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I've been rewatching scenes from the 1979 Disney film The Black Hole. The scene where the crew of the Palomino steps foot onto the bridge of the Cygnus is still visually stunning:

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What in the world are the weird blue & red orbs suspended above the computer panels? Perhaps related to the anti-gravity technology Dr. Reinhardt developed to prevent the Cygnus spiraling into the black hole?

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This is pure speculation, but my little kid brain always assumed they were asteroids left over from the (possibly apocryphal) earlier time when the Cygnus had been hit by asteroids. Reinhardt alludes to this early on as the event which made the original human crew abandon ship.

The red-orange sphere looks quite similar to the asteroids that appear later in the movie. It's got what look like clamps holding it in place, like it has a lot of mass. I have no idea why they would be studying one in this manner, but it's plausible.

The blue one on the other hand...There are no clamps, it's a hemisphere, rather than a full sphere. Maybe some kind of force field? Holographic projection? We know there is some kind of anti-gravity device on the Cygnus, but it's never really explained, so it could be a part of that?

  • Ah, I like the idea of the captured asteroid. I also discovered there's a novelization of the film by Alan Dean Foster, perhaps there is a "canonical" explanation in the book about the orbs. It's been out of print for many years, will keep my eyes peeled at used bookstores. – RobertF Oct 24 '13 at 3:00
  • I've got a copy. Unfortunately it doesn't mention them --- Foster, sensibly, doesn't describe the control tower much beyond being vast, impressive, and full of screens. – David Given Jan 25 '15 at 17:40
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They are holographic representations of planets that the USS Cygnus encountered earlier on in its mission that are being used for study/mapping. There is mention of it during the "Through the Black Hole" included in the DVD release, as well as in the production/concept artwork done by Peter Ellenshaw. It features Harrison Ellenshaw, the matte effects supervisor, recounting the experiences making the movie. His father was in charge of all the effects and it was the last time Disney did all their SFX in house for a movie. There is a lot of good information revealed here, including what the ending was about.

  • That's very interesting. Would you mind transcribing the relevant part of this featurette? – lfurini Jan 28 '18 at 17:18
  • Very cool, thanks for your answer! One of the reasons I like The Black Hole so much are the hints of a deeper story throughout the film. – RobertF Feb 5 '18 at 21:25

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