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The lure of a good spaceport

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Is it Moonwatcher throwing that bone in the air? HAL singing to Dave Bowman while he slowly gets unplugged? Is it the Monolith standing at the base of a hotel bed?

Recently I’ve been thinking of another of the film’s iconic sequences – Heywood Floyd’s trip to the moon in the first hour. He stops off half-way on an orbiting space station, and suddenly this astronaut is chatting to his daughter by video phone, navigating a futuristic Howard Johnson’s and even chatting to Leonard Rossiter on a sofa.

What I’ve only recently realised is that 2001’s actually quite a self-contained film. An awful lot of the action – if you could call it that – takes place on the Discovery, a spaceship en route to Jupiter. The reason the film feels so expansive is partly because of the hominids at the start and partly because of the stargate at the end, sure, but much of it comes down to that trip to the space station, where we get to see a little of the wider world of the future.

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