Top five science fiction ice planets that put Britain’s big freeze in its place

Britain covered by snow and ice

Britain covered by snow and ice

BRITAIN may have been shivering through a ‘once in 30 years,  burn books to stay warm, watch out for the wolves’ cold snap of late, but it is comforting to remember that lots of people out there have it much worse than us.

In science fiction, there are plenty of worlds where -15C would be considered a balmy summer season and excuse to get out the paddling pool and sun block.

Here are some of my favourites.

1) Hoth (Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back)

The daddy of all science fiction ice planets, Hoth proved to be a less than satisfactory base for the Rebel Alliance.

Firstly they struggled to get their equipment to work – even the ones with Snow in their name ffs.

Secondly they went to the trouble and expense of hollowing out an enormous complex system of ice caves, but decided to leave their crucial power generators out in the open in an easily accessible location.

Then the planet itself was a multi-layered death trap. I’m not messing here when I tell you that if the cold didn’t get you, then the slavering, bloodthirsty mountains of hair and claws that was the Wampa ice creature would. Perhaps that explains the lack of these made by the rebel troops?

Finally there was the Empire, who found and destroyed said base and its defenders in about five minutes, rendering the whole exercise pointless. Next time, choose a beach planet with great surf and friendly natives.

Icyness of planet: 10/10 – temperatures drop to -62C!

Chances of survival: Get inside a tauntaun (in a way that avoids prosecution) 6/10. Bring the fleet out of hyperspace too close to the planet 0/10.

2) Delta Vega (Star Trek)

Pitilessly unrelenting cold weather? Check.

Neverending tundras of barren icyness? Check.

Plays key role in fate of galaxy? Check.

Indiginous population of lethal death creatures? Well, you see where I’m going with this …

Delta Vega is where new Spock maroons new Kirk in the Star Trek film reboot. While I am unfamiliar with every rule in the Star Fleet handbook, I’m pretty sure dumping a fellow officer and crewmate on a random planet  just because he annoys you would be frowned upon.

Once there, he quickly meets the friendly locals, a killer wolf thing and an enormous, many eyed monster (skin colour on an all white planet? Red, obviously – ummm, how are you a successful ambush predator again?)

Fortunately – incredibly fortunately if I’m being honest – he meets Spock from another universe who had also been marooned on Delta Vega. And then meets the only other Star Fleet officer on the entire planet who will also go on to be a member of his bridge crew, Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott.

Who Spock Prime recognises despite him looking nothing like his version of Scotty.

Icyness of planet: 8/10

Chances of survival: 0/10 unless your best friend from another universe is there too, in which case 10/10

3) Ice Planet Zero (Battlestar Galactica)

Ice Planet Zero (as the lacklustre scriptwriters called it) was actually called Arcta. In 1970s BSG, it was home to a huge Cylon laser gun and hundreds of centurions which were waiting for Galactica and the fleet to fly by so they could blow them into atoms.

To stop the cannon, Galactica send in Starbuck, Apollo and Boomer to blow it up in a commando raid, helped with criminals who have the necessary skills to complete the mission.

They are helped by a tribe of beautiful and nubile clones – including Britt Ekland – instead of a fur coated razor blade or some other mutant death beast that usually come hand in hand with ice planets. However the atmosphere is made up of diethene, which turns the air to liquid when it reaches the suitably scary sounding death point.

The great cast doesn’t stop with Ekland as the leader of the criminals, Croft, was played by Roy Thinnes, who also played David Vinvent in The Invaders. Meanwhile Dr Ravashol, the scientist who invented the gun, as played by Dan O’Herlihy, Grig in The Last Starfighter.

I remember it as a great episode, while I also had the spin off novelisation, called the Cylon Death Machine.

Icyness of planet: 8/10 (10/10 in diethene storms, whatever they are)

Chances of survival: 10/10 if you’re a main cast member, 3/10 if not.

4) Telos (Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen)

Although not strictly an ice planet by the time we see it, it does play host to the refridgerated Tomb of The Cybermen, in the Doctor Who adventure of the same name.

The Cyberman had taken over the planet from the Cryons, humans that could only exist in the cold. The sight of them emerging from their cryogenic chambers is a haunting one, and was referenced in modern day Doctor Who’s Army of Ghosts.

Creepy, eh? It almost makes up for the Cybermat, which surprisingly wasn’t referenced in modern day Doctor Who. However, once again the moral of the story is stay away from the cold because bad things happen there.

Icyness of planet: 0/10, underground 10/10

Chances of survival: 10/10 as long as you don’t mind being converted into a cyberman.

5) South Pole (The Thing)

Ok, ok, not another planet but one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and it’s my blog, so there.

I reviewed the film for Live For Films a while back, which I have attached below, so here’s the icy guide

Icyness of planet: 10/10

Chances of survival: Erm, it’s not looking good, even if you’re a shapeshifting alien parasite. On a related point, it was nice of said parasite to come to Earth, saving us the trouble and expense of finding an icy planet in space.

Here’s my review:

The Thing

THERE are many questions that can be asked about horror films, but one I always return to is whatever happened to John Carpenter?

For a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was the master of all he surveyed and turned out several movies which are considered classics like Halloween, The Fog, Christine (at a push) and my favourite – The Thing.

All of those films are distinguished by Carpenter’s trademark transformation of the everyday, harmless mundanities of life into pants-wettingly awesome instruments of terror.

In The Thing, the transformation is literal as a shape-shifting alien parasite begins to kill and then replace members of a research team at an American base in the South Pole.

As paranoia grows – revealing the Cold War origins of the original Howard Hawks film – the team desperately try to find out who is real and who is likely to bite off their hands with their chest as a light appetiser before lunch.

At any level, this is masterful film-making by Carpenter, who builds tension virtually from minute one so that the viewer has no idea who is the alien until it is too late.

Just like the Jaws head in the boat scene, I still jump every time I watch this through my fingers or over the top of a cuchion with the lights on, even though I know what is coming – from the dog tentacle attack, to Blair’s hand in the face of Garry, the team leader.

My favourite – and probably the most famous scene – is where Kurt Russell’s character, MacReady, ties the rest of the surviving team members to chairs and takes blood samples to test with a hot needle, to see which person’s blood avoids the heat and so reveals them as one of The Things. It is filmed slowly, so slowly, with the camera moving from face to face as each test is clear …. until……

When the alien is revealed, it is done with blinding speed and razor fast cuts, the editing backed up with great performances by top level character actors like Donald Moffat and Keith David as well as truly shocking special effects, even today.

In my opinion, the fact they were physical effects and not computer generated adds a level of reality and gore to what we see, as poor Windows is virtually eaten alive – one of many disgustingly realised deaths.

Watching it again – indeed, watching any of Carpenter’s classic films from this era – it is sad to see some of his later works which suffer terribly by comparison. Let’s be honest, they would suffer terribly by comparison with Plan Nine from Outer Space or Dude Where’s My Car?

How is it that a once-great director can lose the things that made them great? Is it age? Money? Audience familiarity with favoured techniques and ideas? A creative block?

I think it is probably a combination of all of these things, with only a few true greats being able to sustain critical and commercial success over a longer period of time. You know, like Brett Ratner.

But despite Escape from LA, Vampires and Ghosts of Mars making me want to sandpaper my own retinas, Carpenter captured lighting in a bottle with The Thing, which is always worth coming back to and cements his place as a master of horror.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

One thought on “Top five science fiction ice planets that put Britain’s big freeze in its place

Tell me what you think