Earth vs The Flying Saucers Revealed!

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Flying saucers had been featuring in science fiction movies for half a decade before Ray Harryhausen’s 1956 epic, but he raised the bar.

1950’s The Flying Saucer (the first ever) was barely seen and when it appeared it looked like boilerplate, 1951’s The Thing only flashed a fin and Klaatu’s featureless disc from The Day The Earth Stood Still was elegant but static. 1953’s Invaders From Mars was a blurred glowing disc with ten seconds screen time and only 1955’s This Island Earth gave really good saucer, but Harryhausen beat them all. His turned metal creations hummed, swooped and soared across the screen and across the world dealing out death wholesale in an orgy of extraterrestrial destruction unequalled for 40 years until Independence Day. Harryhausen’s was the first film to show a montage of famous landmarks of all countries being blasted by aliens and was the direct inspiration for Tim Burton’s 1996 Mars Attacks! Just look at the death ray.

The saucer design is carefully analysed by Jack Hagerty and Jon Rogers in their wonderful manual of 1950s saucers – The Saucer Fleet. Not long before in 1953 George Adamski and his musical friend Desmond Leslie (he invented techno!) had published Flying Saucers Have Landed including photos of the actual saucers Adamski said he had been aboard. Although sceptics claimed that these were no more than cylinder vacuum cleaner end caps thrown in the air they quickly became the industry standard and Harryhausen’s neat but solid machines clearly take their inspiration from Adamski. Or Hoover.

In their book Hagerty and Rogers propose a complex mechanism for the entry lift that carries humans or aliens between the ground and the encounter chamber inside the dome, but I think this is far too Heath-Robinson for aliens that can warp time itself and my own solution is much simpler. I propose a six-chamber revolver mechanism that can rotate different payloads into the space below the dome access port, one of which is a sliding sleeve/door/elevator disc assembly that opens to the outside and is consistent with everything seen in the movie. The central seventh chamber contains the death ray and can open downwards. Apart from the huge encounter chamber there is very little useful room left for accomodation apart from the tiny gallery around the edge of the main chamber where they reveal themselves to the hero through little square windows, but then I thought these aliens don’t look like they need living quarters, bunks, cafeteria or even a bathroom. When they aren’t actually inside the main dome looking at their visiscreens under their computer/communicator/translator crystal and plotting the conquest of Earth they probably just stand in those tiny alcoves recharging or something. They never take those lead suits off. They live and sleep in them standing up, and they have probably artificially removed the need to eat and the rest. These guys never chillax.

I had to make the saucer a bit bigger than Hagerty and Rogers reckon, mine is about 130 feet across. Main drive frustrums, levitation discs, doors, cylinders and chambers are assumed to be able to move without visible mechanics. Because it’s a flying saucer.

Music is by Desmond Leslie himself, from his 1960 album Music Of The Future, 13th track – Gathering Of The Elders.

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