think that further intervention
would be necessary.
At that point, Will Robinson said, "All we need now is a place to put the baby."
The robot replied, "Manger, Will Robinson! Manger!"
A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.