Smithsonian Eyes Reboot for Classic Skate the Universe

Posted on Sun, April 1, 2018
  • by: Beth Wilson, Co-Host of STEM in 30

While the museum prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with a special exhibition and programming, little is being mentioned of one of the most important science fiction films ever produced—one which the Museum holds in its collection. I am, of course, talking about the iconic film Scott Hamilton Skates the Universe. The film pairs the song stylings of Monty Python’s Eric Idle with the brilliant skating of Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton. Produced in 2001, the film takes us on a wild ride through the universe.

Scott Hamilton Skates the Universe opens with the heroic Olympic skater holding the Earth in his hands. He then skates through a Sun prominence and shows what won him the gold at the 1984 Winter Olympics as he flips his way into the Milky Way. Tension builds as Scott is chased by comets and barely avoids other celestial objects. I won’t give away the ending, but the overwhelming message of hope brings tears to my eyes every time I view it.

“Yes, I have to say it is the crowning achievement of the Explore the Universe gallery,” said space history curator David DeVorkin. “When I was handed the treatment by Patti Woodside, I said to my team, ‘By golly this masterpiece needs to be produced!’ And when Scott agreed to the starring role, well, I just knew we had something special on our hands.”

DeVorkin continued, “Why it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, is just inconceivable.”

This video was developed for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's "Explore the Universe" gallery in 2001.

As the Museum prepares for its upcoming transformation, talk of a remake is in the works.

“Yes,” DeVorkin confirmed. “There has been talk of a remake. Names like Johnny Weir have been kicked around and the last time George Lucas was here he did mention that Industrial Light & Magic may be interested in updating some of the special effects. But I don’t think that anything can capture the beauty and mystery of our universe the way Scott did in 2001. I just, the film renders me speechless every single time I watch it.”

If you haven’t had a chance to view Scott Hamilton Skates the Universe you can view it in the Explore the Universe gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, during regular visiting hours.

The remake will focus on the merging of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, and is expected to be ready by the time of the collision four billion years from now. Production is scheduled to begin April 1, 2019 a sign that this is no fool’s errand.