Film: Dark Star

"They're not lost in space. They're loose!"
— Tagline for the trailer

Dark Star is a tongue-in-cheek 1974 sci-fi/comedy motion picture directed by John Carpenter (helming his first feature film) and co-written with Dan O'Bannon. Dark Star was ranked #95 on Rotten Tomatoes' Journey Through Sci-Fi.

The film is about the small crew of the titular scout ship, whose job is to destroy unstable planets which might threaten future colonization.

Not to be confused with the video game featuring the cast of MST3K.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: The characters display absolutely no interest in their computer calculating a 95% chance of intelligent life in a nearby system, with the implication that previous pursuits of such readings had brought disappointing results. Or maybe they're just that burned the fuck out.
  • Action Prologue: Before the opening credits we witness the crew destruct a planet.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Bomb #20 has its own mind and continuously refuses to abort the detonation sequence. It ends in A God Am I.
  • As You Know: Doolittle provides an Info Dump when talking to Talby: "We've been in space for twenty years now, right? And we've only aged three years."
  • Beeping Computers: The ship's computer makes beeping sounds when displaying information on the screen.
  • Better Than It Sounds Film: The plot: Incompetent hippies on a deep space demolition tour dispel their boredom by chasing and deflating a sentient beach ball. Over-confidently, they then enter a debate with a sentient thermo-stellar bomb.
  • Billions of Buttons: The bridge of the Dark Star is plastered with flashy buttons.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Boyler does this when the crew rest in the sleeping quarters.
  • Captain's Log: Doolittle is seen doing log recordings as a way of giving an Info Dump to the audience. Amongst other things we learn that the supply of toilet paper has been destroyed.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Commander Powell was introduced early as having died on the mission prior to the movie's timeline. In the climax, he is revealed to be stored in a Human Popsicle from where his half-living soul could still communicates with Doolittle.
  • Curse Cut Short: The computer automatically censors obscenities in Pinback's diary entries, including gestures.
  • Downer Ending: The ship is destroyed and all crew members are killed.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: The ending. Completely Played for Laughs, especially given the music playing at the time.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Surfing into a planet's atmosphere on a piece of debris has to count.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The opening scene shows how the crew blows up a planet.
  • Epic Fail: Doolittle's attempt to stop the bomb from detonating.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Several animated FX with alternating light and dark frames, prompting TV stations to sometimes flash up warnings at the start.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: During the climax, there is a shot of a console room as it goes up in flames due to the laser malfunctioning.
  • Five-Finger Fillet: Boyler sucks at it.
  • Food Pills: We see the crew suck on some liquid food.
  • From Bad to Worse: In a diary entry, a very pissed off Doolittle mentions that a malfunction just destroyed the ship's entire supply of toilet paper.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: This movie was originally a 68-minute student short film. When it was acquired for distribution, new footage was added by the producer. Later, John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon re-edited the film into a director's cut, removing much of the footage shot for the theatrical release and adding new special effects.
  • A God Am I: Doolittle succeeds at convincing Bomb #20 that its external sensory data is a lie and it itself is the only thing it can be sure exists, in a desperate gambit to make the bomb disregard an order to detonate while still attached to the ship. Unfortunately, the character in question uses this new 'insight' to become a solipsist and eventually decides that, in the absence of anything else having any proof of existence, this means it is, in fact, God. And God said "let there be light"... And there was light...
  • Harmless Freezing: The dead-but-frozen captain among its crew, who is at least partially conscious, some of the time.
  • Human Popsicle: The dead commander was put into deep-freeze where his half-living souls could still be contacted through an electronic device.
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: The crew's visors are non-reflective. note 
  • Interrogating the Dead: Dead and cryogenically frozen Commander Powell can still be asked for advice.
  • Irrevocable Order: The bomb that refuses to drop from the bomb bay cannot be shut off.
  • Just in Time: Bomb #20 aborts the detonation sequence exactly at 00:00:00 after being talked out of it by Dolittle. For the time being...
  • Killer Rabbit: "When I brought you on this ship, I thought you were cute." A living Happy Fun Ball.
  • Kill 'em All: Did you read the description? It's mostly played for laughs.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: Talby mentions the Phoenix Asteroid which happens to show up at the end to take him away.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Pinback in the elevator shaft.
  • Logic Bomb: "Let there be light."
  • Machine Monotone: The female computer's sexy but creepily monotone voice during emergency situations.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: The entire crew.
  • Minimalist Cast: Five major characters and no supporting cast (if you dismiss the guy from Mission Control early on).
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The asteroid storm early on. Also the flashy Phoenix Asteroid showing up in the end.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: When Talby finds out about the laser malfunction, he tries to communicate this to Doolittle, but the latter is too busy with the detonation maneuver that he decides to cut the communication line to Talby. Disaster ensues.
  • Oh Crap!: The crew, especially Pinback, when the just activated Bomb No. 20 fails to deploy.
    Pinback: Mark at 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, DROP! DROP! DROOOOOP!
    • And when the bomb reasons that it's God and starts quoting Genesis.
    Pinback: Hey...bomb?
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Pinback and Bomb No. 20.
  • The Precarious Ledge: Pinback has to walk across a narrow ledge in the elevator shaft which makes him extremely uncomfortable.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The ship's computer notifies the crew about the malfunction while they are sleeping. No one registers this important information and the disaster takes its course.
    • Also, Talby tries to inform Doolittle about the laser malfunction but the latter dismisses this as unimportant and cuts the communication line.
  • Race Against the Clock: The movie's climax in which the crew has to stop the detonation sequence of Bomb #20 after it wouldn't drop out of the ship's bomb bay.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The intelligent bombs. Especially Bomb No. 20.
  • Rocketless Reentry: After the eponymous spaceship is destroyed, Lt. Doolittle uses a surfboard-shaped piece of debris to "surf" down towards an unstable planet, dying as a falling star.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Four idiots hang around a ship in the arse-ends of space, doing a meaningless construction job none of them wants to do, and get on each others' nerves. The ship breaks down because none of them bother to do any maintenance. Then the ship blows up. Played for Laughs.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The ending was inspired by the ending of Ray Bradbury's short story Kaleidoscope.
    • Guess where indie band Pinback got their name from?
    • The character Pinbacker from Danny Boyle's film Sunshine is (somewhat) named after Pinback, as confirmed by Boyle himself.
  • Sky Surfing: The final scene as the credits roll.
    • One piece of debris in the end is labeled THX1138. It also appears to be part of a toilet...
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The title theme is the country/western/Special Theory of Relativity song "Benson, Arizona".
    • ...or perhaps it's not as dissonant as it first seems: Carpenter described the crew as "space truckers" and felt that a sad country and western song about missing loved ones would therefore be perfect for them.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: While the Dark Star does not make noise in space, it does stop on a dime...intentional use of the Rule of Funny.
  • Space Is Noisy: Mostly averted...one of the few movies to get it right, at least as far as ships go. However, explosions are another matter...and apparently in space you CAN hear someone scream....
  • Space Madness: Played completely for laughs. The entire crew has gone visibly unhinged from five years stuck inside cramped space, performing a thankless job that nobody wants and having nothing to do.
  • Starfish Alien: The alien the crew encounters looks like a beach ball with eyes and feet. it's also filled with gas.
  • Take That: A computer screen flashes "FUCK YOU HARRIS" in one scene. Carpenter feuded with producer Jack Harris.
  • Team Pet: Pinback thought the ship needed a mascot. Pinback was wrong.
  • Techno Babble: The crew's cryptic communication talk during their bombing maneuvers.
  • Tempting Fate: "Under no circumstances enter the path of the beams."
  • Used Future: Taken to the extreme. Quite possibly also the Trope Codifier, predating its later uses in Star Wars: A New Hope and Alien, both of which co-writer Dan O'Bannon was involved with (special effects in the former and writing the original script for the latter, which was heavily reworked from this film after it failed at the box office).
  • Zeerust:
    • The reel to reel computers in the opening communication from Mission Base. Well, he did say there'd been some budget cuts...
    • Sergeant Pinback's video diary is an 8-track tape and the machine he uses to read it and record it is a 1970s microfiche reader.