Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Star -OR- Arthur C. Clarke Meets The (New) Twilight Zone

Updated 12/9/2012 (see below)

This entry features (below) the YouTube video of the 1980s Twilight Zone series story segment The Star that aired in December 1985 during season 1. The images are mostly screen shots from that video.

This Twilight Zone series was the first revival of the original 1959-1964 series of same name, and it aired from 1985 - 1989. (There was a second revival in 2002 that lasted one season.) (BTW, the first of this 1980s series was called Shatterday and it was directed by Wes Craven and started a young Bruce Willis.)

It is based originally on Arthur C. Clarke's short star The Star published in 1955 in the first issue of the short-lived magazine Infinity Science Fiction.

The Star is set centuries hence -- Clarke himself suggested around AD2500 -- as a group of space explorers return to Earth from a distant star system, where they had discovered a subterranean vault that contains all the artifacts of a long-dead advanced human-like civilization that was wiped out when their sun went supernova, destroying their planet.

This advanced, peaceful people simply did not have the means to travel to another star system so they buried a complete record of their civilization and its artifacts on their outermost planet ("about the distance of Pluto from the Sun") for whomever might find it.

They knew their end was coming and died with serene grace.

The story is told from the perspective of a Jesuit astrophysicist on the journey home and the terrible crisis of faith he suffers because after he determined the supernova that destroyed the planet and its people was not only seen on Earth, but that it was in fact the Star of Bethlehem ... harking the Birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Clarke story, the discovery causes the priest to lose his faith.

FYI, this was well in keeping with Arthur C. Clarke's total atheism.

The Twilight Zone adaptation of the story opens with the crew of the spacecraft Magellan (exploring the Galaxy thousands of light years from Earth) discovering (at Christmas) a radio beacon signal coming from a planet orbiting the white dwarf remnant of star that had gone supernova millennia earlier.

The crew travel to the planet where they encounter the vault (complete with its Eiffel Tower-like pylon structure / radio beacon atop it).

They explore the vault (after filling it with a breathable atmosphere) and find wonderful artifacts including an illuminated music box cube of a sort that fills the place with lovely musical notes.

As in the short story The Star, Father Matthew Costigan (Fritz Weaver) discovers the truth and has his crisis of faith. But unlike the Arthur C. Clarke story, in The Twilight Zone version, Father Matthew ends up finding comfort from unlikely source, another astrophysicist, Dr. Chandler (Donald Moffat), who is ambivalent at best about whether God exists.

He and Dr. Chandler had previously engaged in numerous good-spirited theological debates, but they had gotten into an argument in the vault when discussing why any God would allow a peaceful people to be wiped out in a supernova. 

What follows is the dialogue of the climactic scene when the truth is revealed. The "captain" refers to Captain Durant (Elizabeth Huddle), Captain of the Magellan.

Father Matthew: "There was something I didn't tell the captain ... about WHEN this sun went nova."

Dr. Chandler: "You said it exploded in Earth Year 3,120 B.C."

Father Matthew: "It took 3,120 years for the light from the explosion to reach the Earth. Taking into account the Earth's orbital position, its rotation, the nova would have been clearly visible in the Eastern Hemisphere, its light shining more brightly than any other object in the night sky.

"Computations further indicate that it was DIRECTLY overhead at 31 degrees 42 minutes North latitude, 35 degrees 12 minutes East longitude, in a small town in the Judean Hills south of ... JERUSALEM!

Editor's Note: I thought Jesus was born in Bethlehem ...??

"'And, lo, the Star which they saw in the East went before them and they came and stood over where the young child was ...'

"I have been sitting here in a MOCKERY of prayer, my heart filled not with love but with rage! Oh, God, there were so many stars You might have used!  WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THESE PEOPLE TO THE FIRE, that the symbol of their passing might light up the skies over Bethlehem?!?"

Dr. Chandler, who has come to him to apologize for the earlier argument in the vault, reads him a poem that was found. It was one of the last items placed inside the vault, and hence the first to be found.

Dr. Chandler reads the poem: "'Mourn not for us, for we have known the Light, have looked on beauty, have lived in peace and loved. Grieve but for those who go alone, unwise, to die in darkness, and never see the Sun.'"

Updated 12/9/2012 since the previous YouTube video was removed. It is now in two parts.

Part 1: The Star - The New Twilight Zone

Part 2: The Star - The New Twilight Zone

He concludes: "Whatever destiny was theirs, Father, they fulfilled it. Perhaps we will discover all they achieved in the records they left behind. But their time had come, and in their passing, they passed their light onto another world.

"Whether it is God's Will, or pure random chance, one of a hundred suns that explode every year in the Cosmos, a balance was struck. Perhaps, when we fulfill whatever destiny is ours to fulfill, perhaps we too will light the way for another world."

Father Matthew: " Perhaps you're right, my friend, perhaps you're right."



"The survey ship, Magellan, bearing with it the last legacy of a long dead people. A legacy to be kept and cherished and, in time, bequeathed to a world still unborn. From the current inhabitants ... of the Twilight Zone."


Two minor points:

1. The number of supernovas "per (Earth) year" in "the Cosmos" is far higher than that (although earlier Father Matthew gives a figure of a hundred stars exploding per year in the Galaxy, which is probably much too high).

As I recall from my astronomy-writing days, at 1 supernova per galaxy per century, this works out to about 30 supernovas (supernovae) per second in the Observable Universe or about 1 billion per year. This assumes about 100 billion galaxies in the Observable Universe (NOT to be confused with the total Universe).

Panoramic view of the entire near-infrared sky derived from the 2MASS Extended Source Catalog (XSC)of more than 1.5 million galaxies showing Large Scale Structure in the Local Universe (a small subset of the Observable Universe).

2. Concerning the Pluto - Sun distance reference early on, an actual supernova, whether Type Ia white dwarf detonation or Type Ib, Ic, or Type II core collapse, as opposed to a star slowly swelling to its red giant phase (the "nova"), is an event of such cataclysmic proportions that a planet at the distance of dwarf planet Pluto (anywhere along its orbit) to the Sun would not matter -- that planet would be obliterated / vaporized.

Supernova 1994D was visible in 1994 at the edge of NGC4526 -- here seen across a 100 million light year gulf.

Consider that the supernova in its few hours or days outshines / out-generates in energy an entire galaxy.

You need to be at least 50 and maybe more like 100 light years from a supernova to be safe.


On a related Christmas caroling note ...

Bing Crosby singing "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see? (Do you see what I see?)
Way up in the sky, little lamb?
Do you see what I see? (Do you see what I see?)

A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite (With a tail as big as a kite)

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,

Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

A song, a song, high above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea (With a voice as big as the sea ...)

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty King,
Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?)
In your palace warm, mighty King,
Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?)

A Child, a child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold (Let us bring him silver and gold)

Said the King to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)

Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)

The Child, the Child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light! (He will bring us goodness and light!)


As you may nor may not know, I have had (on my old Arcturus blog) written my own version of The Star, and I may do so in an upcoming entry before Christmas (just 1 week away). 

Anyway, that's all for now. It's Saturday and I think I'll go to Nellie's. My next planned update will be on Monday or Tuesday.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for this! really helpful stuff