TITAN ROCKS: THE GREY PLANET IN FACT, FICTION AND MUSIC
25 March 2012
By Bella Pagan
This week, the BBC told us that places on Saturn's moon Titan see rain about once every 1,000 years on average. Sounds pretty unrefreshing as it's rain made up of methane, but I guess it's good over there. And for another geek factoid. Earth and Titan are the only worlds in the Solar System where liquid rains on a solid surface, although Earth obviously rains water not methane. For more on the study, see the full article here.
Curiously, Titan seems to be an absolute magnet for science fiction storytelling, if that's not too mixed a metaphor. Here's just a top five of the literature, film/TV and comics spawned by the grey planet. And a Pink Floyd song ...
NOVELS (too hard to do top five so there are six)
- The Puppet Masters (1951) by Robert A. Heinlein. Titan is the home of an elf-like species, which has been enslaved by parasitic aliens who can control them. These "puppet masters" attempt to take over the Earth by controlling human beings, who counter-attack with the intention of emancipating the "elves".
- The Sirens of Titan (1959), novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Features a journey that climaxes on Titan.
- The Game-Players of Titan (1963), novel by Philip K. Dick. A neurotic and suicidal man named Pete Garden must roll a three in Bluff, the game that's become a blinding obsession for the last inhabitants of post-apocalyptic Earth, against opponents who are from Titan.
- Imperial Earth (1976), novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Titan is home to a human colony with a population of 250,000 and provides an important role in the Solar System's economics; Titan's atmosphere supplies the hydrogen needed to support interplanetary travel.
- Mars trilogy (1996) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Nitrogen from Titan is used in the Terraforming of Mars.
- Titan (1997), novel by Stephen Baxter. A NASA mission to Titan must struggle to survive after a disastrous landing. Contains vivid depictions of a journey through the Saturnian system.
- "The Invisible Enemy (1977), a Doctor Who serial. Takes place partly on a manned base on Titan in the year 5000, by which time the human race has spread across the galaxy. Titan's methane atmosphere bursts into flames after the Doctor releases vast amounts of oxygen as a trap to destroy an enlarged virus.
- Red Dwarf (1988), BBC TV series. The character Lister illegally imports a cat from Titan that, through the action of hard radiation over millions of years, becomes the progenitor of a well-dressed, but not particularly intelligent species called Felis sapiens.
- The U.S.S. Titan is the name of William Riker's first command as noted in Star Trek Nemesis. The Titan is a Luna-Class ship, all of which are named after moons in the Terran System.
- Gattaca (1997), film. Titan is the goal for a manned space mission, which is seen lifting off in the final sequence.
- Eureka (2010), TV series. The second half of the fourth season centers around the secret preparations for the first human expedition to Titan.
- Judge Dredd, part of the 2000 AD comic series. Titan is used as a penal colony, but, due to a writer's error, is placed in orbit around Jupiter.
- "The God Gambit" (1985), episode of Transformers animated cartoon. Titan is home to a primitive civilization of humanoids who worship Transformers as gods.
- In the animated TV show Futurama, titanium mines on Titan cave in, causing the value of titanium to skyrocket, convincing Bender to sell most of his body, save his own head.
- In the Marvel Comics Universe, Titan is home to a colony of Eternals, a godlike race of men and women created from primitive humans by powerful 'space gods'.
- In the DC Comics Universe, Titan is home to a race of very powerful telepaths, originally genetically adapted Terran immigrants.
I need to credit Wikipedia for being very useful and a full list of Titan in fiction is here - surprisingly huge amount of info. And to play you out, here's a video clip of Pink Floyd playing their Titan-inspired song Astronomy Domine. Titan is mentioned in the line 'Neptune, Titan, stars can frighten'. So there you go: