This British-made film, which has become one of the most famous science-fiction films of all time, was released to U.K. audiences in 1968, one year before the moon landing. Based on a story by author Arthur Clarke and directed by the late Stanley Kubrick, the film used groundbreaking special effects that would inspire later filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
Clarke inspired the film with his book The Sentinel and is also partly responsible for starting the Isle of Man’s space industry. He inspired Chris Stott to establish his satellite company ManSat and was also chancellor of the International Space University when the chapter was formed on the island. The Isle of Man has a thriving space industry, including communication with geostationary satellites, an area of research in which Clarke was a leader.
The series of eight stamps depicts some of the most iconic imagery and themes from the film—the 20-pence stamp shows Kubrick in the midst of creating movie magic while the 30-pence stamp depicts Clarke on set standing in front of the pod. The 52-pence stamp features the docking scene at Space Station V, decades before today’s International Space Station was a reality. The 75-pence stamp has the Monolith—a featureless yet menacing black structure providing the link between past, present and future—that adds tension in the film.
The eight-stamp set features:
- director Stanley Kubrick in the midst of creating movie magic (25 pence);
- author Arthur Clarke pictured on set, standing in front of the pod (30 pence);
- the docking scene at Space Station V (52 pence);
- the Monolith (75 pence);
- zero gravity and actor Heather Downham, who played a space stewardess (83 pence);
- the Star Child (£1.40);
- protagonist Dr. Dave Bowman (£1.93), played by actor Kier Dullea; and
- HAL 9000 (£2.01).
The stamps measure 32 millimetres by 40 millimetres and were printed using offset lithography.
Actor Heather Downham, who played one of the space stewardesses and is featured on the 83-pence stamp, recalled hearing an intake of breath at the film’s premiere, where movie-goers were astounded at the portrayal of weightlessness in space.
Another one of the defining images is the Star Child, featured on the £1.40 stamp. On the £1.93 stamp is astronaut and main character Dr. Dave Bowman, played by actor Kier Dullea. He said later about the film, “It set the benchmark for everything else.”
The main theme of tension in Space Odyssey is derived from the interplay between the human characters and the artificial intelligence, HAL 9000. His all-seeing, all-hearing red eye is featured on the £2.01 stamp.
The theme of the film came from Kubrick’s fascination with the moon and the possibility an alien life force visited Earth centuries ago, perhaps before man, and chose the arid and airless surface of the moon to leave clues—evidence that mankind was not alone and that intelligent life existed before and already mastered the art of intergalactic space travel.
In true Kubrick-esque style, each of the stamps contains a secret message hidden to the naked eye.