Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection, and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy
Pardon me, but your id is showing.
Forbidden Planet is a true science fiction classic. This 1956 trope-filled movie which featured Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly and Robby the Robot, from the still-innocent fifties, is an example of what happens when pop culture plays fast and loose with concepts familiar at the time. Namely the classic works of Shakespeare and the psychological concepts made famous by a naive and perhaps over-simplified understanding of ideas put forth by Freud.
The film is noteworthy for being the first to introduce some novel science fiction movie ideas still new at the time; humans traveling in an FTL flying saucer, and a story taking place primarily on the surface of an alien world. The story bears a strong resemblance in many ways to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (not to mention some farmer’s daughter jokes). The movie is also notable for introducing Robby, the first science-fiction robot with a personality who plays a supporting role in the film.
The story is about a rescue mission sent to discover what happened to an expedition sent twenty years earlier to the planet Altair IV. A scientist, Dr. Edward Morbius (Pidgeon being the future tense Prospero) contacts the ship when it nears the planet and attempts to discourage them from landing on the alien world, but the explorers have orders to land and determine what has happened to the lost expedition. They find the scientist living in comfort alone with his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis as the future tense Miranda) and Robby, their robot assistant. Dr. Morbius explains a mysterious “unknown force” killed the rest of his party. That energy still exists on the planet and is the reason he was not eager for more people to land there.
Strange things begin to happen almost immediately after the arrival of the rescue party and the mystery deepens the longer they stay. When confronted about the unexplained sabotage of supplies on the rescue ship Morbius reveals he has been studying the Krell, the long dead species native to the planet, and shows the rescuers an ancient but-still-new-looking laboratory, deep beneath the surface, built by the aliens, complete with technology that has somehow enhanced his intelligence.
A force field to protect the ship from further attacks proves useless, and another crew member dies. Another fatality occurs when a crewman, Ostrow (Warren Stevens) sneaks into the alien lab and interacts with the technology there. More attacks by the mysterious force occur. The story reaches its climax when the group realizes that interacting with the alien technology has been responsible for creating an “id monster” from Morbius’ subconscious.
In many ways, this film was unique and ahead of its time. While pretty tame by today’s standards, this movie did incorporate some concepts that have been “borrowed” on many occasions in other genre productions since its creation. It is a pioneering production, still enjoyed by many fans. Forbidden Planet is still widely considered a true science-fiction classic that served as inspiration for many that followed including Star Trek.