Over the weekend, the boundaries of space and limits of the human body confronted movie audiences as Gravity made everyone really dizzy. And while Alfonso Cuaron’s new space odyssey is as beautiful as it is terrifying, fictional space disasters are nothing new. We’re all familiar with some of the big screen heart-pounding moments like Alien, but what about the small screen? Here are five TV space disasters which may not look as flashy, but are just as dire.
Doctor Who “The Waters of Mars”
One of the last David Tennant Who episodes is also one of the best. When the Doctor visits Mars’s Bowie Base One in the year 2059, he quickly realizes he’s arrived on the day this entire human colony is destroyed. Infected by water which turns them into Mars-zombies, the crew of the base has to scramble to survive as their reasonable options begin disappear one by one. From infected food, to subverted terra-forming, to the simple notion of needing to protect Earth from the infection, this is one space disaster with huge consequences.
Star Trek: The Next Generation “Disaster”
Though the artificial gravity pretty much NEVER fails in Star Trek (well, once) this notable TNG episode did explore the idea that even the super-sophisticated 24th century Starship Enterprise might still face unknown, natural disasters. Interestingly, despite being a science fiction show set in space, Star Trek’s conflicts rarely come from actual space-stuff happening to them. And though “Disaster” still retains the somewhat sterile feeling of TNG, it still answered the question—what would they do if they suddenly couldn't get to each other on that giant ship?
Pretty Much Every Episode of Space Above & Beyond
The adventures of Nathan West and his space-jockey buddies has been forgotten by most, but this show is a great precursor to the contemporary Battlestar Galactica, and in many ways was more ambitious. Because despite the fact that this show has aliens, secret robots, AND crazy clones, it also felt totally realistic with the way it managed all the space stuff. The show starts with a space disaster, and just keeps going from there. The biggest space disaster of all? Probably in the pilot episode when two characters try to kiss but then bump space helmets! Ooops.
Battlestar Galactica “A Day in the Life”
A classic “how much air do we have left?” plot, this one finds Chief Tyrol and Callie repairing a random part of Galactica when some crazy failsafe door accidentally locks them in! At this point in the show, Galactica is one tired and beat-up Battlestar, meaning the creaking, cracking nature of the ship itself helps to increase the drama. After realizing Callie and Tyrol will die unless unless drastic measures are taken, Admiral Adama decides there’s only one way to get them out: a brief space walk with NO spacesuit, or has he says, “out the front door.”
The Outer Limits “The Invisible Enemy”
Do you remember Adam West? You know, that guy who played Batman in the 60’s? No. Well, he’s hilarious and awesome. But before he was pow-ing and zap-ing his way through Gotham city, Adam West was a “serious” actor. No, seriously, and this Mars-bound episode of The Outer Limits is fantastic. (What’s the the deal with Mars being so scary?) Here, monsters in the sand are slowly, slowly creeping toward Adam West and his astronaut friends. Being stuck inside of space capsule may have looked corny in the 60’s, but it was still scary.
What space disasters—big or small—have made your heart pound over the years?