26

The film 2001: A Space Odyssey is divided into several sections. The first, "The Dawn of Man", takes place in the distant past. This is followed by a sequence in which Heywood Floyd visits the monolith on the moon, and then after that we have the mission to Jupiter, which takes place 18 months later, according to a title card that appears on screen.

Presumably, either the second or third part of the film takes place in the year 2001. But which is it? Does Floyd visit Tycho in 1999 or so, with Bowman and co heading to Jupiter in 2001, or is the monolith discovered in 2001 with the Jupiter mission taking place a year or so later?

5
  • 5
    I'm pretty sure the monolith is detected and uncovered in 2001, with Discovery leaving for Jupiter the next year (2002).
    – DavidW
    Jan 19 at 3:35
  • 4
    no reference to the date in the book fwiw
    – NKCampbell
    Jan 19 at 4:21
  • 5
    The text introduction to the sequel, 2010, says that the monolith was discovered in 1999. However, it also says it was found in the Sea of Tranquillity, not Tycho crater, so that can be safely ignored.
    – GordonD
    Jan 19 at 9:58
  • @GordonD I agree with you that 2010 can be ignored as far as 2001 canon goes, but that's useful all the same - I've posted an answer with that information but won't accept it. (If you'd rather get the points feel free to post your own answer and I'll delete mine.)
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 19 at 11:15
  • @N.Virgo No, leave things as they are; your answer goes into more detail than my comment
    – GordonD
    Jan 20 at 10:42

2 Answers 2

28

The early scripts include a title card preceding Floyd's arrival at the space station that establish the date as 2001. They also include the date of the discovery of TMA-1 in Floyd's secret briefing that Bowman hears after he disconnects HAL:

Thirteen months before the launch date of your Saturn mission, on April 12th, 2001, the first evidence for intelligent life outside the Earth was discovered.

Obviously a great deal was changed in the final movie; it was 18 months before, not 13, the date and destination were omitted, and the depth of TMA-1 was changed from "15 metres" to "40 feet." (Not to mention the whole changing the destination from Saturn to Jupiter.)

There are no current dates at all given in the book (only historical dates, like the moonbase founded in 1994, and HAL's activation in 1997), and I didn't find any current dates in the released movie either.

That said, it's fairly clear in the original scripts that "2001" referred to the year that TMA-1 was discovered.

5
  • 2
    Interesting choice changing the units to feet - I get that it was for a US audience (even though NASA generally uses metric), but if they were gonna change it, 15 metres is much closer to 50 feet (~49.2126) than 40. Jan 19 at 14:26
  • 4
    @DarrelHoffman The standardization on SI units is more recent. My first satellite ops experience was SAS-3 in 1975, where slugs and feet were the units used for mass properties, while the magtorquer moments, used to point that mass where we wanted to look, were in CGS electromagnetic units, pole-cm!
    – John Doty
    Jan 19 at 15:16
  • @DarrelHoffman: And "fifty feet" sounds nicer too.
    – user21820
    Jan 19 at 18:56
  • 2
    Another one of those changes: "your Saturn mission" became Jupiter Jan 19 at 22:40
  • 1
    @TomGoodfellow 🤦 D'oh! How on Earth did I miss that?
    – DavidW
    Jan 19 at 22:52
22

As noted in a comment by GordonD, if one accepts the sequel 2010: The Year we Make Contact as canon, then the Heywood Floyd sequence takes place in 1999 and the Poole and Bowman sequence takes place in 2001. This is evidenced by the on-screen text in the intro to 2010:

enter image description here

enter image description here

(I am not sure why that text says the monolith was discovered in the Sea of Tranquility, given that it was Tycho crater in the original and the same text later on says the monolith was called the "Tycho monolith".)

It's also mentioned later in the movie (2010) that HAL's secret orders were dated January 30, 2001, which is consistent with this timeline.

So in the sequel it's made unambiguous, but since 2010 is quite a different movie than 2001 and wasn't made by Kubrick I'm not sure I accept it as canon.

12
  • 1
    Keep in mind that Arthur C. Clarke wrote pretty much all the relevant material: the original short story "The Sentinel" in 1948, the novel 2001 (which preceded his screenplay for the movie at Kubrick's suggestion), and the novel 2010 on which the sequel movie was based. While the original movie and novel had their differences (the novel use a moon of Saturn as the destination), there is a foreword in 2010 discussing various decisions and changes made while writing 2010 (including the decision to keep Jupiter as the destination). (1/2)
    – chepner
    Jan 19 at 14:00
  • I don't recall timeline details, but it would be worth checking the source novel 2010 to see what it says. (2/2)
    – chepner
    Jan 19 at 14:01
  • As for Sea of Tranquility vs. Tycho Crater - it's obviously dumbed down because audiences of the time wouldn't necessarily have heard of the Tycho Crater, but everyone knew about the Sea of Tranquility because of Apollo 11. (Yes, that wouldn't happen for another year, but the plans were widely publicized beforehand.) Jan 19 at 14:32
  • Maybe Tranquility is where the moonbase was, from which the expedition was sent to Tycho.
    – Barmar
    Jan 19 at 15:33
  • 1
    @chepner: Are you sure that he wrote the novel before writing the screenplay? The copy of the novel that I read has an introduction by Clarke, and I could swear that he mentions in it that parts of the book were influenced by seeing parts of the movie.
    – ruakh
    Jan 19 at 18:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.