2001 and Beyond the Infinite

Commentary and Criticism

March 1998 to April 1998

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From: "Timothy Brock" [DBrock.Charlotte@postoffice.worldnet.att.net]
Date: Sun, 1 Mar 1998 16:37:45 -0500

I wanted to thank you for such an enjoyable essay.  Though I found the 
movie enjoyable as a science fiction movie before reading the essay, the 
essay will allow me to view the film in a different light.  Now I can 
see this film as a piece of literature and not just a money maker.

However, I must be completely truthful.  I do not agree that 2010:  The 
Year We Make Contact was as superficial as you wrote.  My arguements are 
with the "interference" by the Aliens and the "abandonment" of realistic 
space travel.

I do not believe that the Aliens purposely interfered with the destiny 
of Mankind.  I believe that they were no longer with their expirement on 
Earth after they had deemed it a success.  On the other hand, I believe 
that the Aliens had the intention of beginning a new expirement.  For 
they did allow for the development of life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. 
 In fact the movie ends with the scene of the Monolith standing vigil on 
a once lifeless rock now teeming with life.  The book by Arthur C. 
Clarke goes into more detail on the point.  Also, the Aliens never 
directly talked to Man.  In fact, it was always the Star Child, or Dave 
Bowman.  He was bringing closure for his wife and warning the rest of 
Humanity to stay away from the Alien's experiment.  Never once did the 
Aliens or the Star Child bring humanity closer to peace.  That was a 
side effect that Mankind did on its own.

Also, the movie still retained many of the realism that it had in the 
first film.  While onboard the ship, there wasn't this artificial 
gravity field that was keeping the astronauts pinned to the floor, the 
simulation of gravity was maintained by a spinning section of the ship, 
also used in the Discovery.  Also, the movie employed many new ideas 
about space travel that were being discussed as effective means during 
the time of the production of the film.  In many ways, however, the film 
did lose some  of its realism, and not all.  I just felt that you 
addressed that issue poorly.

Again I thank you for such a eye-opening essay and wish to hear from you 
on the matter.  If you wish, you may publish this to your web site with 
my name and address.  My name being Tim Brock, Email address being 
DBrock.Charlotte@worldnet.att.net Thank you again.

Timothy Brock

Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 12:09:20 -0500
From: Adam Peabody [peabod1@ic3.ithaca.edu]

I'll start off by saying that I've read your entire page, and you have
some intriguiging things to say. I would however, like to argue a point
about your 2010 essay. In this essay you seem disgruntled about the
manner in which the Monolith is portrayed. You argue that it is reduced
to a mere tool and that it shows them virtually wasting their time. Now,
I understand you've read the nove for 2001. However, you really ought to
look into the over three novels. I can understand your arguements due to
the fact that Clarke wrote the novel in tandem with the film's creation,
but the other books were written independently. These (particularly
3001) will give you a much clearer definition of the Monolith and show
that they actually are merely tools. Transmitters, if you will. In 3001,
mankind actually learns how (with Dave Bowman's help) to utilize or
manipulate the Monolith. But I'm not going to ruin the story for you. Go
read the books. I think you'll find them extremely interesting.

Adam Peabody

Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 20:31:44 -0800
From: Joe Whited [joe@indaso.com]

I have read your essay and agree with many of your conclusions, with the
minor exception of the "passive" nature of the astronauts aboard the
Discovery and the reason for HAL's malfunction.
I believe that boredom may have been a facet of Dave and Frank's
existence aboard their craft, but I believe what you sensed as a
passivity was actually cool, collected professionalism. Frank and Dave
are well trained and highly skilled pilots/astronauts/technicians, and
as such are able to maintain composure under almost any situation. Both
were probably fighter pilots at one time or another, or could have been,
in any case. Starting with the final conversation with HAL preceding his
breakdown, almost every statement made by the astronauts, especially
towards HAL, showed considerable thought and care. I myself have had to
go through this process in my own mundane existence, when attempting to
convey information or questions without causing offense, or creating
some form of legal liability. (I am a computer networking
consultant/technician. Telling someone that they have a dead hard drive
in their main server, and that their backup hasn't worked for weeks, and
that this is their own fault for not calling me to fix it sooner, feels
a bit like telling HAL that he is a loony. It must be
done.....carefully)  Dave shows almost as much composure after the
murder of Frank Poole as he did when talking to HAL about chess, with
the exception of his breathing patterns. His tone when commanding HAL to
open the pod bay doors was stern, but by no means panicked. And his
silent and purposeful deactivation of HAL was dramatic, but it was not
rushed. Only his breathing betrayed the fear he must have been feeling.
As for Frank's "passivity" during the transmission of his parent's
birthday wishes, I actually sence homesickness in the deep sigh he
released during the singing of the birthday song. His almost rude
reaction to HAL's poor attempt at sensitivity (HAL says happy birthday
immediately following the transmission) shows a resentment toward HAL's
intrusion upon his internal reflections on family and home. I think it
also shows a disrespect towards HAL, much the same way a rich man treats
a butler. Frank and Dave take HAL for granted, and treat his attempts at
emoting the way you treat a child. A pat on the head and a "that's nice
dear". Even the act of playing chess with HAL seemed patronizing, as
Dave new he would not win, yet played anyway....seemingly only to humor
A final thought on the "passivity" question is the BBC interview the men
view during their meal. The two men show much more expressiveness and
emotion during this interview than they do during the rest of the
voyage. This interview was conducted at a time when the Discovery was
seven light-minutes from earth, surely not too much earlier than the
time point at which the meal was taking place. Far from machinelike,
when the two let loose during the interview, they were very lively and

On HAL's reason for going off of the deep end: I am much more open to
the explanation that his attempts to complete conflicting tasks caused a
paranoia that ultimately determined that the entire crew must die to
allow for the completion of the mission without failing in the two
tasks. I believe that HAL felt as if David must have figured out that
HAL was lying. The original discussion about "something strange" with
the mission was, I think, HAL feeling Dave out. Unsatisfied with the
result, Dave asking if this was HAL producing his psychology report, HAL
decides to test Dave and Frank's loyalty and resolve by producing a
false failure prediction for the AE35. However, I think your
explanation, pride, may also be as valid an argument.

In any case, your essay was very enjoyable.
Do you have information or links to sites with information in any depth
on the making of 2001? I happenned upon your essay in search of such
Thanks in advance for any reply you may send.
- Joe Whited (joe@indaso.com)

Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 22:35:33 -0800
From: David Collings [dawico@ix.netcom.com]

I just saw 2001 for about the 10th time (I'm 13) and something just hit
me about the shapes.  My appologies if somebody mentioned this before,
but I didn't have time to read all the comments.  What I noticed was
that objects with a circular shape seem to represent something man
understands (Discovery's main section, pods, lunar lander, planets,
etc.), while objects with a rectangular shape seem to represent things
beyond our comprehension (monolith(s), Hal's circuitry).  Hal's eye
seems to be a good example.  A rectangle with a circle in it indicates
that we can understand part of it, but never all.  Thank you for your

From: William Foley [wfoley@datek.com]
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 14:41:34 -0500

First off, I have to say thank you for providing a medium of understanding
for what is, in my opinion, the most important film ever made.  But I feel
you are a little off in your assessment of why HAL Kills Frank, the crew and
tries to kill Dave. It has nothing to do with ego. HAL is equitable to a
thirteen year old genius, and he is a bad liar. Kubrick's and Clarke's
intentions were to show how little difference there ever is between man and
his tools, machines, anything he creates. Computers, AI are people. HAL was
programmed (taught) that his number one priority was not to harm or
intentionally mislead people by Dr. Chandra. He was then reprogrammed by NASA
 to lie to Frank and Dave. Quite simply, it's like when you lie to your
girlfriend about cheating on her and then spontaneously lie again to someone
else about something else. This small error, bug or whatever in HAL's
programming causes him to kill or to show how truly human he is, just like
the apes use the bones of the dead, so does HAL use man's own technology
against him. Basically HAL starts the conversation with Dave innocently
because he's got a guilty conscious, when he realizes he may have let the cat
out of the bag, the AE-35 unit malfunctions, now since HAL is the AE-35 unit
or the whole ship is HAL, much like our ear or eyes are us, it's like when
you get a cold from stress. HAL gets stressed from lying and invents a
problem. He is exibiting a psychological problem that most Human's suffer
from.. what a tangled web we weave...He then tries to cover his tracks,
continually violating his own programming, proving he is alive and Human.
What are your thoughts on my assesment?
Thank Again

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 11:46:50 -0700
From: Chyrel Ens [cens@LETHBRIDGEC.AB.CA]

Interesting, but yet another vainglorious attempt to put your own meaning 
on something that is meant, like all true art, as a gift from the creator 
to the observer. To go to such lengths to explain, you make the same 
mistake religious leaders have made throughout history -- you paw the 
glass case that enshrines the work of art. Another analogy: look at the 
study of subatomic particles. So far it can't be done without changing 
that which is being studied, therefore rendering the observation dubious 
in value. I'm not saying you shouldn't have tried. Thinking, as you said, 
is a good thing.

Your deeply flawed commentary leaves me with doubt as to whether you read 
the 2010 book. I agree that 2010 (the movie) is not a worthy successor to 
2001 (the movie). In fact, I disregard it except on its modicum of 
entertaining features. However, your half-baked condemnation of the 
theory behind the effects of the new sun on Earth does a great disservice 
to Clarke, who does not go lightly into such areas. Certainly the new sun 
would have profound and destructive effects on the established ecosystem 
of Earth, but let's not pretend we are scientists anywhere near the 
calibre of Clarke. Finally: I never blinked when I saw Scheider suspend a 
pen in the air. He was obviously using 2010 technology which is able to 
suspend objects so three-dimensional visual aids can be built. It's as 
commonplace to his character as overhead projectors are to us. I see that 
you take 2010 on its own merit and appreciate it as a different movie, 
but not a continuation of 2001. Some of your points on storyline 
inconsistency are valid. You just went overboard. If you haven't read the 
books, I suggest you do so. Clarke has gone so far as to amend the 
original to try to mitigate the inconsistencies that cropped up in the 
difference of his and Kubrick's interpretations.

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Bernd_B=F6sel?=" [bernd.boesel@gmx.net]
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 23:24:15 +0200

Dear Modemac,
    Congratulations on your essay concerning Kubrick's Space Odyssey. It
sums up most of the important or interesting thoughts I have encountered
in discussing the movie. I would just like to add one suggestion about
the colour of the monolith - whereas "colour" is surely not the right
adjective to describe its apperance. It's rather the LACK of colour
which intrigues me. Have you noticed its similiaritiy to frozen water as
seen against a completely dark background, just as outer space offers
    I have no idea whether Kubrick or Clarke deliberately descided for
water as being the possible substance of the monolith. But this is not
the point: because the comparison to water is highly appropriate for a
tool which unloosens potential evolutionary developments. Water is a
widespread mythical symbol for a life-changing situation or occurence:
just think of the holy water and its use in baptism. I'm too tired to
think of more examples for the mythical meaning of water, but if you
descide to look for more information on this issue you will find that my
suggestion is not too far-fetched and at least fits the movie's
intention of explicating man's development towards a more sophisticated
and liberated state of mind. You may also compare C.G. Jung's essays on
the so-called "archetype" water, which according to him is basically a
visualization of the barriers between the conscious and the unconscious
in psychoanalytical theory. Thus freeing the lost or unused potential
within one's mind means having to go through this barrier, visualized as
    I'm a student of philosohy in Vienna, Austria, where it is now a
half past eleven, and I am considerably tired now. If you would like to
discuss the issues raised in my letter, please email me - I would like
to spend more time on interpreting what I dare to call the greatest
movie of all times.
Greatings from Bernd Boesel, Austria!

From: TeacherJoe [TeacherJoe@aol.com]
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 18:53:31 EDT

Your page is great.  Your essay is well thought out and plausible.  Much of
what you conclude alligns with my own take on the film.
However, I've had students in my Critical thinking classes analyze this film,
looking for metaphors and analogies representing attitudes and concerns from
the late 50's and 60's.  One theme that runs through many of their essays has
to do with the monolith.  They view it a bit less literally than many people
do.  They find in it a "metaphor" for a higher being, a god or God.  One who
sets in motion the evolution of man.  A creator, if you will.
Man's first tool, a result of the insight and inspiration that makes us "man,"
is a weapon.  And one of his first uses for the tool is to turn it upon his
own kind.
A bit more about "monolith representing God."  When "death-bed Dave" reaches
toward the monolith, his hand mimics the positioning of the hands in "The
Creation of Adam" that adorns the Cistine Chapel ceiling.  Is this
representative of a "second creation?"
There are many other metaphors (HAL representing real concerns about
technology replacing humans in industry that existed during the sixties) and
the dull resignation that we may no longer be masters of our fate (as
demonstrated by the non-essential existence of Frank and Dave aboard the
Although Clarke refers to "aliens," remember he served primarily as science
advisor to Kubrick (producing the near perfect adherance to physical law we
all find so compelling) and wrote the book almost as a separate entity.
Kubrick may not, himself, have had a firm idea concerning the meaning of the
monolith other than as an agent for change.  I am satisfied with my students'
assigning it the task of representing "God."
In any case, yours is a great essay and a grand page.  I have a link from my
class update page to yours.  Keep up the good work.
J. M. Joeb