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September 21, 2012 11:11 PM   Subscribe

In 2005, the Discovery Channel aired Alien Worlds, a fictional documentary based on Wayne Douglas Barlowe's graphic novel, Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV." Depicting mankind's first robotic mission to an extrasolar planet that could support life, the show drew from NASA's Origins Program, the NASA/JPL PlanetQuest Mission, and ESA's Darwin Project. It was primarily presented through CGI, but included interviews from a variety of NASA scientists and other experts, including Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, John Craig Venter and Jack Horner. Oh, and George Lucas, too. Official site. Previously on MeFi.

Related Documentaries: (Background)

National Geographic: Extraterrestrial (Narrated by Michael Dorn.)

National Geographic: Alien Worlds Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Well, Expedition isn't so much a graphic novel as it is a themed sci-fi art book. In this regard, it's a lot more similar to sci-fi picture books like Thomas Cook Out of This World Vacations or Tour of the Universe. Basically, you'll like it if you're the kind of person who reads the Monster Manual without ever playing D&D. Looking back, there's a whole tradition of "scifi non-fiction," although it's rarely as earnest and serious as Barlowe's work. Check out Through the Alimentary Canal with Gun and Camera or The Snouters for examples from earlier in the 20th century.
posted by Nomyte at 11:29 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

The very first 'Alien Worlds' link shows up on the linked to page as "Alien Planet".
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 11:55 PM on September 21, 2012

I loved Alien Worlds when it first aired. The Groveback with the forest growing on its shell was pretty cool.
posted by Foaf at 11:58 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Was i the only one hoping that after the cut were the words to the effect of "Curiosity has found similar life on Mars."? ;)

I have that book by the way, and it's one of my favorites. He did a cthulhu version too (if i'm not mistaken)
posted by usagizero at 12:08 AM on September 22, 2012

I used to have that book, leant it and lost it. I have to get another because it was so damn cool!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:22 AM on September 22, 2012

also: death to people who don't return books!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:22 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Barlowe's official site
posted by zombieflanders at 4:54 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nomyte, thanks for the correction and links. I couldn't find a viewable copy of Expedition online and took a guess on how to categorize it.
posted by zarq at 5:38 AM on September 22, 2012

Craig Venter looks like a) his blood pressure is through the roof, or b) he's being controlled by a long tentacle inserted from below by a hidden master. I guess c) Both is also a possibility.
posted by sneebler at 7:17 AM on September 22, 2012

I've never heard that term before, but I love the idea of scifi non-fiction. I imagine my childhood love of Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials probably has something to do with reading a lot of Audubon field guides.
posted by mrjackalope at 7:22 AM on September 22, 2012

I enjoyed this a lot.
posted by gen at 7:28 AM on September 22, 2012

I'm a big fan of science fiction non-fiction, or (as I also call it) worldbuilding sans plot. I actually got my favorite local SF con to have Wayne Barlowe as a guest, but he unfortunately had to cancel. There are lots of other examples in the general grain of Expedition:
  • Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials: Barlowe paints a variety of creatures from classic SF, including Mesklinites, Solaris and Old Ones. (This may be what you're thinking of, usagizero -- the book is not focused on Cthulhu mythos at all. You may also be thinking of Barlowe's Inferno, which kind of does for Hell what Expedition does for Darwin IV.) The plates are all really well done, and there are sienna sketches of a unique, alien travelogue that (so far as I know) Barlowe has never finished in the back of the book.
  • Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy is similar to Extraterrestrials, but for fantasy races and creatures.
  • Man After Man: Dougal Dixon's predictions (in text and illustrations) of the future of humanity, through millions of years of evolution. His After Man does the same thing for life on Earth in general.
  • The Morae River explores the ecology of one biome on an alien planet. So far as I can tell, it's still primarily a website, with nothing available in print.
  • Furaha: A similar treatment for the planet v Phoenicis IV.
  • There have been other TV series in the same vein: The Future Is Wild, which projects the evolution of life on Earth through millions of years (Dougal Dixon wrote the companion book); and the aforementioned Alien Worlds (also released as Extraterrestrial, about the two planets Aurelia and Blue Moon). (FYI, Alien Worlds is very different from Alien Planet; they're in the same genre, but neither is derived from the other.)
Further afield, there are lots of other examples of worldbuilding sans plot: And I must say, I think Alien Planet is a pretty poor adaptation of Expedition. Everything they changed to make the TV series was a change for the worse, in my opinion. Adding cute robot explorers instead of a human in a hover capsule, implying that it's somehow in our near future instead of the medium-far future, adding lots of experts talking about it with continual amazement, deemphasizing that it all comes from a book... I much prefer the book, save for getting to see Barlowe's creations in 3D.
posted by jiawen at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

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