In the future, Earth sucks, so humans grow food throughout the solar system. Somehow, Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett have ended up a couple working on one of these hydroponics stations on Saturn’s third moon, and Harvey Keitel is a crazy astronaut who effectively works as a delivery guy and installation tech. He’s basically the cable guy, only he delivers killer robots. The future suck.
Keitel is Captain Benson, who has recently been rated as likely crazy and grounded. He decides to murder a guy being rushed out the door on a mission and then takes over his job as delivery boy. When he arrives on Saturn 3, he finds the older Major Adam (Kirk Douglas) worked hard with his lover and fellow scientist, Alex (Farrah Fawcett). They’ve created a little paradise for themselves on Saturn 3, but Benson shows his crazy Earth ways, which include being blunt, jealousy, and taking copious amounts of drugs. Benson also reveals a robot, Hector, that has been sent to likely replace Adam. Benson trains Hector through direct connection to his brain and a freaky giant mass of tissue that makes up Hector’s biological side, and soon Hector is also lusting after Alex and on the warpath. End result? One dead dog, a robot wearing a severed head and very few survivors.
Saturn 3 is a weird mixture of Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the edge of boredom. Certain plot points make little sense, like why exactly did Benson murder a guy at the start, and whether Hector is malfunctioning or if Benson’s brain is so screwed up that it ruined Hector before it had a chance. The facility itself varies between dimly lit corridors and brightly lit bedrooms. Some of it seems palatable, while others resemble a submarine where the manufacturer didn’t want to blow cash on things like lighting.
One refreshing aspect of the film is that, while Alex is considered naive for having never been to Earth and only grown up in space, there is never a question that she doesn’t deserve to be working in a hydroponics facility. She could have been billed as merely a secretary or something, but instead she’s a scientist, and that is never questioned…though she’s definitely not in charge, is still the object of desire that’s being fought over, and she’s getting very little say in any of this. Hey, look, that refreshing feeling is gone.
Now the universe that Saturn 3 exists in is a strange place. Humans keep a record tattooed on their faces of places they’ve been apparently, as Benson is able to look at Alex’s and know that she has never traveled to Earth. Pills are offered freely with little explanation as to what they’re used for. The robot, Hector, is designed with a strange tiny head and extended neck apparatus, as if it’s another arm, though the core is a two foot tube of grey matter built in a lab from human fetuses. How’s that for a thinking machine? Space ships are surprisingly lackluster when they’re major craft, though Benson’s tiny landing craft looks like the head of an insect. It’s a disconcerting design, to say the least.
Ultimately, Saturn 3 tanked. Apparently there were some studio problems, and critics hated it despite getting to see nudity from both Farrah Fawcett AND Kirk Douglas in the same picture. The movie did well at the Golden Raspberries, but that was pretty much it. Now it sits in an era of Science Fiction cinema full of Star Wars and Alien knock offs (of which Saturn 3 is much more the latter) but at the beginning of what would become an amazing decade for the genre.