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TMA-1 (Film Synopsis Part 6)

The Story

The desolate, barren landscape of the Lunar surface provides the background for the next segment of Floyd's journey.  Ligeti's Lux Aeterna provides a haunting score.  The silent flying vehicle over the jagged, dry surface is on it's way to a major discovery.  Something very significant has been discovered in this inhospitable place.  The music adds to the mystery.  The vehicle is a moon shuttle - designed to go from one place to another on the Moon quickly.  As the vehicle moves, we see a gibbous Earth in the background.  Unlike the previous two vehicles (Orion, and Aries), no name is given for the shuttle.  We do see the pilots using similar controls and displays as in the other two vehicles.

There are three scientists inside - Floyd, Halvorsen, and Michaels from the earlier conference.  Their first order of business is to eat and then to mutually congratulate each other on how well they've handled the particular circumstances.  Michaels then shows Floyd some photos and we learn some more details about the discovery.  We learn that it emits a powerful magnetic field and we learn that it had been "deliberately buried".  Floyd peruses the photos and drawings, some of which are marked "TMA-1 Tycho Magnetic Anomaly".  He finally asks the question that the audience has been waiting to hear - "I don't suppose you have any idea what the damned thing is?"  Halvorsen has no answer but adds that it was buried 4 million years ago.  Whatever was found on the Moon is as old as humankind.

The moon shuttle enters the confines of the crater "Tycho".  We see another sequence where the pilots have to go through a procedure.  This time it is to land the shuttle and the computer does the hard part, just as in the docking procedures of the Orion and Aries.

We see a man-made excavation and in the center is another monolith that appears exactly like the one that appeared to the ape-men 4 million years earlier.  The same scene is basically repeated.  Ligeti's Requiem marks the second encounter with the monolith.  It's just as ominous and mysterious as it was earlier.  The first one aided man-apes to become human.  What's the purpose of this one?  The astronaut scientists have no idea what it is or what to do with it.  One of them does the same thing the man-apes did, that is touch it.  When the group decides it's time for a photo opportunity, we hear a horrible high-pitched sound that is hurting the scientists ears, not to mention the audience's.  Finally, we see the cosmic alignment again.  This time it's the monolith against an eclipsing Earth and Sun.

Meanings

Every time a man-made vehicle has to dock or land, it is always shown as a complicated procedure.  As mentioned many times before, it is a big deal for man-made objects to align with anything.

There is a three-way conversation between Halvorsen, Michaels, and Floyd.  As mentioned earlier, this is a common Kubrick motif.

The monolith found on the Moon obviously represents something left by intelligence 4 million years ago.  It is the unquestionable proof of intelligent live beyond Earth.  Yet, the three scientists are concerned with food and mutual congratulations first.  Even when Michaels shows the photographs and explains how it was found (it gives off a strong magnetic field, thus the name Tycho Magnetic Anomaly or TMA-1), Floyd is barely interested and responds with a few grunts and head shakes.  It's only after Michaels goes off for coffee when he gets around to asking "I don't suppose you have any idea what the damned thing is?"  As mentioned in the Clavius article, these guys are hardly scientists.

As in the encounter 4 million years earlier, we witness a point of view looking up the length of the monolith and seeing a cosmic alignment of the monolith, the Earth and the Sun.  We know this is a clue that the monolith comes from something superior to Man.  We also know that this viewpoint is for the audience and is not what the astronauts are seeing.  After all, we have already seen the Earth near the Moon's horizon at this location.  On the Moon, the Earth is always in the same part of the sky.

The monolith that the man-apes encountered 4 million years earlier served as a trigger to the development of the human race by implanting in them, the idea of using tools.  What purpose does this monolith serve?  All it did was shriek out a loud beep.  There are several answers to that question including one that isn't answered at this time.

One question one must ask is why is there a monolith buried on the Moon?  To answer that, we must think back 4 million years earlier.  Whatever visited the man-apes must have wanted to know how they progressed.  Were they too weak to survive, even with tools?  Would they evolve only so far and then be a content species living on Earth?  Would they use their tools to ultimately destroy themselves?  OR MAYBE, would they evolve, become more intelligent, not destroy each other, yet remain curious and bold enough to step outside of the Earth and begin exploring the universe?  If the latter is true, then it makes sense that Man would eventually find the monolith on the Moon when studying the Moon's magnetic field.  In other words, the monolith was meant to be found, but only by a species with the means to do so.

This means that as before, the monolith serves as a test.  In finding the monolith, the human race proved it is worthy to go on to the next test.  It also indicates that the entire purpose of the human race is to develop the tools to explore space.  All the disciplines of the human race such as its history, art, and philosophies only served to put us into outer space.  This is a profound statement of 2001: A Space Odyssey and is essentially the belief system of author Arthur C. Clarke and those who dream of space exploration.

Most people will say that 2001: A Space Odyssey contains 4 chapters.  Yet there are only 3 title pages.  That's because there are really only 3 chapters in 2001.  Everything we've seen up to now is still in the first chapter: The Dawn of Man.  The first monolith signified the beginning of the dawn of man when man-apes found the path to humanity.  The second monolith signifies the end of the dawn of man meaning the human race has achieved its goal and is is ready to take the steps to go beyond human.

Thinking of the human race's 4 million year history as the "dawn of man" puts an interesting perspective on where humans are in the cosmic scheme.  2001 basically states we've only just begun. 

Other Notes

2001 was created before any Moon landings so it is remarkable how closely this part of the film comes to  resembling the actual lunar surface.  It is in fact, quite accurate with the exception that the mountains are too craggy.  It was thought then that they would appear this way since the Moon has no weather.  What nobody thought about then is that the Moon does indeed have a form of weather.  When volcanoes erupted and when meteorites impacted the surface, the rocks and debris that would explode out actually weathered the Moon making it very dusty and smoother than most scientists anticipated.

 

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