But when we were still selling popcorn, we’d shown some sci-fi of the classic kind — At The Earth’s Core, and The Land That Time Forgot (both B movies, an Edgar Rice Burroughs double feature) and something called The Outer Space Connection, a 1975 documentary. In my own childhood, there’d been Earth Versus the Flying Saucers, pretty small potatoes compared to the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, Klingons and sharp-eared Spock and all.
By and large, the giant screen of our theater, the St. George — a 2,672-seat palace I helped pilot for one glorious year — offered earth-bound fare. Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon. They reinforced a popular opinion, first uttered when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left their footprints on the moon in 1969, that our problems on this planet (among them poverty, discrimination, war and what we then called “pollution”) were big enough to keep us fastened to terra firma, until we solved them. I was mostly of this opinion and am strongly persuaded by it today, especially now, given the fact of billionaires competing for that “final frontier.” And still...
Kubrick’s movie, with its disobedient computer and “space baby,” had suggested to the young me that by the impossibly far-off year, 2001, as casually as I flew to Cincinnati, we’d all be journeying to space — the thought of which, in my twenties, filled me with wonder. Despite my cynicism, I couldn’t wait to go aloft!
But I continued to age, and, increasingly, even before the towers fell (which is what really happened in 2001), I became more and more nervous about flying. What was actually keeping that 747 in the air? Flying to and from Hong Kong took just about all the nerve I had left.
Let’s face it, I admire William Shatner — who’s actually ninety years old, almost two decades older than me. How can he just do that? Sit on top of all that fire? Maybe, after all he is Captain Kirk! I wish him a safe journey. When he looks out the window, I hope nobody peers back.
1. Looking for references to Kubrick’s “space baby,” I found an interesting “conversation.”
2. Here's a link to launch coverage: [https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/10/13/science/blue-origin-william-shatner]