Galactic Imperialism

I watched an East German sci-fi film made in 1976.

In The Dust Of The Stars is the English version of the title, which doesn’t appear until several minutes in to the story.

A spaceship from the planet Cynro has reached the planet Tem 4 (NB. some on-line sources wrongly give Cynro as the name of the spaceship, but the astronauts state its the name of ther home planet when they meet the inhabitants of Tem 4. Also note that everyone in this universe speaks German and has human biochemistry and thinks it doesn’t need remarking on. Maybe this is the distant future and they are all lost colonies of a forgotten Earth).

The spaceship has a talking computer that spews print-outs and has tape reels.

The mission to Tem 4 was in response to a distress signal picked up from the planet. As the spaceship tries to land it gets in trouble due to destabilizing signals directed from the aliens on Tem 4, directed by their beardy boss named Ronk.

However Commander Akala takes over manual control and achieves a safe landing. Soon a buggy drives out to meet the visitors.

They are taken to meet Ronk in his headquarters, where they are told it was all a terrible misunderstanding, the distress signal was sent by mistake when Tem 4 was testing its new radio beacon. The astronauts explain they’ll need to stay a few days to fix the ship for take-off, but meanwhile they get invited to a big party with groovy 70s rock playing whilst everyone does mad frantic dance routines and snakes crawl about the buffet bar.

Of course Ronk is using his special mind-control ray to erase the memory of the original distress signal… but he can’t influence technical wizard Suko, who stayed on the spaceship and intercepted radio signals back to the other planet Tem 3, making it clear that sinister business is afoot.

Akala gets to meet the big Chief, who is superior to Ronk, in his weirdy palace of mirrors where he frolics about with snakes and fun executive desk toys and has his hair dyed different colours regularly.

However Suko has been flying about investigating this planet more closely, and he discovers the secret mines where the Turi – the indigenous population of Tem 4 – are enslaved.

We find out that it was rebel Turi who sent the distress signal picked up by Cynro . As the situation heads towards an interplanetary confrontation, Akala makes a final visit to meet the Chief in his private garden that looks like a 1973 Genesis LP cover. They have the great ideological debate that sets out the politics of this film.

CHIEF: I’m glad we can continue our talk that was interrupted before. I hope music doesn’t bother you. Distractions help me concentrate.

CHIEF: I have thought a great deal about you. What kind of people are you? What compels you? What laws determine your actions?

AKALA: Our first law says: No human may oppress another.

CHIEF: A nice thought. But the Turi have no culture. You see, by the time you are on your way home, the Turi will believe they were dreaming. Gods descended from heaven, they were friendly, and then they disappeared. They will likely pray to these gods. Their modest lives may become a little brighter. Nothing more. But that is a great deal. I hope you have some time for me, it is so pleasant to chat.

[Scene of rebel Turi running across the dunes]

CHIEF: What a foolish thought: Brotherhood. Only one law applies to me: Power.

AKALA: Then you will have to hurry.

CHIEF: Why? I don’t understand.

AKALA: Your great era is coming to an end. Don’t you see? This planet’s secret has been revealed. It’s the first step.

CHIEF: The first step? Where to?

AKALA: Did I frighten you? That was not my intention.

[Cut to rebel Turi meeting the astronauts]

CHIEF: I have a proposal to make. Stay on Tem 4.

AKALA: Would you enjoy having me here?

CHIEF: You are intelligent. If you play by the rules, certainly.

[Soldiers appear all around]

AKALA: Yes, I understand you. Rule number one: What is on top, stays on top. Rule number two: Those who are below, stay below.

CHIEF: Exactly how it is and how it will remain. Or do you want to give the Turi weapons?

AKALA: Obviously you can only think in terms of primitive violence. Try to follow my line of thinking: Your coexistence on the Turi’s planet…

CHIEF: Turi’s planet? It belongs to us! We conquered them! No power in the galaxy can drive us away!

But the plucky astronauts get away after assisting a revolt of the slaves, though not everyone survives and we are only at the early stages of the fight for freedom. So the mood is rather sombre after the spaceship sets off back to Cynro, although the Temmians realise they can’t keep the old power structure running the same way.

The costumes and special effects are no worse than anything else in Hollywood or US TV at the time. Before Star Wars changed the rules, it was ok to use these kinds of sets and outfits. 2001, Logan’s Run and Silent Running were unusual for the detail and budget that went in to them. Most western sci-fi didn’t look any smarter than this. All good fun, and it tries to slip in a message that makes a bit more sense than just blowing up the Death Star while failing to address the structural issues that brought it into being.

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