Sunday, February 3, 2013

When Worlds Collide 1951 Film And Book For Your Old School Space Opera

"Doomsday parable for the nuclear age of the '50s"
 "Needles in a heavenly haystack. There are more stars in the heavens than there are human beings on Earth. Through telescopes men of science constantly search the infinitesimal corners of our solar system seeking new discoveries, hoping to better understand the laws of the Universe. Observatories dedicated to the study of astronomy are set in high and remote places, but there is none more remote than Mt. Kenna Observatory in this part of South Africa."
Opening monologue for  When Worlds Collide  

The  basic plot of the movie according to wiki : "As a new star and planet hurtle toward a doomed Earth, a small group of survivalists frantically work to complete the rocket which will take them to their new home."

Freelance writer Melvin E. Matthews calls the film a "doomsday parable for the nuclear age of the '50s".[5] Emory University physics professor Sidney Perkowitz notes that this film is the first in a long list of movies where "science wielded by a heroic scientist confronts a catastrophe". He calls the special effects exceptional
Major Spoilers Ahead 
Pilot David Randall (Richard Derr) is paid to fly top-secret photographs from South African astronomer Dr. Emery Bronson (Hayden Rorke) to Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating) in America. Hendron, with the assistance of his daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush), confirms their worst fears—Bronson has discovered a star named Bellus and it is on a collision course with Earth.
Hendron warns the delegates of the United Nations that the end of the world is little more than eight months away. He pleads for the construction of spaceships to transport a lucky few to Zyra, a planet in orbit around Bellus that will pass very close to the Earth, in the faint hope that it can sustain life and save the human race from extinction. However, other, equally-distinguished scientists scoff at his claims, and he is not believed. With no help from the United Nations or the United States government, Hendron receives help from wealthy humanitarian friends, who arrange a lease on a former proving ground to construct a spaceship. To finance the construction, Hendron's group is forced to turn to self-centered, wheelchair-bound industrialist Sidney Stanton (John Hoyt). Stanton demands the right to select the passengers, but Hendron insists that he is not qualified to make those choices and that all his money can buy is a single seat on the ark.
Joyce becomes attracted to Randall and prods her father into finding reasons to keep him around, much to the annoyance of her boyfriend, medical doctor Tony Drake (Peter Hansen). The ship's construction is a race against time. Groups in other nations also begin building ships. Former skeptics admit that Hendron is right and governments prepare for the inevitable. Martial law is declared and residents in coastal regions are moved to inland cities.
Zyra first makes a close approach, its gravitational attraction causing massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tidal waves that wreak havoc. Several people are killed at the construction camp, including Dr. Bronson. In the aftermath, Drake and Randall travel by helicopter to provide assistance to survivors. When Randall alights to rescue a little boy, Drake has to resist a strong temptation to strand him.
As the day of doom approaches, the ship is loaded with food, medicine, microfiche copies of books, equipment, and animals. Finally, most of the passengers are selected by lottery, though Hendron reserves seats for a handful of people: himself, Stanton, Joyce, Drake, pilot Dr. George Fry (Alden Chase), the young boy who was rescued, and Randall, for his daughter's sake. When a young man turns in his winning ticket because his girl was not selected, Hendron arranges for both to go. Randall refuses his seat and only pretends to participate in the lottery, believing that he has no useful skills. For Joyce's sake, Drake fabricates a "heart condition" for Fry, making a backup pilot necessary. Randall is the obvious choice.
The cynical Stanton becomes increasingly anxious as time passes. Knowing human nature, he fears what the desperate lottery losers might do. As a precaution, he has stockpiled weapons. Stanton's suspicions prove to be well-founded. His much-abused assistant, Ferris (Frank Cady), tries to get himself included in the crew at gunpoint, only to be shot dead by Stanton. During the final night, the selected passengers and animals are quietly moved to the launch pad to protect them from any more violence.
Shortly before takeoff, many of the lottery losers riot, taking up Stanton's weapons to try to force their way aboard. Hendron stays behind at the last moment, forcibly keeping the crippled Stanton and his wheelchair from boarding in order to lighten the spaceship. He rationalizes that the new world is for the young. With an effort born of desperation, Stanton stands up and starts walking in a futile attempt to board the ship before it takes off.
From space, the ship's television monitor shows Earth's collision with Bellus the heat from the collision was hot enough to melt the camera. A few hours later As they approach Zyra, the fuel runs out and Randall has to make an unpowered rough landing. The passengers disembark and find the planet to be habitable. David Randall and Joyce Hendron walk hand-in-hand to explore their new home.

Using The Film When Worlds Collide For Your OSR
The film makes an excellent jumping off point for a campaign. The film is perfect for a cross over adventure from Mutant Future into Star Ships and Space Men Second edition. From the "Twilight years" of the 50's post panic and the doomed Earth vibe that runs throughout this is an excellent set up for a game. The game can pick up right when the movie end and proves hours of fodder to be mined for an afternoon or beyond adventure. The book however has much, much, more to mine. 

When Worlds Collide Book Cover.jpg
According to Wiki : 
"When Worlds Collide is a 1933 science fiction novel co-written by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer; they both also co-authored the sequel After Worlds Collide (1934). It was first published as a six-part monthly serial (September 1932-February 1933) in Blue Bookmagazine, illustrated by Joseph Frank√©."
This book has a metric ton of material for the DM to mine and goes into a lot more detail about both the ship and the planets that are going to collide with the Earth. The vibe of "Doomsday Earth"
 is even more pronounced in all its pulp goodness.
Checkout the plot again according to wiki : 
"Sven Bronson, a South African astronomer, discovers that a pair of rogue planets, Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta, will soon enter the solar system. The larger one, Alpha, will pass close enough to cause catastrophic damage. Eight months later, after swinging around the Sun, Alpha will return to pulverize the Earth and leave. It is believed that Bronson Beta will remain and assume a stable orbit.
Scientists led by Cole Hendron work desperately to build ships to transport enough people, animals and equipment to Bronson Beta in an attempt to save the human race. Governments are skeptical, but the scientists persist and develop the technology necessary for the spacecraft, which are built in various countries. Nations including the United States evacuate their coastal regions in preparation for the Bronson bodies' first pass. Tidal waves reach heights of hundreds of meters, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take their deadly toll, and the weather runs wild for more than two days. As a token of things to come, Bronson Alpha's first pass takes out the Moon.
The isolated Hendron camp manages to build two ships which take off together with all of the survivors of the camp (after beating off an attack from refugees desperate to escape). One ship makes a successful landing, but without radio contact with any other ships, the crew members assume that only they made it across. They find that Beta is habitable and that there are traces of a native civilization wiped out when, millions of years before, the planet was torn away from its sun."

From Flash Gordon To Superman the far reaching effects of these novels on science fiction and even gaming has been profound.
There are mega-dungeons on Beta and we're given hints about them from lines like this one. 
"Beta is habitable and that there are traces of a native civilization wiped out when, millions of years before, the planet was torn away from its sun." After worlds collide.jpg
After Worlds Collide picks up directly after the first novel and gives a great overview of the day to day struggles of the survivors after the destruction of Earth. The text is a lot less umm descriptive then the other novel. 
After is a great blue print for a DM looking to combine the genres of post apocalyptic future and space colonization along with exploration of alien mega dungeons. Here we have old nationalistic baggage and new worlds colliding along with alien ruins. Here's the plot according to wiki: 
"The United States and several other countries were able to construct and launch space Arks before the Earth was destroyed by a collision with Bronson Alpha, a rogue planet that had entered the solar system months earlier. A French ship malfunctioned shortly after liftoff and crashed. Both American ships survived the voyage to the companion body, Bronson Beta, though they were separated and each unaware of any other successful arrivals. The two American ships' personnel are finally reunited nearly half way into the book. Bronson Alpha destroys Earth and moves out into deep space again, while Bronson Beta swings into what seems to be a stable, but eccentric, orbit around the sun.
Early in the story, the survivors of Hendron's own smaller Ark took stock of their situation and set out to establish a colony, already aware of the hint of a previous civilization: a road. Tony Drake and another associate scout out for suitable farmland, which is put to use, but during their return journey following the alien road, the two men come across a vehicle. After a mysterious disease passes through the camp, killing two colonists, Hendron forbids exploration, but some of the colonists defy him and strike out, bringing back wood from a distant forest. That night, an aircraft passes near the camp, beating a hasty retreat when it notices the campfire of wood.
Tony's former manservant, Kyto, explains he found a piece of paper blowing in the wind, and it reveals that a group arrived from Earth that intended to establish a "soviet", and they were made up of Germans, Russians and Japanese.
At Hendron's order, an exploratory aircraft is built from remnants of the Ark and its rockets, and Tony Drake sets off with writer Eliot James. They follow the road and discover a domed city. These are the remains of a native civilization, whose builders were essentially humanoid and had considerably higher technology than humanity (but this did not enable them to survive the freezing of their world).
They explore it for three days and then fly south and discover a search light beaming up in the dark. They discover it to be the second Ark from Hendron's encampment on Earth that had a disastrous landing, but they make a joyous reunion with its commander, Dave Ransdell. Ransdell's camp also saw a mysterious aircraft, long enough to see it had "lark's wings".
Tony and Ransdell fly back to Hendron's camp, finding that Hendron is visibly deteriorating in health and mind. Tony is jealous that Ransdell apparently will become the new leader also have Eve, Hendron's daughter, as his wife. Eve, acting as Hendron's regent, dispatches Tony to the Ransdell camp to deliver a radio, and the first signal received is that the Hendron camp has suffered some sort of attack. Tony and one of Ransdell's men return to the Hendron camp to investigate: everyone is lying on the ground.
They discover everyone is alive, after all, but drugged; they give the doctor antidotes and then hear an aircraft approaching. Assuming a "dead" sprawl, they watch the aircraft pass over: the men inside have Slavic features and have evidently begun a takeover attempt. The aircraft leaves, the doctor responds to the antidotes, and Tony prepares the weapon emplacements (rocket tubes from the Ark) to defend. An armada arrives soon afterward and is totally obliterated by the Hendron camp's weapons. The people gradually wake up; the other camp reports they are all right. Hendron hands command to Tony, and Ransdell is relieved by that choice. Tony decides to occupy one of the alien cities, not the one they found but a different one shown on a diagram to exist close by; they follow the road there.
During the trip, they encounter an alien automobile driven by a British woman; she explains that a British ship also made it over from Earth but landed in a lake; they were found the next day by the "Dominion of Asian Realists" group, which Hendron nicknamed "Midianites", and enslaved. The Midianites' society is like an ant farm, the colony being all important and the people nothing, but the top rulers live luxuriously.
The alien city is occupied and the tractors leave at once for Ransdell's camp to bring its people to the city, which Tony names Hendron, because Hendron died just as the convoy came into view of the city. Hendron is buried the next day. The scientists manage, with the Briton's help, to figure out how to charge batteries and operate machinery, and they also find hangars of the lark aircraft; some are armed and used for air defence.
Meanwhile, the planet is approaching aphelion, and nobody is entirely certain that the planet is in a stable orbit around the sun. The weather is getting colder, and one night, the Midianites disconnect the power supply to the city of Hendron's people. One member of Hendron's group seems to defect to the Midianites, while four others land in a city on the other side of the Midianites' city, and attempt to reach the Midianite city by an underground service tunnel's high-speed car. They are unsuccessful, but the female defector kills the Midianite leader, defeats his key people, and allows the British to take control. In short order, the story ends quite abruptly.
The Dominion is defeated, and the victorious American/British coalition settles into the domed cities, discussing a form of government that the former Midianites now seem resigned to living under. While challenges still exist, their immediate needs for shelter, energy, and food are taken care of. The story ends on an optimistic note with a reference to the first pregnancy among the colonists, Eve's and Tony's, and the confirmation that they have passed aphelion and are now definitely locked into orbit around the old Earth's sun." 
The edition "After Worlds Collide "That I've read and have 
Please note that the following ship is based on the book and not the movie

Silver Dream Space Ark (S&S 2nd edition) 
Crew Compliment : 50/ passengers 108
Command Rank : Lieutenant
Power Pile Base: 300
Teleporter Capacity : Nil 
Beam Banks: 2 asteroid defense 
Shuttle Ships: 1 
Sick Bay Capacity: 15  
This 2,000 ton 103 passenger space ark was used extensively though out the Atomic Wars pre and post eras. The design is still in service today and continues to preform like a tried and true champion of space exploration. These craft can be manufactured in 2 years using local materials and an early 1950's technological base. 
Silver Dream Space Ark SWN Version 
Hit Points 60
Crew : 50/108
Speed 1 
Armor 15 
AC 6
Power 50/1 free
Mass 30/0
Weaponry :
Multi focial Laser +1 to hit/1d4,AP20
 Defenses: Hardened Polycermic Overlay
Fittings: Spike Drive 1/Atomic Sublight Engines , Drop pods, Sleep pods, Ships Stores, Cargo Lighter, Sleep pods, Fuel Bunker, Expended Life Support

The Silver Dreams were produced by the score before the stroke in the Talon System and were used extensively throughout the efforts of colonization. These ships are still being produced today and use an atomic sublight engine to boast themselves into space. Lesser versions of the dreams can be produced from local materials with a late 1940's to early 1950's manufacturing base. These dreams lack the spike drives and are known as nightmares to many spacers who find the remains of colonists who still try to make the crossings with those craft.
For the colonists with a decent manufacturing and physics base these craft are reliable, slick, and very space worthy. They prove centuries of service.
Silver Dream Space Ark OD&D Version 

Hit Points 30 
Armor Class :7 
Crew 108 
Drive : Atomic Drive Type 22
Capacity : Most Major Animal Groups From Old Earth
Weight : 2,000 tons 

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