Imagining the Future: The Andromeda Strain

Is the future really this red?
Is the future really this red?

Imagine it’s 1971. The Apollo Program is wrapping up its missions that the public has come to regard as commonplace and expensive. Star Trek‘s three short seasons are done, and it is in reruns. Television has moved into the era of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and All in the Family.

Futurism is a tough nut to crack. Would we have flying cars by 1982? Would we be in space by 1999 like in the show Space 1999?

As I rewatch the 1971 drama The Andromeda Strain, I think of these things.

  1. Everything is clean. Even in actual NASA clean rooms, there is tape and clutter and more clutter. The real future remains untidy.
  2. Everything is austere. Despite the nature of people and the necessity of work, futurism seems to think we have room for huge rooms containing almost nothing at all.
  3. Everything is made of stainless steel.
  4. Clothing is all the same, usually a one-piece outfit in a bland color, or made of foil.
  5. Doors slide open and closed automatically.
  6. There are many unlabeled, seemingly similar lights and switches.
  7. Food is in pill form.
  8. There is a huge amount of chatter about technical things. (Unfortunately for The Andromeda Strain, literally all the chatter is nonsense.)
  9. All important information is shared by lazy, barefoot, overweight teenagers using small video monitors, and all that information is true to the viewer.   (Oh, wait, that’s the actual future. Never mind.)

I actually like the original 1971 film The Andromeda Strain, and I have read, and like, the book.

How does YOUR future look?
How does YOUR future look?

3 Comments

  1. I think the look and style of a movie like this one is due primarily to a limited imagination and budget constraints. Star Wars didn’t envision a future so much as it did a shiny, technology-oriented past. 2001 is almost ridiculously austere and a bit overly-optimistic about our capacity to build such wonderful technology and then use it to fling ourselves beyond the stars without first destroying or sabotaging ourselves. Blade Runner jumped the gun on flying cars by 2019, but it DID envision a dystopian society haunted by climate change, hostile technology, overcrowding, alienation (prompted largely by technology), and robotics/AI that threaten to bite us all in the ass. Of all these sci-fi films, I think Blade Runner is the one that’s still on the right (dark, dystopian) path.

  2. I liked that book and movie, although neither aged terribly well. You reminded me of a review of the TV adaption of Tek Wars that I read years ago. It started, “We have seen the future, and it dresses badly.”

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