Would we be flying in magnificent spacecraft to get to and from the store? Would there be Fantastic citadels guarding the perimetries of the great cities? Would there be robot races that stood 10 feet tall, possessed of super powers and ray guns?
When I was a kid, I used to think about the future ahead, and how wonderfully exciting it all would be. Fantastical years that lay ahead, such as the feared 1984, and the climactic year of 1999, all filled me with a sense of pure wonder. How fantastic life would be in a future mechanized world of science fiction wonder and inter-planetary travel.
So, here we are, in 2013. We're not living in world of inter-planetary travel, but we've made tremendous advances. Though we're not nearly as advanced as we were led to believe we would be in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", we made a few strides. We did manage to land on the moon, a ground-breaking achievement in July of 1969, but setting up shopping malls on Venus just wasn't in the cards during those hopeful years of the latter 60's. I remember talking to my friends about how we would be in the new space age. The year 2001 seemed so far out of our reach, that it was impossible to try and speculate on what our world would be like.
Fortunately, some great movies helped. "Fantastic Voyage" planted the seed of human-miniaturization, offering hope for a limitless medical future. Who knows, maybe if doctors got smaller and smaller, maybe medical bills would too? But seriously folks, it was a great idea, and the movie was a visual feast on the inside of the human body. In the theater, on the big screen, it was even more impressive. Us guys also enjoyed watching the other scientists pulling vicious anti-bodies off of Raquel Welche's pro-body!
Even more mind-boggling was the idea given to us by author Pierre Boulle who inspired 1968's "Planet of the Apes". I saw this in the theater twice in one week when it first came out. The image of those menacing gorilla soldiers on horseback plowing through the cornfields was terrifying! Was this indeed a prospect for our future? There's no arguing that the late 60's gave us some of the finest Sci-fi films of the decade, but its most powerful conclusion would have to be one truly convoluted film: "2001: A Space Odyssey". I would have to admit that this movie was light years over my head, and once the chaos on board the spacecraft concluded, and HAL remained victorious, I was so lost and so bored I couldn't see straight. Still, the emergence of the "Star Child" at the end, is very emotional, and one of cinema's most impacting moments ever. Did we get resolution and closure? No, we did not, nor were we guaranteed the existence of life on other planets; However, we did learn the potential dangers of letting computers guide our life. (Gee, ain't this a revelation?) Clearly, "2001: A Space Odyssey" was the most technically marvellous movie to appear in that decade, and still holds up today as dazzling!
Okay, what would be next in our future? Robots? My favorite robot of all was from TV's "Lost in Space". I really don't know what I liked better; the robot, or Dr. Smith calling him a "bumbling fool", or his telling the robot to "stop his babbling!" In essence, the idea of robots was so dazzling to me as a kid, that I used to dream of the idea. Naturally any kind of toy robot was the ultimate though I never had one. Robots were like monsters except for one important detail: they were created, not born. "Robby the Robot" was a very cool guy indeed, and the weird cheapie robot saviors from Japan's "The Mysterians" were cool in the fact that they were gargantuan.
One of the greatest expectations of our distant future was the validation and explanation of flying saucers. Yes! Flying saucers, those weird, round discs flying through our atmosphere making guest appearances at various locales of our wonderful planet earth. Sadly, no solid proof has been offered up, but they still made for great ideas in the 60's.
My parents had also witnessed them, only much closer, and a bit more frightening. My mom and my dad, who feared nothing on this earth (except snakes), ended a camping trip in order to, in his words: "pack up and get out" with another couple because of a sighting of several craft near the lake where they were fishing. Again, they were close enough to see very well. As kids, we loved those stories, and as time went on, my dad preferred to debunk his own sighting because he couldn't explain it rationally.
For me, no flying saucers were more frightening than those in "Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers". Once I grew a bit older, they were more tame, but flying saucers never meant anything good....except with the classic film "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Its premise was very simple: play well with others and lose the nuclear weapons, or be obliterated from the galaxy. To prove their point, the aliens' good will ambassador Klaatu, shut our world down for one hour. That was scary enough, but as a nine year-old, Gort the robot was by far the most chilling.
Television's "The Invaders" was serious science fiction with a compelling plot:
Roy Thinnes was architect David Vincent, who by accident, learns of a secret alien invasion that has already begun. He travels from town to town, trying to throw a major monkey wrench into the aliens' plot, and try to warn highly skeptical townsfolk as to what's really going on in the night. To make matters worse, the aliens walked among us. They looked completely human barring a few details: they had no pulse, no blood, had the personalities of a shoe horn, and had weird little fingers which could not move and were bent at a strange angle.
It was a great plot indeed. The fact that the show was a "Quinn-Martin Production", it carried some respectable weight. The Invaders also gave us one of the most realistic UFO's ever. It's my opinion that the craft was modeled after numerous photos from actual sightings, and perhaps, from select pages of Project Blue Book magazine.
1984: the dreaded year when our world would supposedly change for the worst simply because of the power of the written word! Author George Orwell basically had us in a stranglehold with his 1948 book "1984". (transpose those dates, please). Mind control in a dystopian future where "big brother is watching" was a theme that many people feared. Others simply took 1984 as an omen, a year to be feared. I remember when the year actually changed; one minute past midnight of December 31st, 1983, people exhaled in relief that the world didn't suddenly end. But what was to prevent the entire year of 1984 from being a hell on earth? I think we're all funny that way. The next up panic year: 1999. The world would shut down completely on midnight of December 31st, 1999. It didn't, we didn't, and here we are.
Still, in those questioning years of the 60's, great movies like "When Worlds Collide" and "War of the Worlds" put a little question on our lips: would we get thrashed by an oncoming inter-planetary collision? Would we get nuked off the planet in WWIII? Would aliens finally make themselves known in a destructive force unheard of? All of these things were considerable, and Hollywood never let an opportunity to exploit fear pass by.
And so here we are in 2013. Time will pass us by quickly, and this page will seem relic in 2020. The things some of us may have anticipated never truly came to fruition. We're not equipped with home robots (well, not all of us anyway), and so far, no planets are in line to go bowling with ours. Though big brother is watching us, it's not the complete dystopian future yet. Give us a few more years and a few more reality TV shows.