JAYSON PETERS, TRIBUNE
For sci-fi fans, heaven can be a place on Earth.
Here are 10 out-of-this-world sites right out of the databanks of your favorite science-fiction movie or television series. Most of them can be reached by conventional travel, but all of them share an air of mystery or majesty common to the epic tales that made them popular.
10. California’s Bay Area, home of Star Fleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy (Star Trek)
Those liberal-peacenik Federation types from Star Trek must love California: That’s where they chose to build Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy. With a commanding view of the Golden Gate Bridge (perfect for flying your captured Klingon Bird of Prey under while laden with two humpback whales rescued from the barbarous 20th century to help you communicate with destructive alien probes — see #9) it doesn’t look all that different than it does today. Except for the spandex uniforms and flying cars.
Speaking of whales …
9: Monterey Bay, home of the whales who saved Earth (Star Trek IV)
The nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row was used in Star Trek IV as the home of George and Gracie, the two whales the Enterprise crew needed to help them save the Earth in the 23rd century. There are no whales kept there in real life — a fact which angered many visitors who came inspired by the 1986 movie — but it is still one of the world’s largest and most popular aquariums.
8: Guatemala: Yavin IV, the Rebel Alliance’s secret base (Star Wars)
The ruins of Tikal in Guatemala stood in for the Massassi Temple complex that housed the hidden Rebel Alliance base on Yavin IV in Star Wars. One of Mayan civilization’s major population centers and cultural hubs, Tikal is now one of the largest archaeological sites from the pre-Columbian world. One thing the Mayans and Massassi had in common: temples that are ideal to serve as ready-made hangars for X-wing starfighters.
7: Tunisia: The Lars Homestead on Tatooine (Star Wars)
No place on Earth is more like Tatooine than Tunisia — in fact, the African nation is where George Lucas filmed scenes for the desert planet in Star Wars and its prequels, and the planet is named after a former French penal colony there called Tataouine. You can even visit the hotel that stood in for the moisture farm where Owen and Beru Lars raised Luke Skywalker on a steady stream of blue milk and lies. Set decorations remain, and somewhere out in the dunes still lie the bleached bones of a Krayt dragon.
6: Yuma: Jabba’s Palace and the Great Pit of Carkoon (Return of the Jedi)
But the desolation of Tunisia is far too remote for Jabba the Hutt, so when Lucas needed to film scenes for the vile gangster’s Tatooine compound in Return of the Jedi he went to the desert outside Yuma. To keep spectators to a minimum and prevent vendors from thinking they could make a killing off “Star Wars,” the production crew told everyone here they were filming a horror movie called “Blue Harvest.” The area is cherished by moviemakers, off-roaders and environmentalists (there are a number of endangered species in the area — but no Sarlaccs or Rancors).