silent running

( Douglas Trumbull, 1971 )

Silent Running is probably my all-time favourite film. Its central theme is that man, even at the risk of madness, must be his own saviour. Bruce Dern stars as Freeman Lowell, adrift in the spaceship "Valley Forge", part of a fleet of ships which are in essence a Garden of Eden. Each ship has attached a number of huge domes, like sophisticated greenhouses, each one housing a different flora and fauna. These were intended to refurbish an Earth devastated by nuclear war. Lowell is in constant disagreement with his three fellow crewmembers - they simply don't care about the domes, or share any of his ideology. It is left to Lowell to care for the plants, helped by the three small drones Huey, Dewey and Louie. Then an order is received from Earth - destroy the domes and return. This is the turning point of the film - Lowell must stand up for what he believes is right. Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) on the command deck of the Valley Forge
The Valley Forge approaches Saturn The other crew members attempt to jettison the domes, and in trying to prevent this, Lowell ends up killing them. He then takes the Valley Forge away from the main fleet, with a flight through Saturn's rings : thus begins his battle for the survival of the last of Earth's flora and fauna. He has to rely upon the drones more and more, and is devastated when one is blown away while working on the outside of the ship. He takes the remaining two back out to where the third was lost, harangueing them to be more careful. The drones are almost human in their actions and responses ; we see them look sadly at the severed foot of their colleague stuck to the ship's superstructure. This is reinforced by their gait - they don't roll or glide smoothly, they waddle !
Eventually, the other Earth vessels track down the Valley Forge, and believing Lowell to be in trouble, want to mount a rescue attempt. Of course - the domes must still be destroyed. Lowell knows he cannot continue, and rigs the Valley Forge to blow. His last act is to jettison the remaining dome, sending it out into space to seed a possible second chance for mankind. The final images are some of the most powerful seen in science fiction films, both sad and optimistic : the forest tended by the remaining robot, with a battered watering can, all alone. Lowell entrusts the remaining drone with the care of the dome

This is a wonderful film, which never relies on effects to tell the story. The human aspect is always paramount. It is a must-see for any science fiction fan.

SILENT RUNNING IMAGES

Below are thumbnail images which link to full-size scans of some black and white publicity stills from the film, scans from the laserdisc cover, and various pressbook and other images. All are in JPEG format.

Black and white publicity stills


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Images from the Silent Running laserdisc sleeve

Kindly donated by Tony Hinde

Lowell at the console on the Valley Forge
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Lowell plays cards with the drones
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Lowell repairs the drone
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Lowell in the forest, with the drones
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Various Silent Running pressbook images

Kindly donated by Mark Dowman

One of the drones
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Lowell plays cards with the drones
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Huey, Dewey and Louey in the storm
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Lowell planting in the forest, with the drones
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Lowell playing cards with a drone - blooper photo
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Other images

Lowell bathing in the garden pool, with two droids nearby
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SILENT RUNNING SOUNDTRACK LISTING

SIDE ONE

Rejoice in the Sun (sung by Joan Baez) (2:10)
The Space Fleet (3:28)
Rejoice in the Sun (instrumental) (1:58)
No Turning Back (2:50)
Driving Crazy (2:26)
Drifting (2:08)
SIDE TWO

Silent Running (sung by Joan Baez) (2:01)
The Dying Forest (2:24)
Tending To Huey (2:55)
Saturn (4:09)
Getting Ready (1:45)
Rejoice in the Sun (reprise sung by Joan Baez) (1:30)

SILENT RUNNING LINKS

Apart from the black and white publicity stills above, I also own an original Silent Running poster, and the soundtrack album on green vinyl (only played a few times, but bought second-hand many years ago). I don't have any more pictures available than the ones featured on this site - if I find a new one I add it to the page. If you use any of the photos on this page for your own site, please be kind and provide a link back to this page, http://shipofdreams.me.uk/sfmovies/silent.htm, thanks! Last update January 26th 2007.