Thae Satellite Game - Island of Death artwork by David Rowe, cropped for header image

The Satellite Game - Environments

By Jason Karl

Exploring the locations and challenges on the Enigma Satellite.


This is one of three articles on 1990 TV series The Satellite Game written by Jason Karl, a winning contestant on Knightmare (Series 2 Team 10) and The Satellite Game. The other articles give an overview of the series and look at the characters.

The Enigma Satellite

The Satellite Game - uncropped illustration of the Enigma Satellite by David Rowe

The official Mission Briefing document, written by Tim Child, states that the Enigma Satellite was ‘constructed of three huge globes, each approximately 100 kilometres in diameter, and connected by conduit tubes which support each globe at the point of an equilateral triangle. A sub-structure of octagonal conduit tunnels route between various larger environments within the three principal globes. These environments are populated by a variety of alien, humanoid and artificial creatures’.

The exterior of Enigma was designed by fantasy illustrator and Knightmare dungeon artist David Rowe. As well as the finished artwork, he's kindly shared these sketches of Enigma:

The Satellite Game - sketch 2 of the Enigma Satellite by David Rowe

The Satellite Game - sketch of the Enigma Satellite by David Rowe

David Rowe also designed the space shuttle exterior and the Island of Death, pictured later in this article.

To cover the expanse of Enigma, various telepads were made available to LARI. Teleporting could be automatic or requiring X, Y and Z destination co-ordinates to be entered by the droid.

Doors between environments and conduit tunnels were separated by airlocks which could be opened by LARI using his standard issue Vendix Lasers.

In a nod to Knightmare’s default ‘safe’ option, to follow the righthand path where no other clue is given, The Satellite Game’s ‘right’ path was indicated by Yin-Yang signs. These sometimes also acted as switch gears to unlock doors.

Space shuttle

The Satellite Game - Space shuttle exterior 1, by David Rowe

The Satellite Game - Space shuttle exterior 2, by David Rowe

The live set from where the mission commanders directed LARI was created using painted vacuform panels, beyond which a generic spacescape was made using white fairy lights against blackout drapes.

The contestants’ chairs were three wheel mounted loungers featuring flashing lights and spray painted with silver metallic paint. At the beginning and end of each mission these chairs would physically move in and out of position – these were actually hauled backwards and pushed forwards by floor technicians out of camera view! The chairs were accessed using a step ladder as they were high off the studio floor.

To record important details including co-ordinates and security codes, the mission commanders were provided with pencils and notepaper, which was fine until you accidentally dropped the pencil and were unable to retrieve it from several feet above the ground!

The Satellite Game - space shuttle set

The Command Screen as seen in the final programme did not exist in practical terms during recording and was created later in post-production. mission commanders followed the action by looking several large monitors mounted at height in front of them, so that their angles of sight would match the intended final shot featuring the computer created Command Screen and its associated effects.

The game environments

The Travelling Matte Company, under Robert Harris, created 10 different animated graphic environments based on two geometric grids which defined the geometry of the programme’s production design.

For each environment, two views of the action were created. This allowed for LARI Vision and the wider LARI View.

Hall of Sleepers / Cryogenic chamber

The Satellite Game - Hall of Sleepers

Where the creators of Enigma store their ‘captives’ or even their ‘pets’ in suspended animation.

Minefield

The Satellite Game - Mission Commanders watching LARI in Mine Scan mode

A domed environment in which invisible mines prevent crossing. The floor is surface sensitive and will destroy anything which halts during the crossing. LARI must use his Minescan function to see the mines and then cross the environment without stopping until he reaches the other side.

Kitchenworld

The Satellite Game - Kitchenworld

An oversized facsimile of a television cookery programme set. Entry is via an oven, progression is across the work surface avoiding microwaves, a heated hob and flying kitchen knives.

Hydroponic gardens

The Satellite Game - aphoid in the hydroponic garden

Includes an overgrown dense jungle, a cultivated vegetable patch and Big Tom: a giant talking tomato with a depressive personality.

The Sea of Futility

The Satellite Game - LARI crossing the Sea of Futility

A denser-than-air and highly corrosive sulphur-based gas sea.

The Satellite Game - Sea of Futility information on the command screen

At the centre of the sea is the Island of Death, which provides the only exit from this environment. LARI must endure an intensive laser attack from the island in order to escape.

The Satellite Game - Island of Death illustration by David Rowe

Electronic maze

A domed environment in the form of a traditional maze. Ground level mines must be avoided.

Death Park

A single viaduct with a dense forest beneath and cruise missiles above. A giant robotic Aphoid must be destroyed in order to successfully cross the viaduct to the exit.

Nuclear reactor core

LARI must avoid floating skeletal ‘hands of fate’ perpetually moving nuclear reactors around.

The Hall of Fuses

The central core of the Enigma satellite, where a nuclear clock counts down towards Armageddon and the destruction of our solar system. The clock must be stopped in order to complete the mission. This is achieved using a security code consisting of ‘bleeps’ and ‘numbers’. If successful, Enigma itself addresses the mission commanders via a Flying Sphere.

The Tulip Room

Described in a planning document as a ‘glass bowl with wine glass inside’ where the exit is described as ‘down the stem of the glass’. We’re not sure which episodes this appeared in, if any.

Other environments

The conduit system of octagonal Octunnels featured vertical air-shafts, a variety of armouries (sometimes called device centres) and teleport stations.

Referred to but not seen: Death Park 3 and 6, The Aphoid Breeding Pens and Narcosis Avenue.

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