A CONSPIRACY may be defined as “a Secret Plan by a Group to do something Harmful“. In Science Fiction, that Group may or may not be Human, and the Plan may affect anything from Who we are … to Where we come from … to Why we are here — to What “here” even means at all.
Any fan of SCI-FI can readily point to a number of Conspiracy Theories they have encountered through Science Fiction. Its ability to question reality and open our eyes to possibilities that we might not have otherwise imagined makes it perhaps the greatest genre of all. A few examples:
HISTORY IS A LIE
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Doctor Zaius, the orangutan Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith, feels compelled by his duty to ape civilization to keep all traces of humanity’s real history hidden. And so he brushes away Taylor’s sand writing with his foot … and crumples up Taylor’s paper airplane (something completely new to ape science). Zaius is one of the few who knows how things came to be the way they are, with apes existing as the dominating species on Earth and all humans no more than scavenging animals. Taylor calls him “Guardian of the terrible secret” — knowledge that Zaius tries to keep from everyone, ape and human alike, with the dual purpose of preserving ape culture, as well as making sure that humans never again get the opportunity to unleash the kind of terror they were once capable of.
OUTSIDE WORLD UNSAFE
The Island (2005)
Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta live with others in an isolated, highly structured compound, governed by strict rules. Residents are told that the outside world has become too contaminated to support life with the exception of a pathogen-free island. Every new arrival is described as another “survivor” miraculously found and brought to join them. While secretly visiting an off-limits power facility in the basement where technician James McCord works, Lincoln discovers a live moth in a ventilation shaft, leading him to deduce the outside world is not really contaminated. When he and Jordan escape the facility and emerge in the desert, they discover the real world. Together, they must find a way to shut down an evil system based on a lie — and rescue the others … before it’s too late.
REALITY AN ILLUSION
The Matrix (1999)
When intuitive computer programmer Thomas Anderson (under his hacker alias “Neo”) senses something is wrong with the world, he seeks out a guru known as Morpheus and accepts a perilous offer to learn the truth: humanity is unknowingly enslaved and trapped inside the Matrix — a shared simulated reality modeled on the world as it was in 1999 — that intelligent machines have created to distract humans while using their bodies as an energy source. Morpheus and his crew are a group of rebels who hack into the Matrix to “unplug” enslaved humans and recruit them to fight back. Neo joins the rebellion. His new understanding awakens a “gifted ability” within him to bend physical laws within the Matrix. In the end, he promises to show humanity “a world where anything is possible.”
YOU’RE NOT HUMAN
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Joanna Eberhart, a young wife and aspiring photographer, relocates with husband Walter and children from New York City to the Connecticut community of Stepford, where she finds that women look flawless and live unwaveringly subservient lives to their husbands. Men all belong to the exclusionary Men’s Association, which Walter joins to her dismay. She befriends Bobbie Markowe, with whom she finds common interests and shared ideas. After a fight with her husband, Joanna sneaks out to visit Bobbie, who refuses to engage with her in a meaningful way. Stabbed with a kitchen knife, Bobbie does not bleed, but instead malfunctions, revealing that the real Bobbie has been replaced by a robot. The operation’s mastermind later explains: the men of Stepford replace their wives “because they can”.
ALIENS ALREADY HERE
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
In the California town of Santa Mira, Dr. Miles Bennell sees a number of patients apparently suffering from Capgras delusion, the belief that their relatives have been replaced with identical-looking impostors. After an urgent call to a friend’s home, where an apparently dead body with no discernible facial features soon transforms to an exact physical duplicate, he and a former girlfriend discover the truth: Alien plant spores have fallen from space and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of producing a visually identical human copy — devoid of all emotion. Frantically screaming “They’re here already!” at passing motorists, Bennell tries to stop this “quiet” invasion, finally convincing Dr. Hill, a psychiatrist called to the emergency room of a Los Angeles hospital, to call in the FBI.
Like all Science Fiction, stories inspired by real-world Conspiracy Theories can open our eyes to possibilities we might not have considered otherwise. They point to the Dark Side of Human Nature — an ever-present danger in the Past, Present or Future — and remind us that Secret Plans to do Harm may also threaten Humanity from other life forms.
Consider yourself warned.