Today would have been the 72nd birthday of David Bowie, aka Ziggy Stardust, aka the Thin White Duke, aka the Man With One Brown Eye. Bowie wasn't just a musician/composer who is cooler than the entire staff of SYFY WIRE combined; he sold over 140 million albums over 50 years, and many of his art-rock songs, such as “Heroes” and “Modern Love,” have become radio standards. So what does that have to do with sci-fi?
Plenty. In addition to some great music with sci-fi elements, Bowie acted in some memorable fantasy films. Plus, he served as an inspiration for filmmakers (including his son, Duncan Jones, who directed the 2009 film Moon). And we’re not just talking about contributing to soundtracks. Bowie’s music — and personality — have influenced the storylines themselves.
Below are 14 reasons we are thankful to David Bowie for his contributions to geek culture.
"Space Oddity" (1969)
Arguably Bowie's most famous song, “Space Oddity” tells the tale of Major Tom on his mission to the moon (You can find the original version, here). The song was released five days before the laugh of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Other songs include the famous “Ashes to Ashes,” “Starman,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and the not-so-famous “The Laughing Gnome.”
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
An alien planet is dying from lack of water, and it’s up to the alien, played by Bowie, to save it. But until he builds a spacecraft, he’s stranded on Earth (Once considered a sci-fi classic, TMWFtE is now sadly dated).
The Hunger (1983)
Bowie plays David Blaylock, a 300-year-old vampire who experiences sudden, rapid aging. Will his maker Miriam help him? Alas, she’s too busy seducing the naive female doctor.
Bowie wrote and performed five of the songs on this soundtrack for this a tale about a lost girl who must rescue her baby brother from Jareth, the Goblin King (played by Bowie himself, in an ensemble that left little to the imagination). A wonderful movie…until you realize at one point that Jareth is seducing a 15-year-old girl. This pushes the film's underlying creepiness right in your face.
Golden Years (1991)
The first TV show with a name taken from a Bowie song — but not the last — Golden Years was a Stephen King-written miniseries about a man who finds himself aging in reverse.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
In the prequel to the hit series Twin Peaks, Bowie plays the long-lost, soon-to-be-lost-again Phillip Jeffries. The role was played by a giant tea kettle (or something) in the 2017 series revival.
Magic Hunter (1996)
Bowie executive produced this Hungarian movie about magic bullets given to a sharpshooter by the devil, interwoven with a tale of medieval hunters who battle evil.
The Hunger (TV series) (1997-2000)
Bowie hosted 22 episodes of this Ridley and Tony Scott-produced anthology show from 1999-2000. If you like vampires, death, and sex, Bowie will make sure you get it.
The Prestige (2006)
One of filmdom’s best casting choices: David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, the genius mad scientist who helps the protagonist understand the nature of his rival’s magic.
Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)
A young boy, on a quest for rubies, finds himself in the fantastical (and animated) world of the Invisibles. Bowie voices Maltazard, a corrupted hero who guards said rubies. Which one of them will get the kiss from the princess of the realm? Based on voice alone, we would have to go with Bowie. Pity about the dastardly no-goodness.
Life on Mars (UK) (2006-2007)
Bowie’s UK hit song served as a backdrop for this TV show about a policeman, Sam Tyler, who is hit by a car, only to be transported back to 1973. He finds a world so drastically different (his un-PC boss, Gene Hunt, is a terrific example), it’s as if he were on Mars. Fabulous, fabulous show.
Life on Mars (US) (2008-2009)
The US version is much weaker, owing to a softness of the rough characters in the UK version. Here, the foul-mouthed Gene Hunt is practically sensitive. It was just… wrong.
Ashes to Ashes (UK) (2008-2010)
A Bowie song from his 1980 album Scary Monsters (with one of the freakiest videos ever) lends its name to the sequel to Life on Mars. In this show, Alex Drake finds herself in 1981, along with most of the characters referred to in the previous show. But not Sam. The show was a mystery wrapped in an enigma... which unraveled at the series' finale.
The Venture Bros. (2003-)
In this not-to-be missed cartoon on Adult Swim, we thought that David Bowie was secretly the head of Dr. Venture’s arch-nemesis committee, the Guild of Calamitous Intent. As it turns out, the real head is a shapeshifter who just likes taking on Bowie’s appearance. Wouldn't you?