Post by Jerry Brown Post by Dorothy J Heydt Post by James Nicoll Post by James Nicoll
Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet
Post by James Nicoll
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I said I consider FP the best SF movie Hollywood has made, and I do,
though I dod consider the ending weak. Not Morbius' death. That worked
well, it looked rather as if the effort of dismissing the Id Monster
induced a stroke or a heart attack.
But the self-destruct plunger had no reason to be exist, or if it
existed, to be where it was. That ending reminded me of the ending of
_Bride of Frankenstein_, except that Dr. Praetorius did have a plausible
reason to have a self-destruct for his lab, he had stuff to hide. It
makes no sense in FP.
Well, the Krell did all do themselves/each other in. Perhaps the
last Krell put in the self-destruct to destroy the planet, but
was killed by the Id-monster of the next-to-the-last Krell.
Maybe Morbius was skilled enough with the tech by that point to have
created the trigger next to him just before he told Adams to activate
The concept of reconfiguring controls in real time had already been used
in science fiction. The following is from _Skylark Three_ by Edward E. Smith
as it appeared in magazine form in _Amazing Stories_, August, September, and
October 1930, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project. The Fenechrone had refused
Richard Seaton's ultimatum and are mobilizing for war. As part of this they
are sending out message torpedoes to all their distant ships. Seaton is holding
off on destroying the Fenechrone home planet until he can put tracer rays on
all the outgoing torpedoes so that he can find and destroy the outlying ships. Seaton and Roval of Norlamin monitor the Fenechrone headquarters at will via
their fifth order force projector:
The chief operator touched a lever and the chair upon which he sat, with all
its control panels, slid rapidly across the floor toward an apparently blank
wall. As he reached it, a port opened a metal scroll appeared, containing the
numbers and last reported positions of all Fenachrone vessels outside the
detector zone, and a vast magazine of torpedoes came up through the floor, with
an automatic loader to place a torpedo under the operator's hand the instant
its predecessor had been launched.
"Get Peg here quick, Mart—we need a stenographer. Till she gets here, see what
you can do in getting those first numbers before they roll off the end of the
scroll. No, hold it—as you were! I've got controls enough to put the whole
thing on a recorder, so we can study it at our leisure."
Haste was indeed necessary for the operator worked with uncanny quickness of
hand. One fleeting glance at the scroll, a lightning adjustment of dials in
the torpedo, a touch upon a tiny button, and a messenger was upon its way. But
quick as he was, Seaton's flying fingers kept up with him, and before each
torpedo disappeared through the ether gate there was fastened upon it a fifth-
order tracer ray that would never leave it until the force had been disconnected
at the gigantic control board of the Norlaminian projector. One flying minute passed during which seventy torpedoes had been launched, before Seaton spoke.
"Wonder how many ships they've got out, anyway? Didn't get any idea from the
brain-record. Anyway, Rovol, it might be a sound idea for you to install me
some more tracer rays on this board, I've got only a couple of hundred, and
that may not be enough—and I've got both hands full."
Rovol seated himself beside the younger man, like one organist joining another
at the console of a tremendous organ. Seaton's nimble fingers would flash here
and there, depressing keys and manipulating controls until he had exactly the
required combination of forces centered upon the torpedo next to issue. He then
would press a tiny switch and upon a panel full of red-topped, numbered
plungers; the one next in series would drive home, transferring to itself the
assembled beam and releasing the keys for the assembly of other forces.
Rovol's fingers were also flying, but the forces he directed were seizing and
shaping material, as well as other forces. The Norlaminian physicist, set up
one integral, stepped upon a pedal, and a new red-topped stop precisely like
the others and numbered in order, appeared as though by magic upon the panel
at Seaton's left hand. Rovol then leaned back in his seat—but the red-topped
stops continued to appear, at the rate of exactly seventy per minute, upon the
panel, which increased in width sufficiently to accommodate another row as soon
as a row was completed.
Rovol bent a quizzical glance upon the younger scientist, who blushed a fiery
red, rapidly set up another integral, then also leaned back in his place, while
his face burned deeper than before.
"That is better, son. Never forget that it is a waste of energy to do the same
thing twice with your hands and that if you know precisely what is to be done,
you need not do it with your hands at all. Forces are tireless, and they
neither slip nor make mistakes."
This scene has become iconic as a prescient look at automation, information
technology and algorithms.