Star Wars Origins - 2001; A Space Odyssey
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2001: Space Odyssey
Forbidden Planet
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E.E. "Doc" Smith

The Droids
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LEFT: A Star Wars "liferaft" shuttle planetfalls on Tatooine. RIGHT: The 2001 shuttle planetfalls on the moon.

The realistic spacecraft from Star Wars were influenced by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and the television program Space: 1999, both of which used techniques developed for the television program Thunderbirds. Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds were both created by Gerry Anderson's Century 21 studios, which developed the basic techniques used for almost all non-computer-generated science fiction made since: using store-bought kit parts to build original models, making the surface seem imperfect by alternating squares of slightly different hues, then extensively "weathering" the models (all of which sounds obvious enough, but watch a science fiction movie filmed before 1963 sometime).

The designers most responsible for the "look" of the models used in Star Wars/2001/Space: 1999/Thunderbirds are Derek Meddings and Brian Johnson. In addition to the above they contributed significantly to gadgetry and spaceships in James Bond, Batman, Krull, Alien, Aliens, Dragonheart, etc. The history of these productions is surprisingly entwined: For instance, Johnson worked at Anderson Productions on Thunderbirds, was "stolen" away by Kubrick for 2001, returned to Anderson Productions to design the Eagle for Space: 1999, declined an invitation from Lucas to work on Star Wars, and ended up overseeing effects for The Empire Strikes Back. The moonbase from 2001, Moonbase Alpha, and Ralph McQuarrie's original matt painting for Mos Eisley (which has been replaced in the Special Edition) are all nearly the same design.

Darth Vader's amplified respiration may have been influenced by the "amplified respiration scene" from 2001 (while Dave was outside the ship). 2001 was probably also Lucas' influence for combining a classical score with science fiction - at one point Lucas and Williams discussed mixing existing classical pieces with original music, but Williams persuaded Lucas that composing new pieces with the same feel would give the soundtrack a more unified quality.

Legend has it that the model-builders who worked on the first Star Wars were told to "make it look as good as Space: 1999," and this television program had a strong influence on the trilogy overall. In early drafts Lucas called The Force "The Force of Others," which may have been inspired by the episode called The Force of Life. The Deathstar is kind of an "evil" version of Moonbase Alpha. Hoth bears some similarities to the ice planet Ultima Thule from Death's Other Dominion, including the scene where the main party is forced to seal up their headquarters during the freezing night, giving a hero up for dead. The evolution of the TIE fighter design may have begun with the seed idea of Gwent, the evil computer/ship from The Infernal Machine (which also looks like a small container suspended between two wheels).

The father of great scifi movies: Forbidden Planet

Star Wars created by George Lucas, © LucasFilm Ltd.
Star Wars: Origins © 1999-2006 by Kristen Brennan,
part of the Jitterbug Fantasia webzine.