The United Planets Cruiser C-57D is a fictional starship featured in MGM's 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet. The design used for the starship is a flying saucer, inspired by 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 film's screenplay the starship carries no name, only the designation "United Planets Cruiser C-57D".
The saucer has a lenticular profile. Above there is a dome, approximately a third of the diameter of the lens. Below there is a very shallow cylinder of about the same diameter, and a somewhat smaller dome that ostensibly houses the starship's faster-than-light drive engine and central gyroscopic landing pedestal. The precise contours and proportions differ slightly between the saucer's shooting miniatures, full-size sets, and matte paintings used in the film. On landing, the saucer's gangway and two conveyor-loading ramps swing down at an angle from the underside hull, near the edge of the lower lens shape.
The original movie blueprints for the command deck show it to have a central circular "navigation center", reminiscent of the TARDIS console used later in BBC's Doctor Who series, with a transparent globe centered on a small model of the starship. 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 film shows the crew standing on these low, cylindrical platforms, enveloped within an opaque blue glow while the saucer decelerates from hyperdrive, but does not show whether these low platforms must also be used during the transition to faster-than-light speed.
On the starship's mezzanine level there is an instrument station and other rooms that aren't seen.
The studio created a stage set of the interior command and mezzanine decks and a 60-foot (18 m) semicircular mockup of the landed saucer's lower half (with the deployed central landing pedestal, gangway, and conveyor -ramps). The sets suggest that the starship's diameter is somewhere between 100 feet (30 m) and 175 feet (53 m) feet in diameter.
Three saucer 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 total of $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 these miniatures as part of the large MGM studio auction, but there was no record kept of who bought the largest of the three. A North Carolina man, who originally bought it for $800.00, stored it in his garage but hadn't realized its market value until 2008; he finally put the saucer up for auction that year, and it sold for $78,000.
Appearances in The Twilight Zone
- 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 saucer; 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 C-57D was recreated as a large-scale miniature kit by Polar Lights in 2001 and was labeled as being a 1:72 scale, injection-molded, all-plastic model kit, which is 28 inches (71 cm), a scale of 168 feet (51 m) in diameter; 1:72 is a standard international plastic aircraft model scale. The kit included complete "under the dome" interior crew and command cabin details, including an additional clear top dome for showing off the starship's interior. Some fans and modelers have reported inconsistencies in the model's 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).
Polar Lights re-issued the kit in a new box shape and with new box art in 2009, adding various new figures of the starship's crew, Dr. Morbius' daughter Altaira, and even the monster from the Id. In 2013 Polar Lights issued two new, smaller 1:144 scale injected-molded plastic model saucer kits: one kit features only the starship itself with no other extras other than its deployed central landing pedestal and ramps, while the other showcases a complete electronic lighting system for displaying the starship's "in flight" faster-than-light drive engine.
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 saucer in a variety of sizes/scales, using both vacuformed plastic and spin-cast resin parts, sometime both in combination.
In 2012 and 2013 a limited run 1/300 scale (6" in diameter) reproduction was offered for sale through eBay; it was turned on a lathe from a solid piece of billet aluminum; it came with no display stand, gangway, conveyor ramps, or central landing pedestal.
The "research and rescue" spaceship found on the planet Miranda in the 2005 Joss Whedon film Serenity carries the codename "C57D" (without hyphen) in tribute to the original saucer in MGM's 1956 film.
- 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.