Eighteen parsecs from Earth in Sector EB-90, the spaceship Dark Star continues its apparently unending mission: to destroy unstable planets in order to pave the way for human colonisation.
This space parody – the debut of John Carpenter and produced as a film project at the University of Southern California for just $60,000 – begins as a satire on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) but quickly moves into original territory as the cabin-fevered crew copes with an alien stowaway, a nagging computer, its late commander’s cryogenically preserved brain and a thermo-nuclear device that’s all set to explode.
When one of the ship’s intelligent bombs, Thermostellar Bomb #20, decides to blow itself up despite not having been launched, Lt Doolittle (Brian Narelle) dons a spacesuit and has only four-and-a-half minutes to teach it the rudiments of phenomenology, and thereby make it question the data it has ordering it to explode. It’s possibly the tensest philosophical discussion in cinema history.
Witty, profound and cleverly scored by Carpenter, this cult favourite was co-written (with Carpenter) by cast member Dan O’Bannon, who later worked on Alien (1979).