The year 2021 in science fiction: Moon Zero Two is a British science fiction film from 1969 directed by Roy Ward Baker and produced by Hammer Films.

The Year 2021 in Science Fiction

Here’s how science fiction novels and movies imagined the year 2021. Science fiction vs reality: what actually happened?

Science fiction often imagines big changes in technology and society in the 2000s and beyond. While some ideas about tech growth and social shifts were close to reality, many extreme predictions, such as living in space or advanced robots living among us, haven’t happened. The real 2021 did see progress in space and digital tech, but big societal changes are happening slowly, not all at once like in some stories.

Environmental warnings in sci-fi are turning out to be important, showing us the need to care for our planet. However, we haven’t needed to escape to underwater cities or deal with a ruined Earth. Instead, dealing with climate change is complex and ongoing. In short, while sci-fi has sparked ideas and warned us about possible futures, real life is moving forward with small steps, facing challenges, and finding new solutions as we go.

The Twilight Zone Episode “On Thursday We Leave for Home” [1963]

“The Twilight Zone,” a groundbreaking American television series created by Rod Serling, is renowned for its exploration of science fiction, fantasy, and the supernatural, often with a moral or unexpected twist. The episode “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” first aired on May 2, 1963, during the show’s fourth season, is one of the series’ most poignant and powerful entries.

Set in the year 1991, “On Thursday We Leave for Home” is the story of a group of colonists who have been stranded for 30 years on a desolate desert planet, V9-Gamma, with a harsh environment, perpetual heat, and daylight of two suns. The group’s leader, Captain William Benteen, has maintained order and hope among the colonists, becoming an almost messianic figure in their eyes.

The narrative unfolds with the long-awaited arrival of a rescue ship from Earth in the year 2021, offering the colonists a chance to return to their home planet. However, as preparations for departure begin, Benteen’s authoritarian leadership style and deep-seated fear of losing his authority and purpose lead him to sabotage the community’s chance to leave. His actions reveal his complex character, torn between the well-being of his people and his own psychological needs.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [1968 science fiction novel]

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (it was retitled Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in some later printings) is a science fiction novel by the American writer Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982), first published in 1968.

Initially set in 1992, later editions of the novel advance its timeline to 2021, portraying the aftermath of the catastrophic World War Terminus. This conflict leaves Earth’s atmosphere lethally radioactive, prompting the United Nations to encourage relocation to extraterrestrial colonies to preserve human genetic purity. A compelling lure for this exodus is the offer of complimentary androids, robots indistinguishable from humans, to serve as personal aides.

In a Martian colony, the creation of these androids is spearheaded by the Rosen Association. However, a faction of these androids revolts, seeking refuge on Earth to evade detection. This insurgence puts American and Soviet law enforcement on high vigilance, deploying officers specifically for the task of apprehending these fugitive androids.

The rarity of live animals on Earth, a consequence of widespread extinctions, turns their possession into a symbol of luxury and moral status, reflecting a societal emphasis on empathy. However, only the affluent can indulge in this status symbol, leaving the less fortunate to opt for indistinguishable robotic replicas of animals. Rick Deckard, the story’s main character, is the owner of such a substitute, an electric sheep designed to mimic its living counterpart.

This groundbreaking novel laid the groundwork for the iconic 1982 movie “Blade Runner,” set in the near future of 2019, with its sequel “Blade Runner 2049” released in 2017, drawing heavily on the original’s themes and concepts.

Moon Zero Two [1969 science fiction film]

“Moon Zero Two” is a British science fiction film from 1969 directed by Roy Ward Baker and produced by Hammer Films, a studio famous for its gothic horror movies. Michael Carreras wrote the screenplay from a story by Gavin Lyall, Frank Hardman, and Martin Davison. The film blends science fiction elements with Western genres, offering a unique take on lunar exploration, a particularly fascinating theme at the time given the Apollo moon landings.

Set in the then-future year of 2021, “Moon Zero Two” follows the adventures of Bill Kemp, a former astronaut who has become a freelance space pilot. Kemp is offered a lucrative contract to capture an asteroid made of sapphire that is in a low lunar orbit and bring it back to Earth. He teams up with a wealthy and ambitious businessman who wants to exploit the resources of the moon.

Alongside this main storyline, Kemp is drawn into helping a young woman, Clementine Taplin, search for her missing brother, a miner working on the moon’s far side. The film unfolds with a mix of action, adventure, and speculative technology, as Kemp navigates various challenges on the lunar surface and in space.

The film is notable for its attempt to portray space and lunar environments realistically, given the scientific understanding and special effects capabilities of the time. Its production design, including spacesuits, spacecraft, and lunar landscapes, reflects the 1960s’ optimism and imagination about space travel and colonization. The movie’s visual style and special effects were ambitious for its era, aiming to capture the grandeur and desolation of the moon’s surface.

The Year 2021 in Science Fiction: Moon Zero Two (1969, UK) Trailer

Upon its release, “Moon Zero Two” received mixed reviews. Critics and audiences were divided on its blend of genres, with some appreciating its innovative approach and others finding it less convincing. The film has since gained a cult following, appreciated for its place in the history of science fiction cinema and its unique aesthetic. It is also noted for its contribution to the space western subgenre, combining the frontier spirit of westerns with the boundless possibilities of space exploration.

Despite optimistic film depictions, moon colonization faces immense challenges: high costs, technological limitations, life support complexities, and the harsh lunar environment. Currently, priorities focus on robotic exploration and scientific research, laying the groundwork for future human presence rather than immediate colonization.

The Children of Men [1992 science fiction novel, not the 2006 film]

Published in 1992, The Children of Men is a dystopian novel by English writer P. D. James (3 August 1920 – 27 November 2014).

Set in England in 2021, it centers on the results of mass infertility. James describes a dystopian United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating. Human infertility has left society on the brink of collapse.

The Children of Men focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses.

On 5 November 2019, the BBC published a list of novels selected by a panel of six writers and critics, who had been asked to choose 100 English language novels “that have had an impact on their lives. The Children of Men was included on this list of the 100 most influential novels written in English.

Adapted from P. D. James’ novel, the 2006 science fiction action-thriller film Children of Men takes place in 2027.

The Year 2021 in Science Fiction: Children of Men Trailer – Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi, Michael Caine, Mishal Husain, and Rob Curling. The film takes place in 2027 when two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse. in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea, where her child’s birth may help scientists save the future of humankind.

Contrary to the predictions in the novel “The Children of Men”, the human population is still increasing at an alarming rate.

Johnny Mnemonic [1995 science fiction film]

“Johnny Mnemonic” is a 1995 cyberpunk science fiction action film directed by Robert Longo, in his directorial debut, and based on the short story of the same name by William Gibson, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars Keanu Reeves as the title character, Johnny Mnemonic, a data courier with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store information, making him capable of carrying secret data securely.

Set in the year 2021, the film explores a future where corporations wield enormous power, and the world is divided between the wealthy elite and a struggling underclass afflicted by a deadly disease known as Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS), attributed to technological and information overload. Johnny Mnemonic is tasked with transporting a crucial data package within his mind, which contains the cure for NAS. However, the data exceeds his implant’s capacity, putting his life at risk.

Johnny finds himself pursued by the Yakuza and various other powerful forces who seek the valuable information he carries. To survive and ensure the data’s safe delivery, he teams up with a diverse group of allies, including Jane (played by Dina Meyer), a bodyguard with cybernetic enhancements, and J-Bone (played by Ice-T), the leader of a resistance movement known as the LoTeks. The group aims to fight against the oppressive corporate regime and distribute the cure for NAS.

Upon its release, “Johnny Mnemonic” received mixed reviews from critics and audiences. Some praised its ambitious vision of the future, special effects, and action sequences, while others criticized its execution, storyline, and deviations from Gibson’s original work. Despite its mixed critical reception, the film has garnered a cult following over the years, appreciated for its portrayal of cyberpunk themes such as the fusion of human and machine, corporate control, and the societal impact of technology.

“Johnny Mnemonic” is notable for its early depiction of cyberpunk aesthetics and themes in cinema, exploring ideas that have become increasingly relevant in discussions about data privacy, cybersecurity, and the influence of technology on human life. Keanu Reeves’s role as Johnny Mnemonic also adds to his portfolio of science fiction characters, preceding his iconic role as Neo in “The Matrix” series, which similarly delves into the relationship between humanity and technology.

The Year 2021 in Science Fiction: Johnny Mnemonic (1995) – Official® Trailer [HD] Keanu Reeves is a space-age courier who’s plugged in, turned on, and buffed up to deliver the most important data of the 21st century, wet-wired directly into his brain! A rapid-fire roller coaster of action and high-impact imagery! Also starred Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi, Ice-T, Dina Meyer, and Henry Rollins.

Cowboy Bebop [Japanese science-fiction anime series, 1997-1998]

In the Japanese science-fiction anime series Cowboy Bebop, the first astral gate, allowing interplanetary travel in a matter of hours, is constructed in 2021.

Sealab 2021 [2000-2004 comic science-fiction TV series]

“Sealab 2021” is an American animated television series that aired from 2000 to 2004 on Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block, Adult Swim. It’s a parody and a re-imagination of the 1972 Hanna-Barbera animated series “Sealab 2020.” The show was created by Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, who would later go on to create other popular animated series like “Archer.”

The series is set in an underwater research facility called Sealab, which is supposed to be a hub for scientific research and exploration of the ocean’s mysteries. However, the show focuses less on the exploration and scientific achievements and more on the absurd and often chaotic lives of its crew members. The crew, led by Captain Murphy, is depicted as incompetent, lazy, and often engaging in nonsensical and self-destructive behavior, leading to a variety of comedic situations.

“Sealab 2021” is known for its surreal humor, satirical take on 1970s environmentalism, workplace dynamics, and the science fiction genre itself. The show frequently uses recycled animation from “Sealab 2020” combined with new dialogue to create a distinct and humorous contrast between the original series’ earnestness and “Sealab 2021’s” irreverence.

Weapons of Choice [2004 alternative history novel]

“Weapons of Choice” is a 2004 alternative history novel by Australian author John Birmingham. It’s the first book in the Axis of Time trilogy, which explores the consequences of a futuristic naval task force from the year 2021 being accidentally sent back in time to 1942 during World War II. The sudden arrival of this task force off the coast of Midway Island significantly alters the course of history.

The novel delves into the complex interactions between personnel from the 21st century and those from the early 1940s, highlighting the cultural and technological disparities between the two eras. The 21st-century task force, equipped with advanced weaponry, knowledge of future events, and modern social norms, finds itself in a pivotal moment of the Second World War. Their presence not only changes military strategies but also impacts the social and political dynamics of the time.

“Weapons of Choice” explores themes of causality, the ethics of warfare, and the impact of technology on society. Birmingham meticulously examines how both the Allies and Axis powers react to the sudden introduction of futuristic technologies and the idea of knowing the future course of the war. This leads to alliances being tested, strategies being reevaluated, and the moral dilemmas of using advanced weapons in a time when such power could decisively alter the outcome of the war.

The novel is well-regarded for its detailed research, character development, and the plausible way it integrates science fiction elements into historical events. It addresses not only the tactical and strategic changes that come with advanced technology but also the profound societal and psychological shifts that occur when two radically different time periods collide.

“Weapons of Choice” sets the stage for the rest of the trilogy, which continues to explore the ramifications of the time-travel incident across the global theater of WWII. The series is praised for its original take on the alternate history genre, providing a thought-provoking mix of action, history, and speculative science fiction.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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