Of battleships and moonbases in Second Life

Monbase Alpha, March 2022

Sometimes playing pot luck with Second Life’s Destination Guide can result in the most unexpected visits. Recently, for example, I riffled through the DG and ended up dropping into a pair of builds by Mitch Charron; both are located within the same region and both offers their own sense of history, albeit in very different ways.

The first of these is a genuine page from history and takes the form of HMS Iron Duke, the flagship of the British Grand Fleet operating out of Scapa Flow in the Scottish Orkneys during the First World War. Sporting no fewer than 10 13.5-inch guns, Iron Duke and her four sister ships were, for a short time following the outbreak of hostilities, the most powerful warships in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. In 1916, three of them participated in the Battle of Jutland, the only major clash of battleships of that war – and the last major naval engagement fought primarily by capital ships before aircraft became the main offensive weapon in naval warfare.

HMS Iron Duke

Within Second Life, Iron Duke is offered as a WWI role-play environment, the vessel appearing to be moored within Scapa Flow. The landing point in on her main gun deck, close to the aft superstructure that mounts one of the ship’s massive twin turrets of its main armament. This superstructure provides access to the below decks areas where can be found offices, the main mess deck for ratings (complete with hammock rigged over the tables and benches), the officer’s mess with it modest comforts, etc.

Forward of the landing point, past the midships main turret, it is possible to reach the armoured steering house and the flying bridge with its charthouse that rises above the forward superstructure. Other details include the vessel’s casement-mounted secondary guns, her steam tenders and general deck details that match available drawings of the ship for the period 1914-1919, all of which make for an engaging visit.

Moonbase Alpha: Main Mission

Located high above the mists of Scapa Flow, meanwhile, sits another location risen of the history of television. Located within the magnificent desolation of the Moon’s surface over which a (rather large) gibbous Earth hangs, is the grey bulk of Moonbase Alpha, a place made famous  – and most media sci-fi fans will likely know – by the 1970s live-action TV series Space: 1999, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (and the last production in their partnership).

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the series focused on the plight of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, a scientific research centre, after Earth’s Moon is blasted out of its orbit – and out of the solar system – on September 13th, 1999 courtesy of a massive nuclear explosion. While we now may be looking back at 1999 knowing this never happened, at the time it allowed the series to offer the 311 people stranded on the wandering Moon to partake in numerous adventures (some of them very hooky) in deep space.

Moonbase Alpha: Medical Centre

The series drew inspiration from some of the production designs seen in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and this is very much in evidence within Mitch’s design, presenting as it does various interior spaces of Moonbase Alpha, all of which are intended to offer a free-form role-play space for those wishing to get involved.

Those familiar with the TV series will instantly recognise what can be found here, from Main Mission, the station’s control centre dominated by the base commander’s large desk, through the plastic-walled corridors to the recreational facilities, the medical centre, the science labs, crew quarters and even a travel tube car. Corridor intersections include the show’s iconic communications posts, while out of the landing pads a (possibly more iconic) Eagle Transporter awaits lift-off.

The interior of an Eagle forms the landing point, with a loading door accessing the travel tube (and thence the rest of the station), while the computer panel to one side of the Eagle’s pod offers teleports to the ground-level sights within the region, which may well be the subject of a future visit. Other teleports will deliver people to some of the outlining facilities around the core of the base.

Moonbase Alpha: Recreation and Dining

From reading the notes (provided via the Communications Posts), I understand the station is to be extended, and custom props are to be developed and supplied to those involved in RP within the setting. The role play itself is apparently set some two years prior to the events of the TV series, meaning the station in not under the command of Martin Landau’s John Koenig, but will progress to that fateful day in September 1999. Anyone who does fancy becoming an Alphan should contact Mitch Charron directly.

I’ve no idea how much actual role-play goes on at either location, but for the historically-minded, Iron Duke makes for an interesting visit. Moonbase Alpha is a very credible reproduction of the environment from the TV series – so much so that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nick Tate’s Alan Carter had stepped out of the cockpit of the Eagle interior landing point.

Both Moonbase and battleship make for very eclectic visits, but both offer multiple opportunities for photography, (although the battleship could perhaps benefit from the use of materials to help bring the texturing to life, land impact allowing; it also would also perhaps be nice if the ship had an information giver similar to the ones at Moonbase, but this is a minor quibble.

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