Five Sci-Fi Mistakes Taught To Us By Battlefield Earth

As I mentioned last time, L Ron Hubbard was a science fiction author in what a lot of people refer to as the “Golden Age of Sci-Fi”. The thing that I made a note of then, which made his accomplishments in cult-building hard to fathom, was the fact that he is also one of the least remembered writers of the era. I don’t mean people have forgotten him when I say that, I mean they’ve forgotten his work. Why? The man never wrote a true sci-fi classic in a time when people were creating sci-fi classics left and right.

During the “Golden Age”, writers like Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke were writing books such as I, Robot, Starship Troopers and 2001: A SpaceOdyssey. There were dozens of other award winning authors throughout those years. But among them, the one I found the least real recognition for was L Ron Hubbard (besides the countless awards he’s been given for unrelated things, likely by his followers). He won a single Saturn Award throughout his career that I can find any record of. And considering the man wrote for five decades, that’s saying something.

So I scoured the internet, my memory of the guy and what culture I could find on him and realized that a Scientologist happened to point me to just the story I needed to decipher why L Ron Hubbard had to make a cult to make a living.

Thanks, Johnny!

Battlefield Earth was a movie made in 2000 based on a novel of the same name as something of a pet project of long time Scientologist John Travolta. After nearly two decades of trying to get the movie produced, initially setting himself as the younger male protagonist, Travolta finally got the backing to produce the movie that he’d been aiming to do since about 1983. Older now and unable to play the younger lead, Travolta cast himself as the villain, Terl. So, a labor of love by someone who sincerely wanted to do the project, what could go wrong?


Turns out, everything. Battlefield Earth currently holds the record for numbers of Razzies won by a science fiction movie. But the question for many was whether that was due to shoddy directing, bad acting, the budget or a shitty script. Then again, others agreed it was all of the above. And as is usual for bad adaptations, it would be easy to believe that the problem was in the film not capturing the true value of the book.

But you know what? No. Battlefield Earth was a horrible novel too. Upon its release in 1982, L. Ron Hubbard’s book received very mixed reviews (with a lot of the positive ones being spurred by people’s love of the man himself). So once again, we go back to his quote on science fiction writing and stop to think…maybe he was just a shitty writer.

What exactly did he do to blow it? Well…

1. Underdogs can’t win from beyond the grave


The first mistake, the one that starts to make the logic of the rest of the story fall apart, is the sheer dominance that the invading aliens have in Battlefield Earth. The aliens, “Psychlos” (going to cover that one later), attacked the earth with a SINGLE gas drone and decimated human resistance in a single day in the year 2000 (same year the film was released, funny enough). Humanity was reduced to cinders, 98% of all humans dead due to the gas drone’s attack.

A thousand years later, in the year 3000, humanity exists in tribal populations that haven’t recovered much at all. They’re still painfully outnumbered, lacking any technological development and left ill by the nuclear fallout produced during the very short resistance to the invasion. Their culture has been so stunted by the aftermath of the invasion that the remaining human population has reduced the entire event to folklore and placed their ancient ancestors and the Psychlos as “gods and demons”. Essentially, they’ve been reduced to the point where modern civilization, our civilization, appears to be magic.

But then a handful of primitives rally to take back the Earth!


Seriously, how? Realize that this alien invasion wiped out the “sophisticated” humans of the past in less than a day. I previously mentioned that one of the ways you make an underdog archetype work is by making the enemy stronger. But the problem here is in the fact that when you go too far you’ve reduced your “underdog” to radioactive ash. The act of making these sorely outnumbered characters, who can’t even operate guns, capable of overthrowing a race that decimated their ancestors in a day, is mind boggling.

And the problem is, for anyone who wasn’t drinking L. Ron’s Kool-aid, this is something you just can’t get over. Even in the film reviews, the most common question was how could it possibly be believable that these borderline cavemen are capable of even denting their alien oppressors, let alone completely toppling them in relatively short order. Of course, to make this all happen with those kind of odds…you’re going to need a Deus Ex Machina.

2. Just say no to Deus Ex Machina


To be able to topple the Psychlos, the human race needed to create dirty bombs to send through transporters to the Psychlos’ home planet. Due to the slightly different composition of their homeworld’s atmosphere, any exposure to radioactive materials would set the planet up like a powder keg. So, relearning the ability to create dirty nuclear weapons, humans snuck bombs through the transporters, hopefully to destroy the entire Psychlo race in a single shot.

Who just kind of watch it happen in the movie.

Basically, to be able to defeat this menace that has so completely dominated the human race that they literally bombed us back to the stone-age, we have to utilize a technology they’ve encountered at least once before during the initial invasion. Having seen this technology, this super advanced race that crushed us into paste failed to have sufficient safeguards from a possible radioactive counter attack. Despite their superiority, this overwhelming adversary lost their planet in a single attack that, somehow, humans were the first to accomplish.

How does ANY of this make sense? Well the explanation given is that the Psychlos’ homeworld operates on a different set of physics so that their version of things is highly reactive to our version of things. Essentially, uranium from this world is enough to cause stuff from their world to explode violently and they’ve apparently never encountered this material so they had no idea how to protect themselves from it.

See how many logical loopholes just had to happen there to make that shit work? Yeah, that’s why people generally call this a hand-wave. But, it gets worse.

3. Know at least SOME science


So as I just pointed out, the atmosphere and general composition of things on the Pscyhlo homeworld are incredibly reactive. Even trace amounts of radioactive materials can apparently cause the entire planet to go with it. So the dirty bomb idea was thought to be the best way of stopping them. However, this is where L. Ron showed that he’s not exactly very knowledgeable in science in general.

The premise of the story was that the Psychlos have been controlling the planet for a thousand years, stripping the Earth of its resources and sending those resources back to their planet. They leave people on Earth to carry out this task and one of these Earth-bound workers becomes dissatisfied with his position and starts to brew up schemes of getting out of his position by using humans as a labor force. But this entire premise immediately clashes with the idea that the planet Psychlo and everything on it would explode upon contact with trace amounts of radioactive materials.

You see, there’s something everyone needs to know about our planet, we are saturated in radioactive materials. Every day you’re exposed to radiation that you don’t even notice. And the fact of the matter is, the majority of radiation we get in our daily lives is caused by the dirt we walk on. You breathe about 1 mSv a year naturally just from radon in the air caused by natural uranium degradation. And the fact of the matter is that our soil has even more trapped in it than that. So when these guys, who are supposed to violently explode when exposed radiation, come and strip-mine the Earth…they should have blown themselves to hell centuries ago.

4. Failing that, be internally consistent

“I have given you something to allow you to breath, so I may enjoy choking you more”

But, okay, let’s say that the physics are more nuanced than that on this other world. Clearly, if they live in our universe they’ve encountered some radiation elsewhere so they’ve learned how to protect themselves from it (except, you know, they didn’t). So it can be explained they knew to protect themselves from our soil because they’re familiar with other worlds and they just happen to come from a bizarre outlier planet in our universe.

Oh wait, they don’t come from our universe? They come from another universe that happens to be parallel to our own where physics are subtly different? Well that would explain everything! So how did they happen to find our planet? Did random trans-dimensional gateway hopping let them discover us?

No? They found one of our deep space probes?

Pictured: distance of Voyager probes roughly around the year 2000

I wasn’t aware Voyager 1 went to another dimension…

5. Blatantly obvious symbolism is not good symbolism


But, finally, the last nail in the coffin for dignity and good-taste is the name I’ve been throwing around since the start: Psychlos. Now, clearly, the term “Psychlos” already sounds like a ridiculous name cooked up by a 12 year old, especially when you realize the protagonist of the book is named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. But what you have to realize is that this book was released in 1982, well after L. Ron had started Scientology, and that the Psychlos, originally a peaceful race, had been turned into ruthless sociopathic interdimensional monsters by dictators called the “Catrists”. That’s right, the Psychlo Catrists.

Now, on the off-chance you happen to not know much about the relationship of the Church of Scientology with Psychiatry, let me break it down to you: They hate it. In fact, they believe Psychiatry is part of an attempt to continue brainwashing the masses, a plan left by the evil space tyrant Xenu millions of years ago. Also, Xenu, who is supposed to be the cause of all the world’s ills, planted that by having a machine which could force-feed information to his captives. Take a look at this shot from the movie of Battlefield Earth again and tell me if you can see the similarities.


So when L. Ron Hubbard writes a book about how humanity was destroyed by the invasion of an evil race, controlled by a caste of people who happen to have a name sounding a lot like “Psychiatrist”, let’s just say…

It was never meant to be subtle.

(One thing I can claim, I may not have his money or his following, but I’m sure I can write better stories than L. Ron Hubbard)

2 thoughts on “Five Sci-Fi Mistakes Taught To Us By Battlefield Earth”

  1. You sir should have read the book, not relied on watching an at best B grade SYFI movie. I agree the movie was John Travoltas most tragic mistake. However, you say the Psychlo’s didn’t protect themselves from radiation. You made the biggest faux pax of all. In the book on the transport pads are radiation detectors. The psychlo’s are very much aware of its danger. PLEASE DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE IN THE FUTURE AND READ THE BOOK.

Comments are closed.