It’s a simple juxtaposition of the familiar with the extraordinary, an instant way of communicating that this is other, this is different.
The airship sets up the League of Extraordinary Gentleman’s steampunk vision of Victorian era Britain, it helps establish the dystopian future of Bladerunner and it was also used to set up the parallel universe in Doctor Who’s Rise of the Cybermen.But why it should be considered such an exemplar of otherness is interesting, especially considering the burgeoning interest in its possibilities as a transport system. For the first time since the 1920s, the lighter-than-air craft is being considered as a real, clean alternative for freight and passenger needs.The beauty of the form is that it can land and take off in any number of environments, can be flown remotely and uses cheap, clean fuels. Oh and the US military are interested too, both for troop and equipment logistics and for use as a high-altitude surveillance platform.You can see a couple of the latest developments here:
Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has developed a monster hybrid ship designed vehicles
And there’s this BBC story about a UK company – based near Cranfield University – which is hoping to use the vehicle for haulage. Depending on how these projects evolve, science fiction writers could be looking for a new visual shortcut to describe parallel universes very soon.