The First Men in the Moon

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The First Men in the Moon
"The Grand Lunar"
Written by: H. G. Wells
Central Theme:
Synopsis: Two men visit the Moon and interact with the natives.
Genre(s): Scientific romance
First published: 1901
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The First Men in the Moon is the name of an H. G. Wells novel about two Edwardian-era Englishmen who utilise some Applied Phlebotinum to fly to the moon for a bit of a jolly gadabout. It Got Worse.

There have been two filmed adaptions - one in 1964, directed by Nathan Juran, and more recently by Mark Gatiss

In the 1964 film, the United Nations has launched a rocket flight to the Moon. A multi-national group of astronauts in the UN spacecraft land on the Moon, believing themselves to be the first lunar explorers. They discover a Union Jack Flag on the surface and a note naming Bedford and Cavor, claiming the Moon for Queen Victoria. This discovery drives the plot, as the UN and many journalists seek out these men to get them to recount their first mission to the moon in the 1800s. Only Bedford is still alive and tells the story.

The 2010 film sticks much more closely to the H.G. Wells original, with Professor Cavor and Bedford engaging in their flight to the moon alone. The ending is significantly changed, quite brilliantly.

Tropes used in The First Men in the Moon include:
  • Actual Pacifist: Cavor becomes something of a Technical Pacifist in the Gatiss adaption when he kills every Selenite to keep the earth safe.
  • Alternate History: It's just no-one believes Bedford.
  • Anti Gravity: Cavorite blocks gravity. Put a sheet of it between yourself and the Earth and you're weightless—or, rather, you're now in the weak gravitational grip of the Moon.
  • Artistic License Physics: It's highly unlikely that a "gravity column" would flush a planet's atmosphere out into space...
  • Brain In a Jar: The Grand Lunar's natural form seems to be this, only the "jar" is the inside of the moon itself.
  • Cassandra Truth: The 2010 film is set in 1969, just prior to the "first" official moon landing. Bedford's been to the moon, and has kinematographic evidence. No-one believes him, and his films are regarded as fakes.
  • Cool Starship: Cavor's polyhedral spaceship is not only the first spaceship; it's the first spaceship with curtains.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Cavor is good at physics and only physics. The Selenites get even more extreme. Bedford in the novel gets to exploit that.
  • Dawn of an Era: Averted. Cavor desperately wants the voyage to be this trope, but events conspire to prevent this.
  • Dilating Door: The Selenites' lunar iris is a physically huge example of one.
  • Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion: The Selenites invasion gets stopped remarkably easily physically speaking. Cavor simply has to kill them all to do it...
  • Damsel in Distress: Kate in the 1964 film, who does nothing but nearly get them killed.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Grand Lunar becomes one of these once introduced to the concept of empire and conquest by Cavor.
  • First Contact: It doesn't end well.
  • Fungus Humongous
  • Foreshadowing: Bedford's repeated use of the word "Imperial" as a suplerlative sets up the Selenites' plan to invade and conquer Earth
  • For Science!: Cavor's entire motivation.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Gatiss' conceit that Cavor used a sheet of Cavorite to flush the moon's atmosphere into space, rendering the moon the airless dead world Aldrin and Armstrong discover. An extremely elegant solution to the problem that Science Marches On.
  • Fridge Horror: Cavor destroys an entire sentient race to prevent them fighting a war with humanity. While, yes, a huge war would have been awful, most wars tend to end, and usually with diplomacy and peace (or at least a cessation of conflict for some time). There's no reason there couldn't have been peace in the future.
  • Fridge Logic: In the novel the ending is not as hopeless it seems for the humanity. They just need to get some half-way clever and imaginative people involved to change the course of what had been an Idiot Plot. For example, Cavor's three assistant could probably help with figuring out how to make cavorite if someone thought to ask. And so on.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: An alternative version. Cavor doesn't give the Selenites radio, but he does give them the concept of war and conquest.
    • In the novel he gives them the secret of how to make cavorite. The Selenites were already familiar with violence and weapons, though Cavor's descriptions of Earth's weaponry probably gave them new ideas.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: In the novel the Selenites see gold as Worthless Yellow Rocks and use it to make mundane items.
  • Heavyworlder: Inverted. Well, the Selenites are from the moon, where the gravity is lower, after all...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the 2010 version, Cavor destroys the moon's atmosphere to prevent an alien invasion, dying in the process
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Cavor is afraid that humanity will fight over the moon, as they do the rest of the Earth. Ironically, his fear turns out to be justified, as the Selenites quickly adjust to the idea that being a bastard might be fun.
  • Idiot Plot: Apparently completely intentional in Wells's novel, given its themes.
  • Interplanetary Voyage
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Really Cavor, you should have shot Kate with the Elephant Gun the moment she handed it to you. She has done nothing but cause problems, particularly after she's on the sphere.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cavor's reaction to teaching The Grand Lunar about conquest and empire.
  • Panty Shot: In the film version, Kate falls victim to this when the pod leaves Earth's atmosphere. Of course, she's wearing white Victorian bloomers, but still...
  • Science Marches On: The depiction of the moon can be rather jarring, what with air and food...
    • Averted entirely by Gatiss' version; at the beginning it looks like the science will be utterly outdated only to reveal at the end that Professor Cavor used a sheet of Cavorite to flush all the oxygen off the moon in a heroic sacrifice to save the Earth from a Selenite invasion, simultaeously creating the deserted, airless moon discovered by Aldrin and Armstrong. A shot of a Selenite watching the 1969 landing suggests that Cavor may have been unsuccessful
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Despite Cavor mentioning that the moon is 250,000 miles away, they make the journey in an unspecified, but nonetheless shorter space of time than it would take...
  • Shout-Out: In the 2010 film, Beford has a dream sequence that is almost exactly identical to the fantasy cinema of George Melies.
  • Speculative Fiction: well, it is HG Wells. Given how Science has marched on, the speculative part is quite emphatic.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Selenites are a particularly strange breed - each is born to the life role they will have, the roles allocated by The Grand Lunar
  • Starfish Language
  • Steampunk: Especially the Gatiss adaption.
  • Strawman News Media: The media are type 4. Once the first reporter attempts to interview a United Nations official, the message spreads and soon dozens of reporters are present. [1]
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bedford shines among the cast of the novel for having some self-preservation instinct. Cavor not so much. Even the Grand Lunar for all its intelligence made some serious errors that would have gotten it killed if the human involved had been someone other than Cavor.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Selenites are pretty vulnerable to a punch to the head. It's like hitting cinder toffee, apparently...
  • Your Head Asplode: See Weaksauce Weakness above.