Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets starts with this awesome montage

showing humanity's progress through a series of peaceful handshakes as vessels and space stations rendezvous and their crews meet and shake hands.

The initial footage is from the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and then proceeds through sequences in 2020, 2031, and 2150 with various Earth and Galactic cultures meeting in peace.

Now, my question is about the dates selected. This montage is clearly crafted to draw the viewer into the setting and make it appear connected to our present day rather than some arbitrary distant future or place (cf. Star Trek and Star Wars). Yet the station depicted in 2020 is clearly far beyond what we'll have in the immediate future, so the connection is broken (for me).

So, do we have any commentary on this choice? Does the date have a significance in the comics? Is it not supposed to be our future? Is there some other explanation?

  • 6
    It's an alternate future where, instead of being shitty to each other, we all got along and didn't waste trillions fighting dumb proxy wars in dreadful countries.
    – Valorum
    Nov 21, 2017 at 17:52
  • Well, if that's the answer, then it's supposed to be an alternate history and not really connected to us. Is that evidenced? Nov 21, 2017 at 17:53
  • I'm moderately convinced that I saw it in an interview. Hang fire and I'll find the quote when I get to a proper computer
    – Valorum
    Nov 21, 2017 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


In short, the world of Valerian is one in which the docking of the Soyuz and the Apollo heralded a new era of international cooperation rather than a further twenty years of Cold War. A large international co-project was evidently announced and the Alpha Space station was built in Earth orbit by the Russians and the Americans.

What happened in 1998, at Alpha Space Station in orbit around the blue-green world, was not merely two nations meeting. When the European Hermes spaceplane, proposed in the same year as that first historic handshake, arrived to dock at Alpha, it represented a coalition of nations. Space was no longer the province of a few tiny humans, but was rapidly evolving to belong to humanity.

The space station grew as time went by. In the year 2019, China’s massive Tiangong-3 spaceship was warmly welcomed when it came to take its place at Alpha. The captain of the Alpha Space Station, one thirty-year-old James Crowford, enthusiastically greeted his Chinese counterpart Wuang Hu, who himself could not seem to stop smiling. Later historians would mark this moment as the end of international tension, and the beginning of what was the first Great Age of human cooperation.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: The Official Movie Novelization

As to why Besson chose the images and audio, the intention was to show a happy and hopeful view of human history.

Crave: Speaking of Alpha, your opening sequence in Valerian is the origin of Alpha, but it also plays like a mission statement. It’s all about how science and science fiction can bring about this message of hope for the future. Was that your intent, or did you just want to do a cool music video?

Besson: [Laughs.] No, no. It was very, very important and it was an idea that I had for a long time. I wanted to start with some footage from 1972. I want to start from who we are, okay? In 1972, Americans and Russians are able to smile to each other and shake their hands. And we forgot! It starts well. Everything was well until six months ago! [Laughs.]

But it’s very important to show that these humans, no matter where they come from… okay, here is Russia and America, but they’re so happy to meet! They’re so happy to shake their hands. And then after we see the Chinese and they’re happy too. And then we see the alien. We see everyone and then the first alien, and we are little nervous when we met the first one but we smile and we shake hands. I just love that. I just love to see that we are writing our future. So we are we writing something so dark? Everything is possible on paper. It’s doesn’t mean that we will finally have a world so idealistic, but at least we can write it, you know?

Interview | Luc Besson, ‘Valerian’ and the Science Fiction of Optimism

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