DOWSE guide to the movies                                                                                         

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DOWSE Guide to the Movies
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press

Guns In Space

by Stephen Lee

"Why would anyone need a gun in space?" - a line from the SF-disaster film, Armageddon. So, what's the dilemma of blasting into orbit packing iron; here are some pros and cons.
Firstly, Armageddon (1997) showed a firearm being used by the military commander of a space shuttle to enforce the orders of his superiors over the mission's civilian specialists regarding the use of nuclear weapons to save the Earth. In reality, I doubt firearms are currently part of essential shuttle equipment for a variety of reasons. To begin with, they tend to be rather heavy articles in a profession where weight control is everything. Even modern guns and ammo like the Glock loaded with Blaser alloy cased cartridges add many pounds, depending on the number of rounds being transported. Burdening a craft with extra gear that will not be used, even though guns would function in space without any power loss, is illogical. Unplanned landings in territory other than the United States of America, if they were the launching agent, would also not require the use of an armed crew - as they could not prevent anti-American activity by the host, it would take an army. Russia covers one sixth of the planet's surface (dependant on current borders) and should unavoidable causes force a shuttle down then negotiation would be used not gunplay. As in Armageddon, the commander might need to control the crew, or the crew may remove their leader with a display of firearms. However mutiny is not part of NASA training. Furthermore, consider which of the crew would have access to weapons and so on. Either way, many perils present themselves should a gun be fired in the confines of a spacecraft as the uncontrolled metallic projectile has a velocity of over one thousand feet per second in normal gravity and could end its flight anywhere, even after hitting its intended target!
Charlton Heston, in the role of Taylor in The Planet Of The Apes (1968), took a gun into space as part of the ship's survival kit, but his mission was to colonise a new world, so it seemed a reasonable inclusion. And yet, with only one female between three males one wonders what the weapon was really for. Chuck is now President of the National Rifle Association of America, unlike Sean Connery who is one of the new bread of anti-gun actors, despite kicking some ass in the excellent 1981 SF film, often described as high noon in space, Outland (1981). Playing Marshall O'Neil, Connery stashed away some pump action shotguns around a mining colony on the moon Io, to fight gangster drug pushers from the Jupiter massive. Connery made his fame and fortune as everyone's favourite spy, James Bond with his licence to kill, but it was Roger Moore's Bond that used guns in space in the film Moonraker (1977). Blue ray-guns, this time, fired by American astro-troopers(?). Energy weapons have been portrayed in science fiction movies for decades but both Buck Rogers and Captain Kirk were set far in the future. Personally, I believe a more realistic portrayal of weapons was shown in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). Because they didn't have any guns the crew of the Nostromo fashioned electric prods, used on the ship's cat with better results than when tried on the monster of the title. (If Yankee shuttle crews are armed it's probably with some kind of electric stun-gun.) In Aliens (1986), the military turn out to battle the monsters only to find their rifle magazines confiscated to prevent gunfire near a nuclear reactor. Returning to Armageddon, there was more made of the pistol than there was of the mobile mining vehicle being armed with rotary cannons. What was that all about?
Do we need guns in space? We go in peace, yet we shoot to kill. The arms race goes on into space, goes on into the human race. There are no aliens, no enemies, and no need for guns in space.

Stephen Lee

Famous Lines from Famous Movies

"Better to have a gun and not need one,
than to need a gun and not have one."

- Christian Slater, to partners in crime, in
written by Quentin Tarantino, and directed by Tony Scott

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