In 1970, John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon, two film students at the University of Southern California, were working on a little sci-fi movie, and realised they couldn’t compete with the dazzling spectacle of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But they could expand on what Kubrick only hinted at in his epic: the extreme boredom of long-term space travel. Dark Star was originally a 45-minute graduation short. Most of the middle section, where O’Bannon hunts down a goofy beachball-like alien, was added to pad it out to feature length – and later rehashed by O’Bannon for his bug-hunt classic screenplay: Alien.
It is the middle of the 22nd century. Mankind has reached a point in it’s technological advances to enable colonization of the far reaches of the universe. Armed with Exponential Thermosteller Bombs, the scout ship DARK STAR travels out on the very rim of the known universe, far in advance of colony ships, prowling the unstable planets. Meanwhile the crew of Doolittle, Pinback, Boiler and Talby perform their jobs in a state of abject boredom.