Silently in space

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German title Silently in space
Original title Silent running
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1972
length 89 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Douglas Trumbull
script Deric Washburn
Michael Cimino
Steven Bochco
production Michael Gruskoff
Marty Hornstein
Douglas Trumbull
music Peter Schickele
camera Charles F. Wheeler
cut Aaron Stell

Silent in Space is a dystopian science fiction film by US director Douglas Trumbull . The film by Trumbull, who previously worked as a cameraman, was his first directorial work. The film was made in February and March 1971 in 32 days of shooting.


A fleet of spaceships has been drifting through the solar system for several years , with the task of preserving the last forests on earth as a kind of Noah's Ark under huge glass domes, since all nature on earth has now been destroyed. The spaceships are named Berkshire , Valley Forge , Sequoia and Mojave .

The astronaut Freeman Lowell has dedicated himself enthusiastically to the task of preserving and caring for the biotopes . He serves on the spacecraft Valley Forge with three other crew members who do not share his idealism. They detest organically grown food and prefer to eat synthetically produced foods. The reactions when the ships' crews received the order to abandon the project are correspondingly different. The domes are to be blown off and destroyed with the atomic bombs on board , the spaceships are to be ordered back and used again for commercial purposes.

While his colleagues begin to carry out the blasting in anticipation of their return to Earth, resistance grows in Lowell. To prevent the last dome from being blown up, he kills one of the other crew members who is about to place the explosive charge there. Then Lowell separates a dome from the spaceship, in which the other two are and which is shortly afterwards destroyed by a nuclear explosive device. He ignores the orders from the ground station to return and presents technical problems.

He spends many months alone with two robots he calls Dewey (number 1) and Huey (number 2). The third robot, Louie (number 3), got lost while crossing the rings of Saturn . Lowell programs the robots with all the knowledge of plant and forest care he can gather. He is increasingly plagued by remorse for killing his colleagues. One day Lowell discovers that the trees in the last remaining dome are shedding their leaves. Lowell tries to find out why. When, to his surprise, he is discovered by a rescue mission, he accidentally learns from the radio conversation why the forest is dying: it is too far away from the light of the sun with the spaceship. Lowell sends the dome, which is now equipped with artificial light, into space as a closed biotope. Then he armed all the atomic bombs on board the baseship and destroyed the Valley Forge with him and the damaged Huey on board. The robot Dewey, on the other hand, remains in the dome, which was recently removed, and tends to the surviving plants and animals there.


The eponymous term silent running describes the crawl of submerged submarines , based on the undiscovered flight of Valley Forge through the solar system.



  • Director Douglas Trumbull was previously responsible for special effects in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 film : A Space Odyssey . Kubrick wanted the stargate to be placed around Saturn at the end of the film. However, this failed due to the technical possibilities at the time; therefore, Jupiter was finally staged in Kubrick's film. Trumbull was later able to implement the scene to his satisfaction and then use it for his film.
  • To save costs, he hired talented students to create the special effects for his first directorial work. One of them, John Dykstra , was later responsible for the effects in Star Wars, among other things .
  • Trumbull previously worked with special effects expert Richard Yuricich in 2001: A Space Odyssey ; later both were instrumental in the special effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind , Star Trek: The Movie , Blade Runner and Project Brainstorm .
  • In the German version, Bruce Dern was dubbed by Christian Brückner .
  • The shots of the man-made forests on the spaceship were originally intended to be shot at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee , Wisconsin , but the limited budget of $ 1.1 million only allowed the shots to be shot in a newly built aircraft hangar Van Nuys , California .
  • Various sequences of the spaceship recordings were reused in the TV series Battlestar Galactica . There they served as pictures of the refugee fleet's agricultural ships.


  • As in the film , only a dome remains of the model of Valley Forge that was used for the special effects. The eight-meter-long model of the spaceship remained in Trumbull's private property for a few years and was then dismantled. The dome, which was still in good condition, was sold for $ 11,000 on eBay in 2003 . It is on display today at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle , Washington.
  • The Valley Forge spaceship model was largely built from parts of a Japanese kit that could actually be assembled into a model of a German tank. 850 pieces of this model kit were used for the spaceship. Many other parts of the spaceship were individually cast from synthetic resin and then used in the model.
The robot "Trick" (orig. Dewey)
  • The three robots that help Lowell maintain the plant domes were originally called "Huey, Dewey and Louie". These are the names of Donald Duck's nephews, which are called Tick, Trick and Track in German . In the German synchronization the English names were retained, in the Italian they were given the names "Paperino" (corresponds to Donald Duck), "Paperone" (corresponds to Dagobert Duck ) and "Paperina" (corresponds to Daisy Duck).
  • The "robots" were moved by extras such as Mark Persons ( Dewey ), Steve Brown and Cheryl Sparks ( Huey ) and Larry Whisenhunt ( Louie ), who had both legs amputated and were therefore small enough to fit into the robot costumes. The producing studio was initially against using amputees and favored children or people of short stature. The costumes, which weigh around 9 kg, were designed to match the respective extras and are still in the private ownership of Douglas Trumbull.


  • The English article Special Effects In The Movies in the 1974 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future contains a comprehensive article about the production of the film with some photos of the production.
  • In a modification (Mod) published in 2012 for the computer game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , the crash site of the last dome is inserted in the geothermal region, south of Windhelm. The robot Dewey survived this crash, stands deactivated in the center of the destroyed dome, holds a watering can in a gripper arm and waters a surviving tree.


The American composer Peter Schickele is responsible for the film's soundtrack. The theme song Rejoice in the Sun and the title Silent Running are sung by Joan Baez . The (short) lyrics come from the American songwriter Diane Lampert . Both titles have been released exclusively on the soundtrack LP and a single. Joan Baez was enthusiastic about the film herself and saw it several times in the cinema.

The timpani , which is prominently perceptible in the film , was struck by the American percussionist and film musician Milt Holland (1917–2005).

The first single Silent Running (1985) by Mike & the Mechanics was named after the film.

Silent Running is also the name of an Irish band .

In 2011 the British band 65daysofstatic released their own version of the score for Silent Running. She completely re-set the film to music. The album was released on November 14, 2011.


View into the hangar of the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge around 1951

The interior shots were shot on the disused aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV-45) , which was used in the Korean War and Vietnam .

The producers of the film long searched for a location that could represent a large cargo deck, control rooms and living areas of a spaceship. To rebuild this would have exceeded the financial framework of the budget. So they looked for a suitable location in extensive warehouses, cargo ships and oil tankers. Only a request to the US Navy for a disused aircraft carrier brought success. The producers were sent to the Long Beach, California military shipyard for a number of disused Essex-class ships , including the Valley Forge aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 1946 . The name of the ship goes back to the Valley Forge camp in the American Revolutionary War , where George Washington camped during the fighting. In honor of the location, the name of the aircraft carrier was adopted for the spaceship.

The former hangar for the aircraft was repainted and equipped with futuristic plastic containers (about 160 cm in diameter) and should be shown in the film as a cargo hold. The area of ​​the flight control center was heavily redesigned in order to map the control room and lounge area of ​​the spaceship. Partitions were cut out to make room for technology, cameras and the freedom of movement for the actors. Computer consoles, plastic objects and other props were supposed to transform the aircraft carrier into a spaceship for the camera. The production team was allowed to rebuild everything there as long as no metal was removed. Electricity also had to be relocated to the locations as production was not allowed to use the ship's power supply. The narrowness of the location also made some changes to the shooting necessary. Eight months after filming ended, in October 1971, the aircraft carrier was sold for scrap.


  • United States: March 10, 1972
  • Germany: April 26, 1974


"Technically excellent science fiction film that tries to describe the discomfort with the advancing mechanization of the environment."

“The tension comes on quiet feet. Folk singer Joan Baez contributed two songs to this ecotopia. Conclusion: A quiet memorial against the destruction. "

“Successful debut film by the special effects technician Trumbull [...] A sure-fire, clever film journey into the near future. (Rating: 2½ out of 4 possible stars - above average) "

- Adolf Heinzlmeier and Berndt Schulz : Lexicon "Films on TV"


The film was nominated in 1973 for the Hugo Award in the category Best Dramatic Presentation.


  • Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future , article Special Effects In The Movies . 1974, pp. 10-31.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Entry in the German synchronous file
  2. Budget according to IMDb
  3. 1974 Encyclopedia Britannica "Yearbook of Science and the Future", article "Special Effects In The Movies", p. 20.
  4. Unsung Heroes: Silent Running's Drones (English) ( Memento of 12 January 2016 Internet Archive )
  5. Silent Running Soundtrack (Peter Schickele 1972) 31:45 min.
  6. 65 vs Silent Running (English)
  7. Silent in space. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  8. film review
  9. ^ Adolf Heinzlmeier, Berndt Schulz: Lexicon "Films on Television" (extended new edition). Rasch and Röhring, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-89136-392-3 , p. 484.