SCIENCE FICTION: VOYAGE TO THE EDGE OF IMAGINATION
A muddled itinerary
OPEN UNTIL 4 MAY Venue Science Museum, London
Befitting the venue, this ambitious exhibition aims to keep the real science in SF. It’s a worthy intent, but the exhibit strives to cover so many different bases that it’s stretched thin. It has lots of film props and costumes, and many educational videos to watch, on subjects from ecological disaster to travelling faster than light. Everything is wrapped up in a theme park-style journey, where a friendly alien AI popping up on video screens leads you through the areas of a spaceship, with a side trip to a new world for a lightshow first encounter.
The experience is colourful but disjointed, and the science and the fiction never quite meet comfortably, often getting in each other’s way. Certainly there are items to enjoy, from Boris Karloff’s Monster costume on a mannequin to a similarly outsized alien from The Fifth Element. Effort has clearly been made to go beyond just white creatives, with representations of the fiction of Octavia E Butler and the work of singer/author Janelle Monae.
In an especially poignant juxtaposition, an image of Mae Jemison, the first black astronaut, is placed beside a costume worn by one of her inspirations, Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols.
Ultimately, however, the exhibit doesn’t match the triumph of a previous SF exhibition at the
Barbican Centre in 2017, which was madly dense and more enjoyable. There’s a lingering sense that the need to justify the exhibition’s presence in an educational institution works against the fun – and, indeed, the education.
The exhibition was designed by the visual effects studio Framestore, which also creates theme park attractions worldwide.