The Tomita Planets by Isao Tomita (CD review).

I came across a reference to ‘The Tomita Planets’ by Isao Tomita in one of the recent ‘Alien’ books I reviewed. During filming, director Ridley Scott played it to Sigourney Weaver to get her in the mood. Obviously, back in 1979, there were no CDs, and the vinyl edition originally came out in 1976. Presumably, he might even have had it on cassette tape, because I suspect the stylus would jump with all the production staff around.

Although Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’ suite is there, in essence it is mixed and interpreted in Moog synthesizers. Wikepedia notes that the daughter, Imogen Holst, had refused permission for it to be interpreted this way. Quite how Tomita (1932–2016) got around that is hard to say. The only other synthesiser user with whom I’m familiar from that time period was Walter/Wendy Carlos, and he/she kept to the music when it came to Beethoven. Tomita’s work here is clearly more experimental in its interpretation, and I suspect the differences might have been to get around copyright issues. Certainly, the difference between tracks is a little harder to work out when playing straight through. Also, don’t forget, a few composers were playing with synthesisers back then, so a lot of it was experimental.

Hearing as a collective, I did wonder if Ridley Scott played the entire album or just kept repeating ‘Mars’. Jupiter is very upbeat, although, if I’m not mistaken, some of the chords were used in the opening when Mother was picking up the SOS signal before reviving the crew.

There’s more of a hauntedness with the combined ‘Uranus, The Magician/Neptune, The Mystic’ but again with touches of uplift and eerie.

It would have worked better than the Jerry Goldsmith theme music? After all, Kubrick did make the right decision with ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, although with multiple composers. My instinct would be to say no. ‘Mars’ would be a portent to doom, warning the viewer, and you wouldn’t want that. The same is true with the film ending. Ripley’s hibernation was hardly that much of a relief.

If you’re an ‘Alien’ completest, then you might want to listen.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: RCA Victor. 5 tracks 52 minutes. Price: varies. ASIN: GD60518)


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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