Travelling in Co. Galway, western Ireland, in search of a food story, and I spot these words on the front of a house in the town of Gort, “Klaatu, barada, nikto”.
It takes me a few seconds to remember the phrase comes from a film I watched when I was 12.
A film I’m now thinking about again for lots of reasons.
As many of you will know the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still tells story of a human-looking alien, Klaatu (played by Michael Rennie) arriving on Earth with a message.
Following two world wars, and the deepening of the Cold War, the message is that our species must learn to live peacefully or face being destroyed.
Klaatu explains that the other inhabitants of the universe believe we’re on course to become a primitive but dangerous threat to other planets.
The combination of modern weaponry with problematic human nature isn’t good for long-term inter-planetary peace.
The message from Klaatu?
“Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.”
The sign on the house? Klaatu arrives with a giant robot capable of destroying the earth, “For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us; this power can not be revoked. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is that we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war—free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. ”
When Klaatu is shot (by the humans he’s trying to save) the phrase “klaatu barada nikto” needs to be uttered to prevent the robot destroying Earth.
Why am I telling this story from western Ireland?
Because the name of the robot in the story is Gort.
Words by Dan Saladino
Dan Saladino is a renowned food journalist who has worked at the BBC for twenty-five years.