Apocalypse! at The Cameo

Alastair Bruce, Member of The Royal Observatory Edinburgh, previews Apocalypse! - a new mini-season coming to The Cameo in May.

In these politically tumultuous times it can sometimes help to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Astronomy is a wonderful subject for this, especially when it concerns the possibility of our imminent demise. We humans are squishy, fragile creatures with a seemingly endless list of things which may bring about our premature end, both as individuals and as a species. Here, we are concerned with the latter. Welcome to the Cameo’s Apocalypse Season!

We are three scientists/engineers, currently working at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh on Blackford Hill. Our connection to the Cameo began last summer when we had the pleasure of providing a post-screening discussion after a showing of the wonderful sci-fi film ‘Moon’ (2009), starring Sam Rockwell. Our job was to select some scientific concepts, both good and bad, from the film and provide a gentle introduction, or a little extra insight, into how they might work. The fact that the three of us never agree made for some interesting discussion too.

The wonderful folks at the Cameo, undeterred by our three-way arguments, suggested that this year, we go for three films instead of one. The theme linking them together? ‘Space-based apocalypse’. None of your garden-variety, human-caused apocalypses like a nuclear holocaust or accelerating climate change, these things had to come from outer space. Challenge accepted!


As it turns out, it was actually very difficult to narrow our choice down to three. We’re avid sci-fi fans, and massive nerds to boot, and we knew from the off that we had to go for a healthy mix of apocalypse scenarios which ranged from the possible to the ridiculous. There are many which fit the ridiculous category but in the end we decided on the following:

The War of Worlds (1953)  – Wed 10 May, 9.00
Armageddon (1998) – Mon 5 Jun, 6.00
Flash Gordon (1980) – Thu 6 Jul, 9.00

All three movies fit into the theme nicely and they also have a certain, shall we say, unique charm about them. That 50’s comic book feel that War of the Worlds brings to the table lives and breathes in the others as well. I think it’s fair to say that these movies are each iconic in their own way, and the scientific concepts behind them (yes, even in Flash Gordon) will be fun to pick apart on the night. Which scares you more: alien invasions; BIG rocks from space; or an evil emperor who literally tosses the Moon at you?

The end of the world is upon us. Care to join us for the ride?

Full listings

Alistair Bruce is about to finish his Astronomy PhD at the University of Edinburgh and hopes to continue both his research and public engagement work at the Royal Observatory in the future. If they’ll let him…


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