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T–V Entries
George Takei
Rod Taylor
Marshall Thompson
Kenneth Tobey
Ivan Tors
Thomas Tryon
Sonny Tufts
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Sir Peter Ustinov
Robert Vaughn
Jules Verne
Gore Vidal
Thea von Harbou
Max von Sydow
 
TSIOLKOVSKY, KONSTANTIN
(1857–1935). Russian scientist and author.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Technical advisor: Kosmicheskiy Reys: Fantasticheskaya Novella [The Space Ship; The Space Voyage] (Vasili Zhuravlyov 1936) (film also based on his work).
 
For almost all of this scientist's long career, the only movies in Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's life were the ones being screened inside his brain—his imaginative images of the space vehicles that humans might someday construct in order to travel to and live in outer space. However, unlike other visionaries like Hermann OBERTH and Robert Goddard, Tsiolkovsky never attempted to build and test rockets, limiting himself to countless descriptions of his ideas in nonfiction and fiction. Finally, almost at the end of his life, he was asked to serve as technical advisor for a projected film about a flight to the Moon,  Kosmicheskiy Reys: Fantasticheskaya Novella (usually known in English as The Space Voyage), and he could at last, after a fashion, oversee the actual construction of one of the spaceships from his dreams.

Officially, the film is described as an adaptation of Tsiolkovsky's novel Beyond the Planet Earth, or Outside the Earth (1920), but just as another pioneering film about a voyage to the Moon, Destination Moon (1950) bore little relationship to its purported source material, Robert A. HEINLEIN's novel Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), Vasili Zhuravlyov's film bore little relationship to Tsiolkovsky's saga of an international crew of adventurers who settle down for an extended stay in a space habitat before moving onward to the Moon and Mars. Rather, it was an obvious imitation of Fritz LANG's Woman in the Moon (1929), a straightforward account of a first flight to the Moon featuring three crew members clearly based on screenwriter Thea VON HARBOU's characters: an elderly scientist, a beautiful blond woman, and an adorable little boy who stows away on the spaceship. (Entirely omitted, however, were the machinations of evil capitalists and the competition between two other crewmen for the affections of the woman; presumably, the governing dogma would be that such conflicts could never occur in a worker's paradise like the Soviet Union.) But even if there is little in the way of conventional drama, Tsiolkovsky ensured that the technical aspects of the film would be superb, including a aerodynamically sound spaceship launched from an immense ramp, a common scheme also observed in Rudolph MATÉ's When Worlds Collide (1951), and realistic-looking spacesuits (and, unlike Lang's more lenient advisor Oberth, Tsiolkovsky would tolerate no dubious assumptions about finding a breathable atmosphere somewhere on the Moon, requiring Zhuravlyov's space travelers to wear their suits throughout their sojourn on the Moon). More impressively, while Lang emphasize only the practical allure of finding tons of gold on the Moon, Tsiolkovsky understood that the true value of space travel would lie in the delightful freedom it would provide: there are long scenes of the space travelers happily flying back and forth in their improbably roomy spaceship (almost recalling similar scenes in J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan [1904]), and they also move about the Moon by means of immense leaps from rock to rock. Overall, thanks to Tsiolkovsky's influence, Kosmicheskiy Reys qualifies as the first completely realistic film about space travel, not to be surpassed until Destination Moon. Ironically, though, Tsiolkovsky may have never seen the final fruits of his labors, since he died before the film's release.

Since his death, as his works have become better known, Tsiolkovsky can be appreciated as the man who anticipated, even if he did not directly influence, scores of space voyages in fiction and in reality. He would have appreciated, more than others, the austere beauty of Stanley KUBRICK and Arthur C. CLARKE's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) as an appropriate evocation of the truly alien nature of outer space. Later, a lesser work, the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), would pay explicit tribute to Tsiolkovsky by naming a spaceship after him in the episode "The Naked Now" (1987), but Tsiolkovsky himself would have scoffed at the implausibly Earthlike actions and lifestyles of its characters.  For Konstantin Tsiolkovsky understood, long before anyone else, that life in outer space would inevitably be utterly unlike life on the planet Earth—an insight that to this day still eludes most people, including most people who make science fiction films.

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