In Praise of the Sci-fi Corridor
Corridors make science-fiction believable, because they’re so utilitarian by nature – really they’re just a conduit to get from one (often overblown) set to another. So if any thought or love is put into one, if the production designer is smart enough to realise that corridors are the foundation on which larger sets are ‘sold’ to viewers, movie magic is close at hand.
The designs that Roger Christian synthesised from Ron Cobb’s prolific and extraordinary conceptual sketches for Alien (1979) are lingered over lovingly at the start of the movie. Ridley Scott knows that corridors matter in a horror (or ‘haunted house’) movie, but these marvellous sets are also being showcased to sell the gritty and grimy, commercial and industrial reality of the Nostromo as well. The upper sections related to the command deck were dirtied down with gold and black paint after a reshuffle of sections in order to convey the grittier world inhabited and Parker and Brett on the engineering level.
Repeat sections are what corridors are all about, and they’re part of the iconography of pre-CGI sci-fi movie-making. For Alien, Roger Christian would have the production department mock up different sections of corridor for Ridley Scott’s perusement, and whatever got the green light was fabricated multiple times to create the final corridor, often with the classic trick of placing an angled mirror at the end of the long set to suggest further recession and depth.