10 Of Our Favorite Space Cases

Illustration for article titled 10 Of Our Favorite Space Cases

If there's one thing that Pandorum shows us, it's that it's psychologically stressful to be out there in space. Studies have shown the dangers of space madness, but we have to admit: It makes for good entertainment.


"The Last Man On The Planet Moon"
Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer and Wally Wood's August 31st 1952 episode of The Spirit was right in the middle of the Outer Space sequence of stories, but that didn't mean it lost its focus on small vignettes about the common man - In this particular case, about a man whose space madness meant that he hallucinated a world where he was the only man left from his mission, trapped all alone on the Moon. Forward thinking stuff from a period when Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon made space safe for newspaper comics readers.

Stanisław Lem's original 1961 novel, that is, not the George Clooney movie. Lem imagined an alien being that prompted psychological responses in humans who tried to contact it, producing a particular strain of space madness - Trauma As Particularly Awkward First Contact. While Lem's novel depicts an unknowable and somewhat disturbing idea of such event, it was soon co-opted into cuddlier forms by...


Countless Star Trek Episodes
The various interstellar folk of Gene Roddenberry's future had a tendency to go insane every now and again, but there was always a comfortable external explanation for it all - An alien virus, mind-control of some sort, or Vulcans getting horny. Anything that could allow the Enterprise and her fine crew to leave after an hour, secure in the ultimate safety and pride of being outer space frontiersmen and insanity just being something that's akin to drunkenness:

Dark Star
Suicidal astronauts on a long-term mission who have to talk an intelligent bomb out of exploding, resorting to explaining philosophy because their cryogenically-frozen commander tells them to? No wonder that Lt. Doolittle (spoiler) surrenders to his dream of surfing to oblivion at the end of the movie. Never mind 2001, this was the movie that made a generation realize what space travel could do to your mind.

The Black Hole
...And for the kids that were too young to see Dark Star, there was always Disney's The Black Hole, in which mad Maximilian Schell (who had killed his own crew, turned them into robots, become obsessed with the black hole of the title and ends up melded to a killer robot and in Hell or something) managed to put another generation off the idea of going off into space. Those who weren't confused about the whole thing and/or distracted by the cuteness of VINCENT, that is.

Red Dwarf
1992's "Quarantine" demonstrated that it wasn't just humans who came down with space madness, when hologram Arnold Rimmer caught a virus that not only drove him quite mad, but finally introduced his latent crossdressing and puppetry tendencies. If only all other space madnesses came with their own Mr. Flibbles.


Event Horizon
Some have called Event Horizon the Pandorum or Sunshine of its 1997 day, but we prefer to think of this Sam Neill-starring SF-horror movie as The Black Hole for people who are afraid of robots. Again proving that hanging around cosmic events can lead to hallucinations and psychosis, Paul WS Anderson's thriller brought a spooky atmosphere, love of Latin and very little originality to the space madness genre, but we love it nonetheless.

Talking of unoriginal SF-horror movies, Danny Boyle's 2007 worst-case-scenario-fest (In turn, shamelessly ripped off by Ron Moore's failed pilot Virtuality) demonstrates yet again that, when your spaceship discovers a seemingly-abandoned spaceship floating in the void, the sensible thing to do is always to ignore it and carry on your mission. Points are subtracted for the unexpected and somewhat disappointing devolution into a generic slasher movie towards the end, but any movie where space + isolation + the sun = space madness can never be all bad.


Taking the traditional space madness ingredients (Namely loneliness, existential angst and improbable situations that can't be easily explained by what we know as science), Duncan Jones' debut movie comes up with something that, unusually, pays off without devolving into cliche or an "enigmatic" lack of answers. For that alone - as well as not succumbing to either space madness or movie hero syndrome - Sam Rockwell's Sam Bell takes the win.

The Ren and Stimpy Show
Surely the greatest example ever made of what space madness truly is. Oh my God, an ice cream bar!
See if you don't agree for yourself.


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Sunshine unoriginal? No! It's one of the best films ever made. I agree, it is a brilliant psychological film, but it's far better than this article gave it credit for.