The United Planets Cruiser C57-D is a fictional starship featured in MGM's 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet. The design used for the C57-D is a flying saucer, inspired by of the spate of UFO sightings during the 1950s era, and which itself inspired the look of the exterior saucer section and interior design of another iconic starship, Star Trek's USS Enterprise.
Forbidden Planet production
In the movie's screenplay, the ship carries no name, only the designation "United Planets Cruiser C57-D."
The saucer has a lenticular profile. Above there is a dome, approximately a third of the diameter of a lens. Below there is a very shallow cylinder of about the same diameter, and a somewhat smaller dome that ostensibly houses the ship's faster-than-light light drive engine and central landing pedestal. The precise contours and proportions differ slightly between the models, full-size sets, and matte paintings used in the film. On landing, the ship's gangway and two conveyor-loading ramps swing down at an angle from the ship's underside hull, near the edge of the lower lens shape.
The original movie blueprints for the ship's command deck show it to have a central circular "navigation center", reminiscent of the TARDIS console used later in Doctor Who, with a transparent globe centered on a small model of the C57-D. Around this central space are a number of wedge-shaped rooms, including:
- A room with a curved table, chairs, and a space for books (presumably a galley and recreation room).
- A room with the "communications center," a chart table and the "main viewscope."
- A room with 16 bunk beds, with a pit and crane between it and the central area.
- A room with 9 "decelerator platforms." The movie shows the crew standing on these low, cylindrical platforms, enveloped within an opaque blue glow while the ship decelerates from hyperdrive, but does not show whether these low platforms must also be used during the ship's transition to faster-than-light speed.
On the ship's mezzanine level there is an instrument station and other rooms that aren't seen.
The studio created a stage set of the ship's interior command and mezzanine decks and a 60-foot (18 m) semicircular mockup of the landed ship's lower half (with the central landing pedestal, gangway, and conveyor ramps). The sets suggest that the saucer's size is between 100 feet (30 m) and 175 feet (53 m) feet in diameter.
Three miniatures were used, of 22 inches (56 cm), 44 inches (110 cm), and 82 inches (210 cm) or 88 inches (220 cm) in diameter, and costing an estimated $20,000. The largest miniature, constructed of wood, steel, and fiberglass, which contained the internal motors for the gangway, conveyor ramps, central landing pedestal, and glowing red-neon light engine, weighed 300 pounds (140 kg).
In 1970 MGM sold off the largest saucer miniature as part of the large MGM studio auction, but there was no later record kept of who bought the prop. A North Carolina man, who had originally bought the miniature and stored it in his garage, hadn't realized the prop's market value until 2008; he finally put it up for auction that year, and it sold for $78,000.
Appearances in The Twilight Zone
The C57-D miniatures were later reused in several episodes of the Twilight Zone TV series, sometimes slightly altered for the appearance:
- 1960 "Third from the Sun" — The original navigation center is seen, as well as the starship.
- 1960 "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" — The movie saucer scene reused was optically reprinted but was shown flying upside down.
- 1961 "The Invaders" — A facsimile of the original saucer model, used for USAF Space Probe No 1, was partially destroyed by the episode's sole (giant) character at the end of the episode.
- 1962 "To Serve Man"
- 1962 "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby"
- 1963 "Death Ship" — This episode makes the greatest use of stock and new footage of the C57-D; it is identified in the episode as the Space Cruiser E-89, patrolling the 51st star system in the year 1997. Here the model saucer is shown using downward-directed rocket thrust propulsion; the identical crashed saucer already on the ground is a separately created prop.
- 1963 "On Thursday We Leave for Home"
- 1964 "The Fear"
The C57-D was recreated as a large miniature kit by Polar Lights in 2001; it was incorrectly labeled "C-57D" on its product carton. It is labeled as being a 1:72 scale, injection-molded, all plastic model kit, which is 28 inches (71 cm) - a scale 168 feet (51 m) - in diameter. Some fans and modelers have reported inconsistencies in the scale; example: measurements of the included small Robby the Robot model indicates the kit is actually in a non-standard kit scale of 1:56, giving the saucer's actual size as being 130 feet (40 m).
Over the years various small "garage kit" model companies in both the U. S. and Japan have produced kits or finished desktop models of the C57-D in a variety of sizes/scales, using both vacuformed plastic and spin-cast resin. In 2012 a very limited run 1/300 scale (6" in diameter) C57-D was offered for sale through eBay; it was turned-on-a-lathe from a solid piece of billeted aluminum.
- Mania.com, "Forbidden Plastic: Part 1" (retrieved 2010-02-22)
-  (provenance unknown; retrieved 2010-02-23)
- Los Angeles Times, "The lost saucer of 'Forbidden Planet' reappears" (retrieved 2010-02-22)
- NJ.com, "Amazing the things that are for sale!" (retrieved 2010-02-22)
- CultTVman's Fantastic Modeling Forum, "Forbidden Planet C-57D" (retrieved 2010-02-23)
- Model Kit Central, "Model Kits: Drama on Altair 4 (in Glorious 1/72-Scale") (retrieved 2010-02-22)
- Round 2 Models, "Forbidden Planet: C-57D Spacecruiser" (retrieved 2010-02-22)
- The movie images and subtitles from 1999 and 2006 Forbidden Planet movie DVD releases.
- 1979 CINEFANTASTIQUE Magazine Double-Issue (Volume 8, Number 2 and Volume 8, Number 3) — Article: "MAKING FORBIDDEN PLANET" by Frederick S. Clarke and Steve Rubin.
- Forbidden Planet Screenplay Draft — May 14, 1955.