2001: A Space Odyssey’s Lost Prologue

936full-2001_-a-space-odyssey-poster1It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 50 years since Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking science fiction movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, hit the big screen, and while the future didn’t quite pan out the way the movie predicted, it is still seen as a benchmark for space-related movies in terms of scientific accuracy.

Indeed, his dedication to scientific accuracy was such that he had planned to include a prologue with clips of several prominent scientists discussing evolution, space travel, and the possibility of alien life:

The creator of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, Bernard Lovell, influenced the director Stanley Kubrick’s conception of the film. Kubrick wanted the movie grounded in fact and originally planned for it to have a prologue in which Lovell and 20 other scientists would discuss their thoughts about aliens, evolution and space travel. But 2001: A Space Odyssey turned out to be an unusually long film, even without the prologue, and so the 1966 footage was never used and is now lost.

Fortunately, even though the footage has been lost, the transcript is still available in published form, though it is currently out of print.

The Guardian’s article goes on to discuss the legacy of 2001, and is worth reading in full. It is interesting to see how far we’ve come (in some ways, at least) since those interviews were recorded back in the mid-60s:

In the transcript for the 2001 prologue, Lovell takes a leap of faith when he proposes that there may be a large number of habitable planets in the universe, but in 1966 he had no proof of this. Twenty years would pass before the first exoplanets were detected, let alone the first habitable planets. But we can now estimate with some certainty that there are billions of habitable planets in the Milky Way alone.

It’s been over 35 years since I saw 2001 on the big screen, and I remember being somewhat nonplussed by the experience. However, I was only a teenager at the time, and I saw it after seeing Star Wars, which probably colored my expectations somewhat. The British Film Institute recently release a digitally remastered edition of 2001 which is currently being shown in select movie theaters in Britain, but there is no word yet as whether it will be re-released in the United States, though the 50th anniversary (in 2018) isn’t too far away.


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