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Science FICTION Reviews
41 years ago Disney’s ‘The Black Hole’ gave us the USS Palomino, the USS Cygnus and a few cool robots. I’ll go through some of the tech later, although the pictures of the attached ships should give you an overview of these majestic ships. However first I want to discuss the irony of this film shared its 40th anniversary with the release of Disney’s ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’, ‘The Black Hole’ was Disney’s response to Star Wars, it’s most expensive film to date at $20m an equivalent of $70m in today’s money. At the time Star Wars was a single film turning a modest budget of $11m into $775m and the trailer for the sequel had been shown just a few months earlier, Disney tried to jump onto this increased interest in space opera and failed making $35m, less than 5% of what Star Wars pulled in two years earlier for almost double the cost. Coming out the same month as Star Trek: The Motion Picture took the focus away from Disney’s experiment and others were waiting for the upcoming ‘Empire Strikes Back’, in addition Disney was only known for children’s films, ‘The Black Hole’ was there first PG a film to be focused at the whole family and not just the kids.
Of course ‘The Black Hole’ has gained support and fans over the years, with many (myself included) regarding it as an overlooked classic, however for Disney it did not move the needle as expected and there was no talk about a sequel. In addition the arrival of Michael Eisner meant that any gaining popularity of this experiment would remain ignored as Disney’s focus went a more traditional route. During the Noughts interest in Disney’s experimental films resurfaced and Tron Legacy was made, which included a “The Black Hole’ poster. Unfortunately Tron although not a failure didn’t do what Disney expected and their recent purchase of Marvel took their focus. The success of Marvel purchase showed Disney that the best way to gain success in the genre equivalent to Star Wars is to buy the Studio that made it and make it themselves, so 40 years after their experiment failed at the box office, Disney is ending the saga they were competing against.
The USS Cygnus (in fiction) was 1600m in length 400m wide, it’s original mission was ‘To discover habitable life in outer space.’ Specifically life that was compatible with humanity. The ship was self-sufficient with its own agricultural station large enough to feed the crew and provide the necessary carbon dioxide to oxygen transition. Dr Hans Reinhardt discovered the Black Hole and became obsessed with it believing it to be an Einstein-Rosen bridge to an unknown place. In his pursuit to what he perceived to be a journey into the mind of God, he sacrificed his crew, turning them into some type of unthinking robots with their humanity buried deep within their decaying bodies. In addition he built actual robots to protect him and carry out manual tasks and repetitive calculations. His first guard robot was STAR (Special Troops Arms Regiment) before being replaced with Maximilian.
The USS Palomino was a much smaller vessel crewed by Captain Dan Holland, First Officer Lieutenant Charlie Pizer, Harry Booth, Dr. Kate McCrae, civilian leader Dr. Alex Durant and VINCENT a robot (“Vital Information Necessary CENTralized”). Of similar size was the probe that would eventually make its crewed journey through the Black Hole.
Off screen Peter Ellenshaw came out of retirement and he and his team developed the ships and effects for the film. The Cygnus model itself was 12 feet long incorporating 150 bulbs initially called Centaurus, it was renamed Cygnus due to the largest known Black Hole at the time being in the Cygnus constellation. The black hole itself was actually a whirlpool inside a water tank with coloured dyes added.
From my perspective the move of technology shown within the film is fascinating, it appears that not so long ago exploration was in fashion with ships like Arcturius-10, Liberty-7, Sahara Module 5-3, Pluto-4 and USS Cygnus, since then exploration has been downgraded to small utilitarian vessels, almost as if having expendable ships and crew was more important. At the same time advanced AI capable of both teaching humanity and protecting them fell out of favour in preference to more instruction oriented machines, it makes me concerned as to what was happening to humanity back on earth as they began to look more inwards and regress in technology.
Images – Disney Wiki

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