Newton demonstrated that any object will continue in a uniform motion unless acted on by an external force; tumbling out of control in an escape pod following the explosion which wrecked Tyco Corp’s Silver Station, the injured man aboard is not an astronaut and does not know how to operate the emergency systems, but he is the only survivor and witness.
With an abrasion on his temple and a deeper gash in his side, he is suffering from amnesia, likely exacerbated by the low levels of oxygen in his air mix, but able to raise Earth on the intercom they are able to identify him as Marcus Tyco, son of the head of the company which has been mining asteroids since 2107.
At Swindon Space Control, overnight support operator Sarah is inexperienced but sympathetic but on-call engineer Ray Getty is patronising and abrasive to the point of hostile, impatient with the man he must guide back on course and assist down from orbit, not only for his own sake but for the black box he carries which will detail the specifics of the incident.
Directed by Ángel Delgado, Black Box is an ambitious micro-budget science fiction survival thriller funded via Kickstarter, and with only the voices of Kerry Ely and Simon Parker for company it is carried by Garry Graham-Smith as the man floating in a tin can whose belief that his arrogance can overcome his lack of experience and the physical realities of his situation may be an attempt to hide how scared he is.
A brief confrontational link-up with Juliano Tyco (Charles O’Neill) making it clear why Marcus might not want to remember his past, medical advice involving the myriad applications of superglue from Professor Chatterjee (Saeed Ashiq) makes the present no more appealing, but with Marco heir to the shaky empire he can hardly complain about the business decisions which have led to his plight.
Space exploration having given way to industrialisation, Black Box is set at a time when the dream of the stars has been taken over by the corporate with the associated low-bid contracts, when shift operators monitor distress calls from space and run through checklists of basic troubleshooting rather than being trained to offer the reassurance of trained expert advice, as mundane as any modern IT helpdesk.
Key to the production is Escape Pod 07, the interior a full-size practical set of convincing signage and practical controls while the exterior is seen less but is designed and rendered satisfactorily for the needs of the action; if some shots make the lack of resources apparent, they are few and vastly outnumbered by what has been created elsewhere.
A tough role for Graham-Smith, on screen in almost every shot and most often in tight focus, Delgado’s parallel challenge was to maintain interest and momentum despite the lack of visual variety but while the initial conditions resemble Solis it soon becomes apparent that this Black Box records a very different path and it is the surprises of Delgado and Ben Edmundson’s script which keeps the decaying orbit from burning up.