Saturn 3 is a 1980 science fiction thriller produced by Lew Grade. Despite being a British production filmed at Shepperton Studios it has an all American cast; and the director, Stanley Donan, is also American. The screenplay was penned by none other than Martin Amis, a name very much associated with highbrow literature whom I wouldn't thought would stoop to pulp sci-fi; but maybe that's just my prejudice showing. The film was trashed by the critics; complaints were made about its rather homespun production design and special effects. The starscapes and planets are clearly just crude matt paintings; very primitive even for 1980. Compared to Star Wars from four years earlier it looks very bargain basement. Personally I don't give a damn what "duh cwitics" say, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/critics.html; also good visual effects are not essential for good science fiction; Blakes 7, a contemporary of Saturn 3, is a prime example, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/blakes-7-on-youtube.html. The style of Saturn3, especially in terms of its costumes, is rather kitsch and camp and distinctly reminiscent of the overtly gay Flash Gordon movie from the same year. What I consider Saturn 3 to be is a very interesting, but deeply disturbing film; and its themes are very relevant to the world we're living in today.
It's currently available on YouTube, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc4R3SOif0g.
The film is set several centuries in the future. Earth is overpopulated, the environment is degraded and there's a major food shortage. At the same time space travel has become very advanced and mankind has begun to venture to the other planets of the solar system. On the third moon of the planet Saturn is an agricultural research centre. In the film the moon is always called "Saturn 3", but its name is actually Tethys. The centre is staffed by just two people, a man called Adam and his wife Alex. They also have a dog, a small border terrier called Sally. Adam and Alex are both empaths and love each other very much. Their lives are totally isolated and carefree. The biblical metaphor is very obvious and I'm glad the writer didn't go as far as to overdo it and call the woman Eve. Adam, played by Kirk Douglas, is much older than Alex, played by Farrah Fawcett. He's in his sixties while Alex is in her early twenties. Alex has lived a very sheltered life and she knows little of what lies beyond the research station; she was born in space and has never been to Earth. Adam has been out in space a long time but was born on Earth and lived there in his youth. Then a snake enters the garden. Adam and Alex' work is behind schedule so the organization behind the station sends somebody to assist them, Captain Benson, played by Harvey Keitel (His voice is that of Roy Dotrice, today best known as Hallyne in Game of Thrones). His arrival, in an insectoid landing spacecraft, totally changes the atmosphere of the station. In the beginning of the film it is revealed that he is a psychopath who murdered a fellow astronaut on the mother ship from Earth. He brings with him the modules of a new kind of robot, called the "Demigod series", and begins to assemble it. He behaves in a very antisocial manner; he hacks into the centre's CCTV and secretly monitors Alex and Adam. He feels an intense lust for Alex... perhaps understandably seeing as her actress is Farrah Fawcett... but his romantic seduction techniques have a lot to be desired: His only chat-up line is: "You have a great body; may I use it?" He explains that on Earth people have all adopted free love and it's common courtesy for a hostess to have sex with a male guest. He also gives her some drugs. This naturally makes Adam angry. He also feels insecure because of the age difference between Alex and himself. Benson knows this and plays on it; he hints at Adam: "When the robot is assembled one of you will be obsolete." At several points Adam and Alex contemplate murdering Benson, but their empathic nature stops them. Benson continues to work on the robot. He calls it "Hector"; as it takes shape we see that it is vaguely humanoid with a metallic ribbed body, long legs and claw like hands. Inside it is human brain tissue wiped of all its memory which is its CPU; plastic tubes of liquid flow through it too, giving it a semi-biological mien. It has no voice and just makes sinister mechanical noises; when it gets angry it makes a disgusting electronic pulsing sound like a transhumanist heartbeat. It has a diminutive head that looks like an angle-poise lamp. It is probably the most frightening fictional robot I have ever seen. Benson programmes Hector with a duplicate of his own mind using a brain-to-machine interface. It turns out he has an implant in the back of his neck into which he inserts a plug connecting him with Hector's system. Because Hector and Benson effectively share the same consciousness Hector is equally sadistic and cold as Benson. It is devoid of a sense of humour and becomes enraged when Adam beats it at chess. It also becomes obsessed with Alex. It begins its rampage by killing Sally the dog; for no other reason than it can, in true psychopath style. It then tries to kill Benson. Once again empathy saves the psychopath; Adam is tempted not to, but in the end rescues Benson from the robot. When the robot tries to recharge itself Adam overloads the socket and stuns Hector long enough for Benson to remove its brain and dismantle its modules.
Once the crisis is over Adam goes berserk at Benson and promises to report him. The humans go to bed while the robot lies in the laboratory in pieces. Yet the brain and cameras are still active and during the night, Hector commandeers the station's existing robots, just simple automata, to reconstruct its body. In the meantime Benson arrogantly walks into Adam and Alex' bedroom. He says: "I'm leaving, and I'm taking your partner with me!" When Adam object Benson taunts him about his age difference from Alex and Adam attacks him. Only Alex' pleading stops him killing Benson. Benson then knocks Adam out with a blunt instrument, grabs Alex and tries to drag her to his spacecraft, but the newly revived Hector intervenes. It severs Benson's hand and drags his unconscious body away. Alex and Adam then head for Benson's spaceship to try and escape; being chased by Hector all the way. At one point they push Hector into an acid pit and it comes out covered in slime, making it look even more repulsive and terrifying. Unfortunately the robot destroys Benson's spacecraft before the two humans can reach it. With their escape route cut off Adam and Alex discover the full horror of what the robot has done. Hector has decapitated Benson and placed his head on top of its own body, so creating a new interface with Benson's dead brain. The Hector-Benson gestalt monster is now in control of the station and is using Adam and Alex as slaves cum guinea pigs for its experiments. Adam falls unconscious and wakes up to discover he has an interface socket in the back of his neck just like the one Benson used to have. But when the monster tries to connect Adam up to itself Adam detonates a bomb he has concealed in his pocket blowing up the monster and himself. In the final scene, Alex boards a spaceship for Earth.
There are several themes in Saturn 3 which concern me. One is that it includes the fear of overpopulation, food shortage and environmental damage leading to the need for heavy industrial scientific intervention. We're told that the agricultural research station on Saturn 3 is involved in hydroponics, the growing of plants without soil, but it's not revealed whether Adam and Alex are developing genetically modified crops or not. There's also the element of transhumanism, the very subject Ray Kurzweil waxes lyrical over, as if it's the perfect way forward and it can bring nothing but wonder and glory to humanity. Hector is exactly the kind of robot predicted at the advent of the Singularity, see: http://2045.com/. An intelligent machine with a computational power equal to the human brain, which can connect directly to a biological brain and download information and even the personality of the human being it's wired to. In the end man and machine become one in a revolution which ends natural humanity as we know it. Transhumanist proponents assume that only good can come out of this technology without understanding that the interests of the political classes and those of the masses are often divergent and contradictory. The reckless naivete of Kurzweil could lead to a situation in which most of us are not so much immortal robots or Aryan supermen, but rather disposable slaves, mutant subhumans, Epsilons from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, or the "superchimps" from Arthur C Clarke's fiction. And all living in a deformed and diseased world, a new world, the New World Order; as Max Igan correctly points out in his outstanding film on transhumanism, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcnTdO47p0Q. Saturn 3 also illustrates the duel between empaths and psychopaths. Unlike other productions, most notably TavistockEnders, there is no anti-empathic propaganda in the film. There are occasions where Adam and Alex' empathy puts them at a disadvantage; they have an opportunity to flush Benson out of the station into space and do not do so, and also a chance to let the robot kill him while he's helpless but they still rescue him. Yet in the end the Hector-Benson gestalt is destroyed by Adam's empathy. He sacrifices himself to save Alex; the psychopathic gestalt is disarmed by failing to understand how somebody could do this because it's a psychopath which only understands self-interest. In the scene where Adam and Hector are playing chess there's a hint at what's to come; Adam beats the robot by sacrificing one of his pieces, a tactic Hector hadn't thought of. Saturn 3 also contains a reference to the Fall of Man. I'm not religious and don't believe in the story in the Book of Genesis, but there are many other ancient texts with a similar plot; humans a long time ago enjoyed a higher state of spiritual awareness and then that all changed. We descended into the Kali Yuga, world of Rex Mundi or the Age of Iron, depending on your source. This is generally regarded as a "bad thing!", but on a philosophical level it could be argued that it's just a part of the natural cycles of the universe. Perhaps in fact we're lucky to be able to take part in the drama of adversity that takes place in the world after the Fall of Man; paradise might get a bit boring after a while. Whatever your opinion, this transition is symbolized in the storyline of Saturn 3; Adam and Alex fall when Benson comes into their lives. All in all, a terrifying but fascinating film, a prophesy of the New World Order, and a warning. However, like Adam and Alex, we are not helpless; we have the capability of stopping it.
See here for background: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/bases-project-live-in-london.html.