The Specific Studio Zone That Makes Alien Planets in Science Fiction Films and Shows Look So Similar

In an extraterrestrail episode of “Things You Might Not Know“, host Tom Scott went on-location in Southern California to explain why alien planets look so similar in science fiction stories. Known as the Thirty Mile Zone (TMZ), the area is the specific distance from Hollywood that studios were required to adhere to according to complicated union rules dictating studio versus location rates.

There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.