Into Infinity (Gerry Anderson’s The Day After Tomorrow)

Into InfinityAt Space Station Delta, the starship Altares is preparing for an unprecedented mission: the first manned interstellar mission, utilizing a photonic drive that will create a time dilation effect relative to Earth; any messages the Altares crew sends back from Alpha Centauri will reach the descendants of the mission controllers who helped launch the ship. The Altares is crewed by two families, and even the children are fully trained in the technical and scientific aspects of the mission.

Activation of the photonic drive goes off without a hitch, but contact with Earth is now measured in years instead of minutes or hours. Altares’ visit to Alpha Centauri takes place on schedule, but an unexpected fault activates the photon drive again, throwing the ship off-course at nearly the speed of light and completely out of touch with Earth. With a star threatening to go supernova at any moment, and a black hole that might crush the Altares, the mission and the crew are in jeopardy.

Into Infinitywritten by Johnny Byrne
directed by Charles Crichton
music by Derek Wadsworth and Steve Coe

Cast:

Brian Blessed (Tom Bowen), Joanna Dunham (Anna Bowen), Nick Tate (Captain Harry Masters), Don Fellows (Jim Forbes), Katharine Levy (Jane Masters), Martin Lev (David Bowen), Ed Bishop (Narrator)

Notes: A pilot that never made it to series, Into Infinity first aired in the United States as part of NBC’s occasional “Special Treat” program, and then aired in the UK a year later under the title Gerry Anderson’s Day After Tomorrow). Devised by Gerry Anderson (of Supermarionation, UFO, and Space: 1999 fame) and Space: 1999 script editor Johnny Byrne (also responsible for a few episodes of Doctor Who, including Into InfinityThe Keeper Of Traken and the character of Nyssa), Into Infinity was made between the first and second seasons of Space: 1999. As the Altares plunges into the event horizon of the black hole toward the end of the show, a psychedelic sequence ensues which eerily anticipates – in great detail – the bizzaro ending of the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole. The producers of the later movie were aiming for something cerebral, quasi-spiritual and ambiguous a la 2001: a space odyssey, but the similarities in the hallucinatory sequences near the end of Into Infinity and The Black Hole are striking.

LogBook entry and review by Earl Green

Review: Intended to be a drama with educational elements, The Day After Tomorrow tries to cram juicy tidbits of state-of-the-1975-art scientific theory into dialogue between characters. Unfortunately, these morsels of knowledge Into Infinityare awkwardly jammed into the script (in lines often handed to the youngest cast members), which continuously ramps up the weirdness stakes. When the Altares’ photon drive gets stuck in the “on” position, it’s blazingly obvious that it’s little more than a variation on Space: 1999’s lunar explosion that pushes that show’s regulars far from home or help. In the end, it’s very ‘70s, and not even in a particularly memorable way. It was clearly shot “on the cheap” using rearranged sets, visual elements, and even actors from Gerry Anderson’s other series. The Altares cockpit is obviously the cockpit of an Eagle with an extra overhead control panel; the crew’s superior officer at Space Station Delta is wearing a uniform from Moonbase Alpha. Nick Tate co-starred in both seasons of Space: 1999 as Eagle pilot extraordinaire Alan Carter, while Brian Blessed guest starred in two episodes of the series (Death’s Other Dominion and, most memorably, as Maya’s father in The Metamorph). Ed Bishop provided voices in many of Anderson’s Supermarionation puppet series, and starred as Ed Straker in the live-action UFO. Into Infinity would have a seismic effect on the second year of Space: 1999 – the uniform-plus-wide-collared-jacket combo was picked up as the new fall fashion aboard Moonbase Alpha, and composer Derek Wadsworth’s disco-flavored soundtrack won him a job scoring Space: 1999 after the departure of longtime Anderson collaborator Barry Gray.

Into InfinityConceived as a show that would introduce children to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity in a fictional framework, Into Infinity is burdened with a cursed mission profile: it has to be informative and accurate on one hand, and entertaining enough on the other to keep the kids glued to the set. Like a lot of “edutainment,” it never manages to serve either master very well. Concepts such as Doppler shift from the perspective of a vessel approaching light speed are handled in a clunky way that almost brings things to a stand-still – and that’s just the scientific bits they get right.

There’s also an egregious piece of miscasting here: Nick Tate and Brian Blessed should have swapped roles. Tate’s hands-on space captain demands more fireworks than the reliable Space: 1999 regular can dish out, but the role would’ve been Into Infinitymuch more memorable if Blessed had played the part. It’s nice to see that someone recognized Blessed’s star potential, but it’s odd to see the larger-than-life actor give a subdued performance as a sensitive family man. The characters lack much character, and the script lacks much that makes the characters look human. (The notion of having so much of the technical dialogue come from the two kids must have seemed cute on paper, but it often contributes to the deathly slow pace on screen.)

Not even managing to be as exciting as Space: 1999 (!!), Into Infinity is an odd cul-de-sac in the history of Gerry Anderson’s hit-making machine: a pilot not ready for take-off.