There is a scene in Watchmen (2009) on Mars with Dr. Manhattan. Every time I watch the movie I'm wondering what exactly is this crystal/diamond thing we can see on Mars.

crystal thing


6 Answers 6


First of all, what this thing actually is, it's nothing more than a huge glass structure that Dr. Manhattan creates out of Mars sand. But to understand why he builds that, we have to look at his character a bit (at least as far as I'm able to do). I'll draw a bit of information from the comic here, not entirely sure by now how much of this is also part of the movie, but the overall themes should match (especially considering how true to the source material the movie was).

When Dr. Manhattan left earth this was because he was currently fed up with humanity (and probably also felt some guilt for Janey's cancer, not knowing that he wasn't the cause). To compensate this he takes refuge in the solitude of Mars. And as the son of a watchmaker, Jon Osterman learned from his father to admire the precision of such a watch as a structue of many simple parts that precisely interlock with each other. And I guess at this point he searches refuge in creating such a complex and precise structure out of something as simple as the sand of Mars, all while reflecting about his past life and trying to understand the nature of time and determination itself and the problems of cause and effect. And the corresponding chapter of the novel is indeed also called "Watchmaker", reinforcing this attitude.

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In addition to that, if we understand Dr. Manhattan with his godlike powers as an exaggeration (or perversion?) of Superman, this walkable structure in the solitude of Mars might as well be understood as an allusion to Superman's crystalline Fortress of Solitude in the lonesome depths of Antarctica.

  • But what is the purpose of this huge watch-like instrument? Does Dr. Manhattan build it just because he can, in sort of a therapeutic manner or he wishes to use this in the future for something.
    – Sayan
    Sep 5, 2014 at 11:52
  • 2
    @KeyBrdBasher I don't think it is supposed to actually do anything meaningful (he only uses it fly around in with Laurie). I think it really only has what one could call "therapeutic value", as it helps him to understand the meaning of determination by example. But other than that he really just seems to do it because he can and to create something (at the end of the story he also mentions that he'll maybe create life one day wherever he goes).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 5, 2014 at 12:58
  • Thanks for the clarification @NapoleonWilson. Much appreciated.
    – Sayan
    Sep 8, 2014 at 9:18

Manhattan built it so that he'd have somewhere to sit and contemplate his existence. The script refers to it as his 'palace', noting its watch-like composition.

BACK TO: The pink glass structure on Mars which SPREADS OUT INTO COMPLEX GLASS PATTERNS, RISING FROM THE PLAIN at Dr. Manhattan's command-- Dr. Manhattan, now dwarfed by the RISING, EVOLVING GLASS STRUCTURE, which begins to resemble parts of a WATCH-

BACK TO: Mars, where Dr. Manhattan's GLASS PALACE rises in its full glory. A home fit for a god.


As others have said, Manhattan has guilt. I think he hated that humans die and wanted to create something that showed time (his wheel clock thing) but would not die. This clock wheel will not die like humans do. But it will be there with him. If you notice when he was building it he was in a meditative pose while hovering. Buddhism has a lot of talk of getting away from it all to find inner peace. The Buddha himself discovered he could not always be alone and that he simply must have some interaction with others. Maybe this wheel clock thing is otehrs to Dr Manhattan.


It's a fractal that holds meaning to Dr. Manhattan after having observed the fractal nature of the universe that already existed to the point of boredom.

Dr. Manhatten follows the journey of any creative: understanding that he is a creation first and foremost, realizing that as creation he has inherent creative powers, using those creative powers to the ends of other creatures under the assumption that they know what they're doing, realizing that all creation is fractal including the creative able to observe this truth, and then finally creating for its own purposes keeping in mind the fractal structure of the universe and the need to exercise free will for novelty.

Dr. Manhattan is the only one who can perceive the universe this way and THEN decide to create but even that creation is merely another fractal, the only difference is that this one holds personal meaning for Manhattan in the shape of a clock, a mockery of the time that he once thought had intrinsic meaning, the measurement of which his biological father spent his limited time perfecting. It's a joke on the absurdity of existence and the meaning we find to cope with it.


I think the best place to start is the "grains ... haphazard, random, a disorganized stream of silicone that seems pregnant with the possibility of every conceivable shape." Look at some images of the seemingly infinitely variant complex silica structures created by Radiolaria & Diatoms and you'll make the connection.

Here's a couple pages from a work by Ernst Haeckel that shows what I mean:

plate #24, Die Radiolarien
Berlin, 1862– Ernst Haeckel

plate #17, Die Radiolarien
Berlin, 1862 – Ernst Haeckel

link to full scanned document (Internet Archive)

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Movies & TV. So, you're saying it's a giant diatom?
    – DavidW
    Aug 28 at 5:07

I think since Doctor manhattan was haunted by guilt of the cancer ,he thinks he's also responsible for the end of it, so he built him self a time machine to travel back and forth in time to fix the problem of his guilt.

  • 3
    What evidence do you have that this is a time machine? Further, what evidence do you have that Doctor Manhattan would need to build a machine to traverse time?
    – MattD
    Jul 20, 2015 at 3:02
  • 2
    Please share some more details and explanation.
    – Panther
    Jul 20, 2015 at 3:03

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