STARRING: Jack Wagner, Jack Coleman, Craig Wasson, Sigrid Thornton, Kay Lenz

1993, 87 Minutes, Directed by: Arthur Allan Seidelman

An asteroid hits a spaceship halfway from Earth to Venus. This accident leaves much of the spaceship’s oxygen supply depleted – there won’t be enough oxygen for the entire crew of six to make the journey, after a certain point in time, there will only be enough oxygen for three of them. After a rookie’s bungled attempt to fix the oxygen supply, more oxygen are lost. Now there will only be enough oxygen for one person to make it!

If the plot seems vaguely familiar to you, it’s probably because Trapped In Space is based on a short story called "Breaking Strain" by sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke. The original story only had two astronauts distrustful of each other trapped in the spaceship; this made-for-television movie ups the ante by adding more crewmembers. It is never quite explained why there are so many of them, because none of them ever seem to do anything regarding the running of the ship.

Obviously Clarke’s very short story needed some padding and we in the audience soon finds ourselves in Shallow Grave/Treasure of the Sierra Madre territory – everybody is out to do in everybody else. But there isn’t money or treasure at stake – just mere survival.

Clarke was of course involved with 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010. Trapped In Space is no 2001, after all, it’s only a TV movie starring some actors from television shows such as Dynasty (I didn’t recognize one of them – but then again, I’m not into soaps). Trapped In Space is a bit of a wasted opportunity considering its sources, one of the crew members soon turn psycho and refuses to co-operate with the others and lurks around the ship trying to kill all the others. None of this happened in the original short story, of course, but Clarke wrote it way back in 1948 – more gentle times than our own I suspect.

There are some huge plot holes – not to mention that true to most modern sci-fi movies there isn’t much science in it. For starters, there is gravity aboard the ship for some unexplained reason. For a film that depends on explaining the hostility of outer space as a plot device it doesn’t score many points.

Also, the asteroid that hit the spaceship is big enough to have destroyed it, not just puncture a hole a hole in its hull. (In the original short story it is about a centimeter in diameter!) And so on. Also, some of the characters aren’t too likeable either. Literary purists might be interested to know that in its denouement, Trapped In Space does remain reasonably true to its source material. Taken on its own terms, i.e., it is only a TV movie, Trapped In Space makes for "not bad" viewing. Wait for it to show on some late night channel.

By the way, Trapped In Space violates one of the most hallowed American movie conventions. Hint? It involves a dog . . .


Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: Based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke about astronauts on a mission running out of oxygen. Not brilliant by a long shot, it's not that bad for a movie bearing that dreaded "made-for-television" label . . .



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