In the 1960’s science fiction was about ideas. It was also about rocket ships and invading space aliens, but there was still plenty of room for books about ideas. Even ideas based in actual science. This is still true, but you’d never know judging from what’s playing at the local theatre and on cable television. Not much in the way of ideas there.
Once in a while, yes, but not like in the 1960’s. Solaris is about a thinking planet that knows us better than we know ourselves. It’s not really the planet that thinks but the ocean sized life form that appears to make up the planet, but that’s besides the point. The planet can read the minds of the men in the space station orbiting it. More than that, it can read their subconscious minds. It knows things about them that even they do not know: their secrets, their sins, their desires, the things they try to deny about themselves.
For reasons the men never understand, Solaris begins sending people to them, people from their past. In the narrator’s case a girlfriend who died years before. The two have unfinished business–we suspect the narrator is somehow the cause of the girlfriend’s death. Because Solaris knows her only from the narrator’s memories, she is imperfect. She’s just like he remembers her, but she is not quite like herself. She’s the girl he remembers falling in love with, not the actual girl he loved.
The temptation lies in whether or not the narrator should accept her, allow her to live or run from her. Is she a trap sent by the planet to destroy their mission or is she a gesture of peace, and attempt to establish friendship? The narrator only knows that he is falling in love with the girl before him.
Imagine you could have an old love back again. Imagine that old love to be the person you wanted, the person you enjoy remembering, not the actual person, but the one you thought was the true one before everything went wrong. Is giving you that person an gesture of peace or an act of aggression?
You won’t find anything like that on the Sci Fi channel.
In the five years since I first ran this review on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B., the SyFy Channel has gotten much better. While I haven’t seen anything quite as thought provoking as Solaris, the overall quality both in production values and the story-lines are much improved. I wish I could say the same for movies, but they seem to be all super-heroes all the time these days.