Remember the early scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the newly-smartened proto-hominid beats the leader of the competing pack to death with a bone, throws the bone up in the air, and the bone turns into a spaceship? Did you know that spaceship was originally supposed to be an orbiting nuclear weapons platform?
I just though that was an interesting bit of trivia. The film originally set up a continued nuclear stalemate between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the first spaceship we see was meant to be a missile launcher. At the end, when Dave Bowman appears above Earth as the Starchild, he was going to detonate all the nukes in orbit, which I guess was meant to bring Peace on Earth. Or a massive EMP returning Earth to the Stone Age. One of those, probably.
Anyway, Stanley Kubrick’s most recent film at the time was 1964’s Dr. Strangelove, so he was kind of over telling Cold War nuke stories. As Wikipedia says:
Another holdover of discarded plot ideas is with regard to the famous match-cut from prehistoric bone-weapon to orbiting satellite, followed sequentially by views of three more satellites. At first, Kubrick planned to have a narrator state explicitly that these were armed nuclear weapon platforms while speaking of a nuclear stalemate between the superpowers.
This would have foreshadowed the now-discarded conclusion of the film showing the Star Child’s detonating all of them. Piers Bizony, in his book 2001 Filming The Future, stated that after ordering designs for orbiting nuclear weapon platforms, Kubrick became convinced to avoid too many associations with Dr. Strangelove, and he decided not to make it so obvious that they were “war machines”.
Alexander Walker, in a book he wrote with Kubrick’s assistance and authorization, described the bone as “transformed into a spacecraft of the year A.D. 2001 as it orbits in the blackness around Earth”, and he stated that Kubrick eliminated from his film the theme of a nuclear stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union, each with a globe-orbiting nuclear weapons. Kubrick now thought this had “no place at all in the film’s thematic development”, with the bombs now becoming an “orbiting red herring”. Walker further noted that some filmgoers in 1968-69 would know that an agreement had been reached in 1967 between the powers not to put any nuclear weapons into outer space, and that if the film suggested otherwise, it would “merely have raised irrelevant questions to suggest this as a reality of the twenty-first century”.
In the Canadian TV documentary 2001 and Beyond, Dr. Clarke stated that not only was the military purpose of the satellites “not spelled out in the film, there is no need for it to be”, repeating later in this documentary that “Stanley didn’t want to have anything to do with bombs after Dr. Strangelove”. Continue reading