As I mentioned myself a few weeks ago, and which many of you have seen for yourselves, The Handmaids Tale (Hulu reboot) has been seen as topical, especially for Americans, not so much for the ascent of the religious right (which, save for having a representative as Vice President and perhaps future President, has been weakened), but for the rapid deterioration of political climate, basic rights and dignity. So, I was thinking back and wondering what movies or tv episodes from sci fis past may have been especially topical in their day.
I immediately thought of Star Treks “Let That be your Last Battlefield,” about two races from the same planet who could not get over their superficial bigotry and were locked in a deadly war that wiped out all life on their planet. The episode aired in early 1969 and is particularly reminiscent of the riots of the Spring of 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Some Wikipedia notes, if true, suggest that the episode was actually written originally for the first season, and was thus meant to air in 1966/7. If that’s so, perhaps the writer had the 1965 Watts riot in mind. Similarly, though in perhaps a less heavy handed manner, the film, District 9 is largely metaphor for all the years of South Africa’s apartheid.
I was also wondering about a film just recently mentioned here, Soylent Green, from 1973. The cannibalistic theme brings to mind the rugby team plane crash in the Andes late in 1972. Could there have been an influence? The survivors were finally rescued in late December of 1972. I can’t recall myself, but imagine the story was big news around Christmas and New Years of 1972. SG wrapped at the end of January in 1973. So, though I’m sure the film was mostly written well before this rescue occurred, it seems to me that some more drama could have been put around this reveal following the news. Or maybe it’s just coincidence! However, Johny Byrne, who wrote a similarly themed episode for Space 1999 (would have aired in early 1976, in the US), “Mission of the Darians” mentions the influence of the Andes crash. He does not mention Soylent Green, which had long since been released.
For a more recent example, I recall that many mentioned at the time that the Battlestar Galactica reboot of the early 2000s was written from a post 9/11 perspective. in particular, the primary enemy, the Cylons, could now look like “us” and live among us.
So, keep in mind that many of these tales of alternate histories, future extrapolations, and alien world are really about a fascinating species on Earth.