Moon Zero Two is a British science fiction film directed by Roy Ward Baker, produced by Hammer Films and released in 1969 (some three months after the moon landing, in fact). It was billed as a "space Western" and made shortly after the release of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film did very poorly at the box-office, but became a minor cult classic in following decades.
In the year 2021 the moon is in the process of being colonized, and this new frontier is attracting a diverse group of people to settlements such as Moon City, Farside 5 and others.
Two such denizens of this rough and tumble lunar society are the notorious millionaire J. J. "100%" Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) and former-astronaut-turned-satellite-salvage-man Bill Kemp (James Olson). The first man to set foot on Mars, Kemp has now left the Space Corporation because it has abandoned exploration entirely in favour of running commercial passenger flights to Mars and Venus. When Hubbard hears of a small 6000-tonne asteroid made of pure sapphire that is orbiting close to the moon, he hires Kemp to capture it using Kemp's old "Moon 02" space ferry and bring it down on the lunar farside; although it would be against the law, nobody except Hubbard (and Kemp) would know that the asteroid was diverted. Kemp has little choice about agreeing, since he has learned that his flight license soon will be revoked due to protests from the Corporation. As extra incentive, Hubbard also claims that he plans to use the sapphire as a rocket engine thermal insulator — meaning he would build more powerful rockets capable of finally colonizing Mercury, and even the moons of Jupiter, for commercial gain.
Meanwhile a young woman named Clementine (Catherine Schell) arrives looking for her brother, a miner working a distant patch of moonscape at Spectacle Crater on the lunar farside. Unfortunately, the trip from Moon City on the nearside would take six days by lunar buggy. Since Kemp could fly there in twenty minutes in Moon 02, she persuades him to help her learn whether her brother is still alive. In doing so, Kemp learns more than he would like about of Hubbard's schemes and methods.
Moon Zero Two contains examples of many tropes, including:
- Animated Credits Opening: An amusing one that depicts the US/Soviet race to the moon being rendered meaningless by the tourist economy that springs up soon afterwards.
- Artificial Gravity: Mostly. Moon Zero Two is pretty good at suggesting low-gravity environments using slow-motion, but within base areas artificial gravity is assumed to keep the special-effects budget low.
- Artistic License – Space: Despite a fair attempt at realism, there are examples. Most notably while in the malfunctioning moon bug, the temperature suddenly becomes excessively hot, forcing Kemp and Clem to strip down to their space skivvies because the heating and cooling systems are no longer functioning. However, waste heat elimination is one of the biggest problems faced by spacecraft designers because vacuum is an extremely poor conductor for radiating heat away. As a result, spacecraft are designed to be as efficient as possible at doing away with excess heat. The end result is that without some sort of heating system to warm the cabin, a spacecraft's interior will get extremely cold extremely quickly, regardless of whether it's being exposed to direct sunlight.note If Kemp and Clem's buggy had lost its environmental systems, it actually would have gotten dangerously cold, not excessively hot, because of the craft's own engineering to expel waste heat.
- Of course, if the heat radiating system is blown, the interior of a spacecraft can become dangerously hot, as depicted in the movie and as demonstrated aboard the real-world Skylab only four years later.
- Asteroid Miners: Averted, and discussed. When Hubbard tells Kemp about the sapphire asteroid, Kemp explains how mining asteroids in space has never been practical (in a way implying he'd given the speech before). Hubbard then immediately explains how his plan was to crash the asteroid instead.
- Bar Brawl: In low-gravity slow motion.
- Chekhov's Gun: Kemp and Clem use a wire connection between their suits to communicate during the shootout at her brother's claim, so Hubbard's goons can't hear them over the radio. In the climax, Clem uses the same system to coordinate taking out another of Hubbard's thugs with Korminski so they can regain control of Moon Zero Two and rescue Kemp.
- Claiming Via Flag: Played for Laughs and exposition in the Animated Credits Opening, depicting an American astronaut and Soviet cosmonaut landing on the moon at almost the same time and battling over whose flag stays up. While they fight, a multinational fleet of ships sails to the moon; the pair are shocked to notice a United Nations flag surrounded by dozens of other flags standing, and declare a truce to explore the new moon city in the background.
- Covers Always Lie: Posters for the movie showed rayguns and streamlined spaceships that never appear in the film.
- Chummy Commies: Korminski, Kemp's partner and engineer. Downplayed: when another character asks where Korminski is from, Kemp only answers that he's a "foreigner" — "We're all foreigners here."
- Disposable Woman: Liz, the hero's police officer Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist slash ambiguous love interest is bumped off just before the final act, just in time to make room for Clem to take over as the Replacement Goldfish. (Liz had been following the trail of Hubbard's plot on her own, but since she doesn't have the chance to notify other authorities, her subplot boils down to this trope.)
- Fanservice: In and out of universe, the dancing women dressed as Aliens, Cowgirls, and Native Americans. As well as getting a good look at Kemp in the shower, and Clem in her space skivvies during the moon buggy scene.
- Forehead of Doom: Bill Kemp has a very prominent forehead.
- High-Class Glass: Hubbard wears a ludicrous tinted monocle.
- Improperly Placed Firearms: It seems that thinly-disguised Revolvers Are Just Better, even on the moon.
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: No silly faceplate lights, but no shielding against solar radiation either.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: How Kemp fingers the man who arranged Wally Taplin's death. Realizing the man died from a poisoned oxygen tank, he holds it up to the face of the corrupt bureaucrat who sold it to him and asks him what he smells. The panicked man says, "Cyanide!"...at which point Kemp reveals that the tank he was holding then is empty.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: There's not a raygun in sight.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: "You had that louse kill my brother just so you could land an asteroid?"
- Mr. Fanservice: Bill Kemp is shirtless in the malfunctioning buggy and is seen almost completely naked while showering.
- Ms. Fanservice: The scene in the moon buggy when the heating and cooling system malfunction leads to a pretty gratuitous scene of Catherine Schell stripping down to her space skivvies when the sun comes up and begins overheating the cockpit.
- Mundane Dogmatic: Though it was made long before the Mundane Manifesto was published, the film meets the criteria pretty well, if allowance is made for Science Marches On.
- Pocket Rocket Launcher: Hubbard uses a gyrojet revolver, in keeping with its Space Western theme. Since cowboy heroes use revolvers and the film follows Mundane Dogmatic rules, they couldn't very well give him a laser gun.
- Prospector: Clementine's brother Wally is one of many miners issued claims on the Moon's surface. To ensure productivity the Moon's government will revoke claims that have been unproductive for too long — but Clementine received a message that her brother had finally found something before he went silent. Because Hubbard was planning to crash the sapphire asteroid on the claim that Wally was on, he had to have Wally murdered so the land would be available.
- Space Clothes: Pastels, unitards, and vinyl everywhere, all so groovy!
- Sci-Fi Bob Haircut: The wigmaker from UFO (1970) has clearly been selling to some of the women in this movie, including Clementine. (Compare her appearance during the Bar Brawl and on board Moon Zero Two in the next scene.)
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: "Hundred Percent" Hubbard's whole gambit to get control of the sapphire in the asteroid despite the law (and the lives of anyone in his way.)
- Soundtrack Dissonance: As Joel and the Bots pointed out, the freeform jazz score by Don Ellis really doesn't fit.
- Space Is Noisy: Mostly averted, but during the gunfight on Farside, gunshots are clearly audible in a vacuum.
- Space Is Slow Motion: Abused horribly when Kemp turns off the artificial gravity at the saloon during a Bar Brawl.
- Space Western: The film labelled itself as one, lampshades it, and the plot is a Sci-Fi version of a claim-jumping story. On the other hand, it more closely resembles the aviation-action thrillers fashionable at the time it was made, and the original story was co-written by Gavin Lyall, a notable author in that genre.
- Spiritual Successor: The television series UFO (1970) and Space: 1999 have many stylistic similarities. (Indeed, this and Space: 1999 have a cast member in common (Catherine Schell, still billed as Catherina von Schell).
- The Stoic: Bill Kemp the hero greets everything with Dull Surprise. He seems to be going for an Adam West-style delivery.
- Used Future: The eponymous spaceship Moon Zero Two is very used.
- Zeerust: The film is a very 1960s vision of the future.