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Film / The Shape of Things to Come

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H G Wells' The Shape of Things to Come is a 1979 Canadian Science Fiction film, directed by George McCowan, that owes little other than its title to H. G. Wells's novel The Shape of Things to Come, or the 1936 film Things to Come.

With the earth rendered all but uninhabitable due to the "Robot Wars" and resultant plague, humankind has colonized the moon with a tres-'70s discotastic society. Enter Omus (Jack Palance), who has overthrown an outlying drug-mining colony and who wants to be installed as president and dictator-for-life of the human race; to this end, he crashes a robot-piloted ore ship into the moon colony, warning that drug shipments (apparently necessary for human survival, due to The Plague) will cease if he is not appeased.

There are only three people who seem to think that standing up to Omus is a good idea: John Caball (Barry Morse), an old colleague of the villain; his son Jason (Nicholas Campbell); and Jason's girlfriend Kim (Eddie Benton), the daughter of a senator. Adding to the mix is the robot pilot, whom Kim repaired and reprogrammed after the crash so as to become an ally — and gaining the ability to teleport in the process. These four brave souls steal an experimental starship (which looks suspiciously like the USS Enterprise after being hit with a steamroller) and set out on a series of mini-adventures to stop the Evil Omus once and for all.


It exists to capitalize on a certain low-budget sci-fi flick released two years earlier. Needless to say, it didn't work out very well, although it has developed something of a cult following.

RiffTrax released a Video On Demand riff of this film in January 2020. On November 25, 2021, it was revealed that this movie would be one of the thirteen to be used as part of the thirteenth season of the cult-classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Its recap page can be found here.


This film provides examples of:

  • After the End: We will live on the moon.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: Received a comedic one in 2020 by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys through RiffTrax, and again in 2022 by MST3K itself.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Dr. Caball performs a Heroic Sacrifice early on by risking being fatally irradiated in order to fire up the "Star Streak"'s reactor and spends the rest of the film suffering the effects, with the possibility of him dying from it all but written on the wall. Omus tortures him to death with a sonic weapon, never knowing that this has happened to his "beloved" mentor.
  • Brown Note: A high-frequency sonic weapon which can literally pierce your brain like a knife.
  • Cassette Futurism: Behold, a future where mankind has conquered space, placed colonies on the moon and mastered Faster-Than-Light Travel... all of it run with Honeywell computers!
  • Cool Starship: The "Star Streak" is supposed to be an experimental ship approved by New Washington for self-defense purposes. The film spends a whole lot of its runtime with its trek to the planet... and pretty much does nothing else with it (even the reveal that Omus planned take it over in order to use it to return to New Washington as its conqueror doesn't goes anywhere... although it is because he dies, at least).
  • Cow Tools: Whatever the heck the resistance used to improvise the spears they employ as weapons.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Omus was Dr. Caball's greatest student and a man who valued the utility of technology to make life better just like his teacher... unfortunately, his idea of what to do with said technology was to decide to try to become an Emperor Scientist.
  • Dull Surprise: Carol Lynley as Governor Niki.
  • Earth That Was: Earth was reduced to a radioactive wasteland in the backstory, so when the "Star Streak" crew go there to perform repairs to the ship they have to deal with an awful lot of background radiation making them rush to do what they need on the surface.
  • Evil Is Hammy: But what else could one expect from Jack Palance?
  • Heel–Face Turn: "Sparks" the Robot Buddy, after being rebuilt by Kim.
    • Face–Heel Turn: Subverted. Omus seems to take over "Sparks" later on, but the robot manages to strike back by reprogramming all of Omus' robots to rebel.
  • Hollywood Evolution: The Doomsday Device Omus unleashes in the final act "evolves" the planet to the point it decays to Earth-Shattering Kaboom levels.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: The people of Earth fled to the Moon in the backstory... well, most of them...
  • Huge Holographic Head: Omus uses a hologram of himself to announce to the "Star Streak" crew that he knows they have arrived and he wishes to speak to Dr. Caball.
  • In Name Only: Takes more cues from Star Wars than from its own namesake.
  • La Résistance: Governor Nikki's little Red Shirt Army
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Kim calls "Sparks" the robot such because when she first fires him up after repairing him he tosses an awful lot of them.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Shortly after Omus' defeat, his fortress collapses. Justified because shortly before that he set the whole planet to self-destruct.
  • MacGuffin: Radic-Q-2, the anti-radiation wonder-drug that humans depend on and only one planet (Delta-3) produces it. The fact Omus is the new ruler of Delta-3 is the reason why everybody accepts that Omus must be stopped... although some are more active about it than others.
  • Magic from Technology: After "Sparks" the Robot Buddy is repaired, it inexplicably develops teleportation powers.
  • Mercy Kill: Unknown to him, Omus does this to Dr. Caball, already dying of radiation poisoning. It was not a painless death, though, considering it was by torture with a sonic weapon.
  • New Neo City: The capital city of the lunar colonies is called "New Washington".
  • The Plague: Radiation is a constant threat, so the Mineral MacGuffin of choice is Radic-Q-2, an anti-radiation treatment that is mined from the planet Omus has taken over.
  • Robot Buddy: "Sparks", the robot that piloted the ship Omus sent to kamikaze into New Washington at the beginning and was rebuilt and reprogrammed by Kim.
  • Space Clothes: Lots of jumpsuits abound.
  • Stupid Evil: So, okay, he at least bothers to mine enough Radic-Q-2 to bring along once he goes to New Washington and declare himself its conqueror, but why in the heck does Omus decides it's a good idea to evolve the only planet that it may be obtained from straight to Earth-Shattering Kaboom levels?
  • Villainous Breakdown: Omus has a pretty nice one (as Jack Palance alone could make them) when Sparks reprograms all of his robots and they corral him inside of his office, leaving him alone to die while all of the other humans escape.
    Omus: What are you doing?!? I AM YOUR CREATOR!!!