2010: The Year We Make Contact

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

2010: The Year We Make Contact, directed by Peter Hyams and released in 1984, is the film adaption of 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke (published 1982). It is the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Following the continuity established by that movie rather than the original novel (for the most part, anyway), it is about the second manned mission to Jupiter, following up on the mysterious disappearance of David Bowman aboard the ill-fated Discovery mission nine years earlier.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), an astronomer who took the blame for the failure of the Discovery, is tapped to go on the mission along with two other U.S. scientists -- engineer Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), who is tasked with boarding Discovery and restoring its systems; and computer scientist Dr. R. Chandra (Bob Balaban), who designed the H.A.L. 9000 and is seeking to answer the question of why it malfunctioned and tried to kill its crew.

Their mission is complicated by the fact that they are traveling aboard a Soviet spaceship, the Alexei Leonov, whose crew is not at all friendly to their presence and may be operating under a completely different set of orders. In addition to exploring Jupiter and salvaging Discovery, they must also try to solve the mystery of the Monolith, an enormous alien artifact orbiting the planet that is apparently connected with Bowman's disappearance. And of course, the creators of the Monolith have an agenda all their own, one that might alter the future of humanity forever.

The film 2010 was viewed by some as a Genre Shift due to the change of directors and tone. It's much more of an action film, concentrating on the conflicts between the Russian and American crews and the dangers they face in their exploration of Jupiter. It follows the plot of the novel 2010 fairly closely, although the Cold War-becoming-hot aspect is completely invented for the film and the time scale dramatically compressed.

Tropes used in 2010: The Year We Make Contact include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: Depending on your point of view, the Cold War tension either makes the movie much more dramatic or is completely superfluous to the plot. The time scale of the events in the book is heavily compressed -- it's more dramatic when you have two days to get away than two weeks. The Chinese spaceship Tsien and its subplot regarding the Europa landing is completely removed in the movie, replaced by the Leonov detecting life signs on Europa and sending an unmanned probe. Other less relevant subplots are removed entirely, such as Floyd's marriage break-up and the romantic relationships between the crew; while Max's death during an EVA to the Monolith was added for the film.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: When Bowman (as the Star Child) returns to give a warning to Floyd, he creates a projection of himself as a human to give Floyd something to talk to.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Deconstructed. The reasons for HAL's "malfunction" are thoroughly explored and it turns out he was acting in a way that, to him, was completely logical.
  • All There in the Manual: The novel contains a lot more story details than the film, of course, but these details fill in a number of Plot Holes, the largest of which is why Floyd is unable to provide evidence of Bowman's visitation and why HAL doesn't remember it (Bowman erased it from HAL's memory).
  • Apocalyptic Log: The last survivor of the Chinese expedition in the novel broadcasts what happened when they encountered life on Europa.
  • Arc Words: Compare Dr. Chandra's answers for the same question from SAL and HAL.

SAL: Will I dream?
Dr. Chandra: Of course you will. All intelligent beings dream. Nobody knows why.

HAL: Dr. Chandra, will I dream?
Dr. Chandra: I don't know.

  • Artificial Gravity: Averted in the novel and used somewhat schizophrenically in the movie: the rotating environment module of the Leonov was apparently made up by the art team so they could justify having the actors walking normally on the set, even though it doesn't make sense at all from a design standpoint. The novel states and some filmed scenes imply that the astronauts use Velcro-soled shoes to help them stay "upright".
  • Artistic License Physics:
    • Selective Gravity: On the bridge, Floyd uses two pens floating in microgravity to illustrate how the spaceships can escape from Jupiter. Only the pens are floating - everyone around the demonstration is standing on the floor.
    • You can try to explain the problem of gravity on the bridge by saying everyone's wearing Velcro-soled shoes, but you can't get around the scene where Floyd offers Kirbuk the squeezebottle of bourbon, because the liquid behaves like it's under gravity.
    • Although the depictions of Jupiter and Io were based on Voyager photos (see Shown Their Work), most people don't realize that Voyager's photos as they're usually published are in false color: the color saturation is heavily exaggerated, especially for reds, and this color scheme is carried through in the movie.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Bowman is back as the Star Child, after being forcibly ascended by the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens in 2001. At the very end, and by his request, HAL joins him.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Leonov isn't so much bigger on the inside, like the Discovery was in 2001, but rather its interior sets are entirely the wrong shape to fit into its hull. The sets looked like they were all built on the same level to facilitate Walk and Talk shots.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Unbuilt Trope. Clarke, who lived in Sri Lanka, made Dr. Chandra an Indian computer scientist in the novel before it became a popular stereotype.
  • Call Back: Peter Hyams tried to make this movie as different from 2001 as possible, with a few exceptions --
    • "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" appearing on the soundtrack.
    • Bowman's use of Offscreen Teleportation as his age shifts back and forth when talking to Floyd, the only scene that actively tried to imitate the style of 2001.
    • The steadily accelerating beep of the space probe's radar signal as it approaches the life signs on Europa, similar to the scene in 2001 when Bowman locates Poole's body in space.
    • The reflection of the pod's controls on Max's helmet.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the novel, Bowman's discovery that Jupiter's core is "a diamond as big as the Earth" sets up major plot points for 2061.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Specifically invoked with respect to the aliens' technology.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: While HAL 9000's eye is of course red, SAL 9000's is blue. Also an inversion of Pink Girl, Blue Boy.
    • American spacesuits are white; Soviet spacesuits are silver.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Before discussing HAL's malfunction with the crew, Chandra tells HAL, "If you will excuse us, we wish to have a private conversation." He hits a few keys on the HAL console in Discovery's pod bay and the monitor turns off. However, the red light in HAL's camera lens is still on. And if you really wanted to be paranoid, there's still another HAL camera looking through the window of the pod bay control room.
  • Constantly Curious: Christopher Floyd, when he asks his father why he needs to go into hibernation.
  • Creator Cameo: Arthur C. Clarke appears as a man on a park bench in front of the White House.
  • Creator In-Joke: In one scene, the cover of Time magazine appears with portraits of Clarke and Kubrick as the U.S. president and Soviet premier, respectively.
    • Artistic License Linguistics: However, during the war announcement, Millson says the Soviet premier is named Yulanova, which is a woman's surname.
  • Creepy Monotone: HAL's back... as is his "eye".
  • Cut the Juice: Floyd and Curnow install a cutoff switch in HAL's wiring as a safeguard against a repeat of the 2001 incident. Subverted when Chandra reveals that he anticipated their ploy and removed the device.
  • Dawn of an Era: "The next day, the President of the United States looked out of the White House window, and the Premier of the Soviet Union looked out of the Kremlin window, and saw the new distant sun in the sky. They read the message, and perhaps they learned something, because they finally recalled their ships and their planes."
  • Death by Adaptation: Max Brailovsky in the film.
  • Dirty Communists
    • The Russian crew of the Leonov start out acting paranoid toward the Americans, but grow more friendly toward them as the space scenes advance. However, when events on Earth reach a flashpoint, the Americans are sequestered aboard Discovery.
    • The Alexei Leonov was originally supposed to be named the Gherman Titov, who was the second cosmonaut and the first man to spend a day in space. Apparently, Titov "fell out of favor".
      • In Real Life, Titov died in 2000. Leonov was still alive in 2010 (and still is).
  • Distant Finale: "20,001" in the novel.
  • Do Androids Dream?: HAL's poignant question, "Will I dream?" is never truly answered.
    • It is, however, honestly answered. Early in the film, another computer asks the same question, and Chandra says "Of course, all intelligent creatures dream, and nobody knows why." When HAL asks it when he knows he may be dying, Chandra decides on the honest answer: "I don't know." This honesty is what persuades HAL to make his Heroic Sacrifice.
      • Dave is more reassuring, telling HAL that he will be whereever Dave is now.
  • Do-Anything Robot: The Monoliths. They can teach potentially intelligent lifeforms how to hunt with weapons, transmit a radio signal when exposed to light, serve as an interdimensional transportation system, reproduce themselves, compress Jupiter's mass to initiate fusion and destroy probes attempting to land on Europa. In the novel, Curnow explicitly compares them to Swiss Army Knives.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Played for humor in the novel -- when the astronauts are connecting Leonov to Discovery in order to use the latter as a booster, they use a lot of... tape. Very strong tape, but still.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: or rather, a Jupiter Shattering Implosion.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The end of the movie shows two suns in the sky over various Earth landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge.
  • Energy Beings: Bowman, as the Star Child.
    • HAL joins him at the end of the novel, and it's implied in the film he will as well.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Occurs aboard the Leonov when the shockwave hits it.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Averted on the Leonov, whose displays are very practical, but of course HAL's screens show up again.
  • Fire-Forged Friends. Max and Curnow. In the book, it goes much further than that (albeit off-stage).
  • First Contact: Check out the title.
  • Flirting Under Fire: The ship's nutritionist, Irina Yakunina,[1] goes to Floyd's quarters so that they can spend the harrowing aerobraking maneuver in each other's arms; when it's over, she kisses him on the cheek (but in the novel, she fell asleep).
  • Friendly Playful Dolphins: They swim right into Floyd's living room. The novel explains that "The House of the Dolphins" was built in Hawaii with a tunnel connecting the pool in the living room to the ocean. The movie shows us a beach, but never the outside of the house.
  • Gender Flip: Katerina Rudenko, the Leonov's chief medical officer in the novel, becomes Vladimir Rudenko in the film.
  • Government Conspiracy: The order to reveal the Monolith's existence to HAL, but not Dave or Frank, came from the National Security Council. Also see Retcon.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: In the film, in 2010, the Cold War is still around, and on the verge of getting hot, although it's remarkably right about Honduras' current troubles. This plot is completely absent in the novel; although the USSR is still around, it seems to have successfully adopted glasnost[2] and everyone on Earth pretty much gets along.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: HAL.
  • Human Popsicle: The hibernation systems.
  • Hyperventilation Bag: The equivalent to this when wearing a spacesuit is to add carbon dioxide to the air feed.
  • Idiot Ball: In-universe example in the film. Genre Savvy Floyd was against sending Max in a manned probe of the Monolith, while the overconfident Russians essentially thought Floyd was superstitious. Unfortunately, Floyd was right.
  • Just a Machine: The attitude of several Leonov crew members towards HAL (but not Chandra).
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Chandra is able to make HAL selectively forget about his malfunction and murder of the Discovery's crew. In the novel, Bowman also erases all evidence of his presence from HAL's memory after delivering his message to Floyd. The omission of the latter from the movie creates an Adaptation-Induced Plothole: why would it be so hard to convince HAL of the importance of leaving Jupiter early if Bowman relayed the message through him?
  • Logic Bomb: The reason given for HAL's malfunction in 2001 is that his Obstructive Code of Conduct to not conceal information conflicted with his orders to hide the existence of The Monolith from his crew.
  • Look Behind You!: Used literally by Bowman/The Star Child when he reveals himself to Floyd.
  • Lzherusskie: Dana Elcar as Moiseievich has the most trouble with his accent; his Russian radio messages are dubbed. Helen Mirren's grandfather was Russian and she can pull off the accent, even though she isn't fluent in the language. The rest of the actors playing the Leonov crew are variously really Russian, from other Soviet republics, or Czech.
  • Made in Country X: Everything about the Leonov conveys a sense that Soviet technology is ungainly but tough: the exterior is ridiculously over-engineered, the interiors are mostly dimly lit and filled with haze, and the space pods are awkward and angular compared to the spherical Discovery pods. Ironically, as an Easter Egg, the model builders included a tiny decal to the lower right of the ЛЕОНОВ marking that says "СДЕЛАНО В США" -- "Made in USA". It's barely visible on the Blu-ray in the shot where Walter and Max float out of the airlock. (On the other hand, in the Real Life 2010s, Russian space technology is gaining a reputation for unreliability, particularly because of the failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission.)
  • Malaproper: Russian astronaut Max Brailovsky's attempts to use English similes are played for comic relief.

Brailovsky: Easy as cake.
Curnow: Pie. Easy as pie.
Brailovsky: Piece of pie.
Curnow: Piece of cake.

Floyd: It has to be at least a hundred below zero.
Brailovsky: A typical Russian winter.
Curnow: I'm from California, we don't know from a hundred below zero.

  • My Greatest Failure: Floyd was publicly blamed for the failure of the Discovery mission in 2001 and lost his job as a result. The Leonov mission is his chance to find personal redemption.
  • New Eden: Europa.
  • Nice Hat: See Tragic Keepsake.
  • No Bisexuals: In the book, Walter and Max briefly become a couple. In the film, they have a platonic rivalry-type relationship.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Mostly averted; the clothing in the movie is similar to real 2010 fashion. Bowman's widow wears a Flashdance-style off-the-shoulder T-shirt, which came back into fashion over the past few years so it's justified here.
  • Not Drawn to Scale: On Michael Whelan's cover art for the book, the Monolith is noticeably taller than 1:4:9. (He would later avoid this for the sequel, 2061.) Also see Bigger on the Inside and Rebuilt Set regarding the movie's set design.
    • For that matter, this movie says for the first time that the Monolith's proportions are 1:4:9, but as in 2001, it looks more like 0.5:4:9, because Kubrick felt it looked better that way.
  • The Not-Secret: Floyd has a secret device installed so he can disable Hal in the event Hal goes nuts again. All he has to do is put nine 9's on his calculator, take the square root, and press the INT key[3] to activate the device. He tells the person installing the device to not tell Dr. Chandra about it. This is used for tension during the film. When Dr. Chandra returns to the Leonov he calmly hands the failsafe device to Floyd - he had known about it all along.
  • Nuke'Em: Heywood Floyd casually mentions that they've tried everything they can think of to penetrate the Monolith's exterior, including lasers and nuclear detonators.
  • Number Two: The Leonov's executive officer, Yuri Svetlanov, is a character created for the movie.
  • Oh Crap: Many instances, but the best is when HAL tells Floyd to look behind him. The expression on his face is priceless. Also, when Jupiter implodes, and Floyd sees the shockwave approaching the Leonov.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Györgi Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" returns as the Monolith's Mood Motif.
  • The Other Darrin: Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, replacing William Sylvester from 2001. (A still of Sylvester as Floyd, touching the monolith on the Moon, can be seen in the recap sequence in the beginning.) Averted by Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain, who reprise their roles as Bowman and HAL.
    • Alternate Character Interpretation: In this movie, Heywood Floyd has a much more down-to-earth and blue-collar personality than the officious, patrician portrayal that Sylvester gave him in 2001. Also see Retcon below.
  • Outrun the Fireball: When Jupiter ignites, the Leonov gets to play out this trope. Deliberately Played for Drama in the film; in the novel they have several days' head start and the blast does little more than peg some radiation meters.
  • Precursors: The aliens who made the Monolith choose this moment to make Jupiter go boom.
  • Product Placement: TV commercials are seen for Sheraton hotels and Pan Am (using recycled footage of the spaceplane from 2001.) The computer Floyd uses on the beach is an Apple IIc, and next to it is an issue of Omni magazine (which in Real Life stopped publication in 1995.)
  • Puny Earthlings: This trope is played with; the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens barely recognize humanity as individuals, and are apparently indifferent to the fate of the Leonov and Discovery until Bowman persuades them to allow him to give a warning.
    • It's possible a lot more than this may be happening. The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens tell Bowman "They must never know they are being manipulated; that would ruin the purpose of the experiment", implying that the humans' efforts to save themselves were the work of the aliens all along. Lampshaded by the humans themselves at the end of the novel when one asks what would have happened if they'd kept to their original mission plan and done nothing to save themselves; would Bowman's controllers have intervened?
  • Race Lift: Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai, Dr Chandra for short, is Indian in the novel; in the movie Dr R. Chandra is played by white Jewish actor Bob Balaban.
  • Rebuilt Set: See Prop Recycling in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • The sets weren't even rebuilt that well: not only were all the flatscreens on Discovery replaced with CRTs (see Zeerust below), but 2001 had established that you enter the pod bay by climbing down a ladder and going through the pod bay control room. 2010 has characters entering the pod bay through the spare parts storage room, which was supposed to be a dead end but is now called "Accessway 1" in this movie. In fact, if all the sets in 2010 had been designed logically, people would be climbing ladders all the time (see Bigger on the Inside). However, the shot of Floyd following Bowman through "Accessway 1" probably wouldn't look as cool if it involved using a ladder.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Floyd's wife thinks he's seeking this.
    • HAL is an example, as even though his Face Heel Turn in 2001 was already dealt with, he only achieves redemption in the eyes of the crew when he makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save them.
  • Reentry Scare: The "aerobraking" technique used to enter a close Jupiter orbit.
    • Aerobraking to manipulate orbits had never been tried before at that point. It was first used in the Magellan mission to Venus, when in 1993 they used aerobraking to pull Magellan into a circular orbit, and also estimated "windmilling" with its solar panels. These were done high enough that the probe wouldn't actually burn up, though it was de-orbited and incinerated intentionally when its mission was over.
  • Retcon: Floyd vehemently denies knowing that HAL had been told about the Monolith, and we're clearly meant to believe him. This contradicts 2001, where Floyd explicitly said the existence of the Monolith was revealed only to HAL in the video that played after HAL was disconnected. The novels and films are also inconsistent as to whether FTL Travel is actually taking place. The novel of 2010 clearly states that it is, but by 3001 a different set of rules is in effect.
    • Clarke acknowledged several such inconsistencies[4], stating that each Odyssey book and film takes place in a similar, but slightly different, universe.
  • Scenery Porn: The chapters of the novel in which Bowman, as the Star Child, explores the ecosystems of Jupiter and Europa.
    • Author Appeal: Clarke's interest in alien aquatic life, such as on Europa, probably comes from his scuba-diving hobby. For 2001 he wrote a long passage about Bowman in his pod passing through an ocean on an alien world, which was cut out of that novel but included in The Lost Worlds of 2001.
  • Science Marches On: This was Clarke's motivation to keep writing sequels to 2001. The plot of 2010 was inspired by the Voyager probes' flybys of Jupiter, especially the possibility of life under Europa's icy crust, and he wrote 2061 in response to the 1986 observations of Halley's Comet.
    • This made Stanley Kubrick's version of the plot, moving the mission in 2001 from Saturn to Jupiter, very fortuitous. The first novel sent Discovery to Saturn, with the Monolith found in the vicinity of Iapetus (spelled "Japetus" in the novel, a common British spelling for the moon). The most interesting feature on Iapetus is a ridge that gives it a walnut-like shape. The real-life idea that Europa is now considered more likely to harbor life than Mars makes this change downright fateful!
    • After Clarke died, the Cassini probe showed that it would now be possible to do a story about a monolith on Iapetus protecting emerging life on Enceladus, since it has even better evidence of liquid water under its crust than Europa does.
  • Shout-Out: The novel makes one to Alien ("Whatever you do, don't go chasing after the ship's cat.")
    • The movie's set design for the Leonov is also strongly influenced by that of the Nostromo, as many other science fiction movies were: the interiors are mostly dark and claustrophobic except for the white, brightly lit medical bay and rec room.
  • Shown Their Work: Clarke is a respected astronomer who did as much homework as he could possibly have done at the time the novels were written, and it shows. The film version of 2010 used actual stills of Jupiter and its moons for background plates (except, of course, for the finale).
  • Sinister Geometry: The Monolith makes a reappearance, of course, along with its famous 1:4:9 dimensions.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
  • Society Marches On: It's amazing how similar the geopolitical situation in 2010 is to the one in 1984. Again, this applies to the movie, not the book.
  • Solar CPR
  • Space Is Noisy: Unlike the first movie, 2010 plays this straight.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Advanced enough to turn Jupiter into a star so that the newly discovered life on Europa would have a chance to survive.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Why exactly was it necessary to send a manned EVA pod to the Monolith (in the film) when they apparently had remote controlled probes available, especially considering what happened to Bowman?
    • This is averted in the novel. They send a remote-manned pod instead.
  • Touched by Vorlons: David Bowman, HAL, and by the end of 2061, Heywood Floyd as well.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Max gives Walter his black beret before going on his expedition to the Monolith. After Max's death, Walter keeps wearing it for the rest of the movie, until right before he goes back into hibernation when he puts it on Irina's head.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: When 2001 was being written, it was plausible that mankind might make it to Jupiter by then. 2010 was written with that continuity in mind, despite it being rather less likely. Neither happened on schedule.
  • Vader Breath: During the spacewalk scenes. More like "Vader Hyperventilation."
  • Vagueness Is Coming: One assumes " the monolith is going to transform Jupiter into a sun" would be too hard for folks to understand.

Almost everyone Dave Bowman talks to: What's going to happen?
Dave Bowman: Something wonderful.

  • Virtual Ghost: Being made of energy, Bowman is capable of directly interfacing with computer systems -- he uses this ability to talk to HAL and to several people on Earth, including his (now remarried) wife and his mother.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played for enormous tension in the sequence where Dr. Chandra is asked to convince HAL to use Discovery as a booster to allow the Leonov to escape. Floyd and Curnow want to trick HAL into compliance and disconnect him if he resists, while Chandra insists on telling him the whole truth.
    • The funny part is that Chandra knew Floyd was up to something, and he would not have been able to disconnect HAL with the failsafe device. Floyd's huge grin at Chandra reveals he was happy to be wrong.
  • Zeerust: The second manned mission to Jupiter is launched in time to make it by 2010. The first one had an AI, but in this one the Soviets use CRTs while the Americans have flat-screen displays. Justified in the novel by the fact that they intentionally used small autonomous computer systems to run the ship to avoid the same catastrophe that befell Discovery.
    • It's plausible that if Russia had remained Communist, they could still be using CRTs in 2010. It doesn't explain why all the flatscreens on Discovery turned into CRTs, though.
    • The Apple IIc's design still looks sort of futuristic, if you ignore its thickness and its tiny screen connected with a ribbon cable.
  1. In the novel, the character's name was Xenia Marchenko, and Irina Yakunina was the crew member she replaced at the last minute
  2. Yes, the novel predates Gorbachev, but the same general idea as glasnost anyway
  3. The answer is 31622
  4. in the "Author's Note" to 2061