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In an interview with George Lucas, he said that he wanted everything in Star Wars to look like it would in real life. All worn, with scratches and repaired parts. Plus, not everything worked perfectly, such as the various issues with the Millennium Falcon.

This was distinctly different from prior science fiction pieces (movies or TV shows) where everything is perfectly clean and never malfunctions.

Was this the first time this was done in a movie or even TV show?

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    Erm. I'm sure there wouldn't have been any need for Lieutenant Montgomery Christopher Jorgensen "Scotty" Scott, Jr. in Star Trek TOS, had things not broken down from time to time...
    – John Bell
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:48
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    @jakegould - of course they're exceptions to the rule. Star Wars was an exception to the rule - and even after Star Wars, there's still plenty of "pristine" sci-fi environments out there. The question is "was Star Wars the first".
    – HorusKol
    Nov 27, 2015 at 10:46
  • +1 I actually remember wondering this myself a few decades ago when it dawned on me that one of the key atmospheric differences between 'Trek and 'Wars was the relative sterility of Trek -- and almost all other sci-fi-ish things. (Depictions of Krypton drove me up the wall as a kid, yet 2001 didn't bother me and somehow felt far more plausible. Maybe because Dave visibly sweated and the primitive life scenes were sufficiently grungy...?)
    – zxq9
    Nov 27, 2015 at 12:19
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    Are you referring to "used future" environments? Nov 27, 2015 at 19:33
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    @user1886419 I agree that Star Wars is fantasy, but the question isn't specifically about the Star Wars universe, it's generally about dramatic presentation in set design, thus the differences between science fiction and fantasy are pretty much not relevant to the discussion.
    – Paul
    Nov 27, 2015 at 20:39

2 Answers 2

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Was this [Star Wars] the first time this [used and worn look] was done in a movie or even TV show?

No - Dark Star was filmed in 1974, and was set in a worn out ship, with a crew that had been living on there for months, or even years. Things break... badly.

While we don't see any more of the universe beyond the ship - you still get a feel that the conditions of the ship are not unusual. While the film requires the ship to be broken down for the script, you just get the feeling that there are lots of other ships just like it out there.

Another more realistic example of space flight is the 1972 movie - Silent Running. The ships are scuffed, the crew areas have obviously been lived in (a retired aircraft carrier was used for interiors). We even see multiple ships, providing a wider view into the movies universe.

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  • Okay, that does seem like it fits the bill, but I've got only one minor issue since I haven't seen it. While the setting was a broken ship, this could be a broken ship in a spotless universe. Was the universe presented as being the same as Lucas is describing for Star Wars? (If you can avoid spoilers, please do).
    – Paul
    Nov 27, 2015 at 2:59
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    In Dark Star, to be honest and without spoiling too much, there is really little presented of the universe outside the ship.
    – Ghanima
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:35
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    @Paul The Star Wars universe isn't all gritty either. Imperial ships are gleaming, the Tantive IV is white and spotless, Cloud City is well lit and clean (at least the residential areas), and the prequels completely lose the style. It's largely Rebel ships, the Falcon and Tatooine which have that "used future" look, which makes sense.
    – Schwern
    Nov 27, 2015 at 21:51
  • @Schwern Yes, but if an Empire Star Destroyer crash landed, it probably wouldn't be so pristine.
    – Paul
    Nov 28, 2015 at 2:26
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    @Paul Yes... how is that relevant?
    – Schwern
    Nov 28, 2015 at 2:28
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TV Tropes has a page about this, Used Future.

Shows on the other end of the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty treat the future as a place where real people live, and where spaceships look dirty, dingy, and used, like heavy equipment that one might find at a lonely truck stop in the middle of the night right now.

They cite Moon Zero Two (1969), Silent Running (1972), and Dark Star (1974) as pre-Star Wars sci-fi examples. Silent Running and Dark Star definitely fit the bill. But I just rewatched Moon Zero Two and it's more like "cheap sets" than "used future".

You can have the joy of watching the MST3K episode of Moon Zero Two!

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