Alien Worlds

Friday, 25th November 2005

stinger fanCopyright Big Wave Productions, 2005.'Winged whales and giant wasps float around a 1970s-prog-rock-album cover planet . . . shaped by the febrile imaginations of graphic artists,' writes David Butcher, reviewing Channel 4's Alien Worlds (screened as Extraterrestrial by the National Geographic Channel) in the Radio Times.

I get a chance to make up my own mind, when I go to the preview of Alien Planets, an exhibition of concept artwork by the series' graphic artist Peter Scott who provided the original designs for all the alien life forms you see on screen. The exhibition continues until the 6th January 2006, at the Dock Gallery, Goole.

Stinger Fan

Amongst the designs, stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, there's a stinger fan model which featured in the series, which I briefly sketched (left). If you've ever taken a close look at the astonishing natural world around us, you'll realise that this isn't the product of the febrile imagination of an album cover artist: you can see life forms not unlike this in rock pools and garden ponds. It could easily be a botanical detail of a fruit, flower, fern or lichen.

Unlike the majority alien life forms you meet in science fiction, it doesn't run around zapping space explorers. Aurelia, the alien world that the creature inhabits, is in an orbit where one half of the planet is in perpetual darkness, the other half in perpetual daylight. The stinger fans have evolved to dominate the habitable zone between these two extremes. They're animals but draw much or their energy from a symbiotic partner: algae that photosynthesize the sun's energy. They have limited movement in order to compete for the available sunlight (not to chase human's like John Wyndham's triffids).

That doesn't sound too far-fetched to me and that's just the start of it; discussing ideas with one of the leading academics in the field, Peter also took factors such as the pressure and composition of the atmosphere into consideration. Next Page

Richard Bell,