The Hardware of Dune
Ornithopters, or simply 'thopters, are the primary means of atmospheric
transportation in the Dune universe. These aircraft, ranging in size from
personal, 4-person models upward, used movable, "flapping" wings ("Ornith" is
the Latin prefix
meaning "bird") in addition to jet engines for its propulsion; the takeoffs
could be quite vigorous. The closest Earthly equivalent would be the
In the 1984
movie, as well as the 2000 miniseries, the 'thopter designs did not incorporate
the true "flapping" wings of the novels; the square-shaped 1984 'thopter (left and the conceptual
art) was fixed-wing, while the wings of the 2000 'thopter (right) moved to
change the direction of thrust from built-in "fans".
Spice harvesters are
one of, if not THE most important part of Dune's economy. Resembling massive floating
beetles, these mechanical behemoths are flown in when a spice patch is located
to harvest the spice (melange) in massive quantities; the plumes of waste sand
blown out of the harvester as the spice is separated are often visible for
miles. Spotting 'thopters and the harvester's carrier are never far away,
for there is always a sandworm near a "spice blow". (The 1984
harvester design is above, the 2000 miniseries below.)
GUILD NAVIGATOR TRAVEL CHAMBER
humans; they have been genetically altered by massive overdoses of spice to better see into the fabric of
space-time so they can safely navigate the massive Guild Heighliners "outside"
normal space. Due to this mutation, Navigators require a special environment
engineered to supply a constant stream of spice intake; the atmosphere is so
laden with spice essence that it is poisonous to normal humans. Navigators must
still ingest concentrated spice tablets in order to "see" the safe course. The chamber provides
such an enclosed environment so they can safely interact with unaltered humans.
In the novels,
knowledge book magnified pages on a filmstrip to a readable size. Books of any
length, from educational lessons to the Orange Catholic Bible, were stored on
this equivalent of microfilm. In the movie
it appeared as a more clumsy playback device for educational material.
sparring partner, capable of using any of the bladed weapons common in the Dune
universe. The machine uses
real blades, as it is seen pointless to practice without them, and could match
the expertise level of the student.
The stillsuit is
the single most important item in the survival of the human race on Arrakis.
To understand just how critical the stillsuit is to the people of Dune, one
must understand something of the ecology of this unique planet.
To say water is
scarce on Dune is an understatement of the highest degree, like saying it
takes a little heat and pressure to make flawless diamonds. There is no
standing water anywhere on the planet, there are never clouds, and this
planet has not known rain in thousands of years. For the Fremen of the
deep desert, this means a preoccupation with moisture - not water, but
moisture - in order to survive.
This means that
each particle of water - each tiny, weightless droplet to the smell of it
must be captured and reclaimed. The stillsuit seals the body into a
self-contained system that captures the sweat, the eliminations, even the
water vapor that is exhaled with each breath. The mechanisms of the
suit extract, purify and collect that moisture into catchpockets, which the
suit's wearer can then consume - and survive for more than a few precious
moments in the vast arid desert that is Dune.
The designs of
the stillsuit for the movie (left) and miniseries (right) did take liberties for the
requirements of filmmaking; for example, more of the face is exposed than
the stillsuits of Herbert's novels.
weapon of mystical import to the Fremen, the crysknife is made from
the tooth of Shai-Hulud - the mighty sandworm (a secret no outworlder should know, and no
outworlder is allowed to possess one on pain of death). If not "fixed"
by the wearing of the knife next to the skin of the owner, the blade would
disintegrate in a short time.
reason for the return to bladed weapons, this force shield made
personal combat truly personal once more. Should the energy beam
from a lasgun make contact with a shield, an atomic reaction would take
place that was fatal to both parties and much of the landscape around
worked by limiting molecular movement through it; if something tried to
move too quickly through the shield, it would be stopped. A
projectile, either delivered from a weapon, thrown, or thrust (as in a
sword or knife) would be repelled. It did not, however, stop
slow-moving objects (or air). So, a person training in hand-to-hand
combat would learn to abruptly slow his attack to accommodate that
feature, and slip the blade through the shield (and the vitals of his
opponent) just slowly enough that the shield would allow its passage.
had been quickly proven that the use of the personal shield in the
deserts of Arrakis was more deadly than not: it acted like a magnet to
the great sandworms, who would ignore territorial boundaries to silence
that device; it drove them quite mad.
Atreides, of course well versed in modern hand-to-hand combat, initially finds his shield-based
training puts him at something of a disadvantage with the Fremen; their
attacks would not slow before the strike.
A product of the
Lynch movie alone, this device (above left) appears to be the
filmmaker's way of illustrating the "weirding way" of the
novel: a form of
personal combat taught to the Fremen by the Lady Jessica, Paul
Atriede's Bene Gesserit mother. The "weirding way", as
described by Herbert and portrayed in the 2001 miniseries, was a
system of controlled movement and redirection of energy and force,
reminiscent of judo or ju jitsu (see above right).
In the film, the
module, a combined throat unit/hand-held projector worn by the Fremen warriors, was activated by and
amplified a "chuffing" noise in the throat, causing a sonic
disruption; an amplification (or perhaps a focus) of the wearer's
energy. It was portrayed as used in military assaults rather
than as a personal fighting style. Also as might be expected,
at the climax of the film Paul was able to deliver a final, killing
"blow" (fracturing the marble floor in the process) without the
module after he vanquished his Harkonnen foe in single combat.
The weirding module
was a complete departure from - indeed, it was the antithesis of -
Herbert's description of the fighting form. It was not well
received by knowledgeable filmgoers.
written by Dusty K.