B-Movie Inspirations: Ice Planet (2001)
Ice Planet (2001)
Every once in a while, you will find a gem on Youtube.com that is surprising. Of course, Youtube has had full length movies for a while. Recently I decided to explore the sci-fi selection and found a movie that interested me. It looked pretty cheesy but something about it peaked my interested. As it turns out, there was more to it than just a cheesy name.
Ice Planet (2001) is a movie pilot that was intended to be a series. Made by a team of Canadian and German producers, it starred a few actors I recognized and a few I did not. One part Star Trek: Voyager, one part Battlestar Galactica, and one part Stargate: Atlantis, this pilot had incredible potential and I am highly disappointed that it never made it as a series.
The movie is set is the hundreds of years after a devastating war on Earth. Humanity has reached out to colonize the solar system. No alien races have been contacted because it is apparent that faster-than-light travel has not been discovered yet. We find ourselves on a military base on Io, orbiting Jupiter. There is a large population of humans on this base, which is part of something called the Union. The base is commanded by Commander Jonah Trager (Wes Studi) who reminds me of Adama from the new BSG. I really liked the design of their fighters, which resemble Star Wars B-wings but simpler. They bend and twist in some very interesting ways.
In the beginning, they sort of bounce around some scenes and it is difficult to make sense of it at first. They quickly introduce the French-accented rogue Han Solo type named Blade. They also introduce a mysterious girl being secretly transported on his vessel and some Jabba The Hutt person he is working for. Meanwhile, some alien ship shaped cloud is ominously converging on Io. At the same time, some professor-looking dude (played by Sab Shimono) is speeding towards Io in some huge ship, apparently reading something in a microscopic crystal.
The colony is in chaos as the cloud/ship approaches. Once the attack begins, it is quite obvious they are outmatched and they proceed to abandon it, launching life pods away from the alien ship. Some make it to the professor’s ship (which we discover later is called the Magellan). With the aliens in pursuit, the ship performs a strange warp jump orchestrated by the professor (Karteez A. Rumla). After a psychedelic trip through space and time, the ship drops into unknown space and onto a strange frozen world. If the strange ship and interstellar jump wasn’t bizarre enough, the ship landing in a landing zone obviously made specifically for it made it even stranger. This definitely got my attention.
They discover that they have no idea where they are, the stars and constellations are not recognizable and the professor postulates that they could have even traveled not only in space but also in time. The rest of the movie is a standard strangers-in-a-strange land story, with a few interesting plot devices. The overall pitch of the show was that this professor found an ice planet.
The survivors (a little over 1400) discover a tribe of Native-American-like humans speaking a strange language, an alien crystalline artifact that contains vast knowledge waiting to be tapped and the quiet girl planted in the beginning is connected to the whole thing somehow. Throughout this time, Rumla has been researching the planet’s orbit, saying the planet is acting more like a ship. This later is proven to be true.
Another alien ship arrives in orbit and the young girl somehow becomes possessed by an alien intelligence and conveys the rest of the story. With the alien ship looming, the possessed girls speaking in an alien voice says that alien intelligence on this planet sent out messages and the people of the Magellan were the first to reply. It identifies the aliens attacking as the Zedoni. With some help from the alien intelligence of the planet, they save some captured members of their crew, and fend off the alien ship long enough for us to discover that the planet itself can make a warp jump and appear in an entirely different system
I really liked this idea. This had so much potential. This can not only be a RPG adventure but it easily could be an entire campaign or setting. The production value of the show is about what you would expect for a 2001 sci-fi show. This was in the era of Babylon 5, Deep Space 9 and Voyager, and was about that level of quality. The acting was subpar but what you would expect from a show like this. The aliens were overly CGI’ed and needed to be more practical and tangible. The CGI was obviously low budget even for its time because it was a little choppy and blurry. It also was not shot in HD so that made if even more obscured.
For an RPG, the adventure opportunities are endless
- An alien planet that jumps: This one stands out as one of the biggies. To get stuck on a world that jumps from one totally different part of the universe to another? What’s not to like about that?
- Alien message in a bottle: This has been used in a lot of shows and movies. What does the message contain? Coordinates? Ship plans or plans for a gate device? Genetic codes for alien life forms? New scientific knowledge? Again, endless opportunity.
- Alien tech changing humanity’s destiny: This, of course, is at the core of 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as many other novels and movies. This never gets old.