Out Of This World: The Yellow Pill

Out Of This WorldBritish broadcaster ABC airs the first episode of science fiction anthology series Out Of This World. Adapted by Leon Griffiths from a story by Rog Phillips, the story stars Nigel Stock and is introduced by Boris Karloff (in much the same way that Rod Serling introduced episodes of The Twilight Zone). This script will be reused in 1969 during the third season of the BBC’s anthology series Out Of The Unknown, whose original producer, Irene Shubik, is script editor of Out Of This World. This episode no longer exists in the archives.

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Soyuz 11: all hands lost

Soyuz 11After a record-setting 22 day stay about Soviet space station Salyut 1, the crew of Soyuz 11 prepares to return home. As they undock and fire their retro rockets to bring their vehicle out of orbit, Soyuz depressurizes without warning, killing the crew – Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev – within a minute. (The cramped design of the Soyuz cabin makes no allowances for cosmonauts to wear spacesuits.) Soyuz flights will be grounded for two years until the vehicle can be redesigned to prevent another tragedy. Two members of the grounded prime crew, Alexei Leonov (the first man to walk in space) and Valery Kubasov, are later reassigned to the international Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

Star Trek: The God Thing

Star TrekAfter spending a month writing drafts of the same basic story, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry completes the final draft of a live-action script simply titled Star Trek II, though later publications will refer to this script as The God Thing. The script shares many basic structural similarities with the later Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including sweeping upgrades to the Enterprise, Kirk’s promotion out of the captain’s chair, Spock’s return to Vulcan to pursue a purge of his human emotions, and an alien force of unknown power approaching Earth. There, however, the similarities end, as the story depicts an alien entity taking over the minds of Starfleet officers, who begin reciting prayers and exhibiting dangerous degrees of religious zealotry. Kirk and his senior officers, of course, remain unaffected, and disobey the orders of their possessed superiors to save Earth, only to discover that the “God” entity is an alien being which has been influencing human development for thousands of years, having last appeared in a guise which inspired the Judeo-Christian belief system. Likely out of fear of offending its potential audience, The God Thing is swiftly rejected by Paramount, though Bantam Books expresses interest in Roddenberry novelizing his own unused script. Work on that novelization comes to a halt in 1977 as Roddenberry begins work on a prospective Star Trek TV revival, and though other authors will attempt to adapt Roddenberry’s script – including Walter Koenig, Susan Sackett and Fred Bronson, and frequent Trek novelist Michael Jan Friedman – The God Thing remains unpublished. Many elements of the story resurface in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

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Challenger rollout

ChallengerCompletely refitted from a lightweight airframe originally fabricated for stress, vibration and thermal testing, Space Shuttle Challenger is rolled out of her Rockwell International assembly plant in Palmdale, California. Experience gained in the construction of Challenger’s sister ship, Columbia, means that the second completed shuttle in the fleet is over one ton lighter than Columbia. Challenger would make her first flight in just under a year.

Mann & Machine: Truth Or Consequences

Mann & MachineThe seventh episode of the science fiction police series Mann & Machine, co-created by Dick Wolf and Robert de Laurentiis, is broadcast on NBC, starring David Andrews and Yancy Butler. (The series has already been cancelled at this point; NBC is burning off the remaining episodes in off-season time slots.)

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Buran grounded

BuranRussian President Boris Yeltsin brings an end to the secretive Soviet-era Buran project, which was the Soviet military’s answer to (and near-copy of) the American Space Shuttle fleet. Even though a second orbiter, Ptichka, is almost complete, and three others are in various stages of construction, Yeltsin and his advisors see no future for Buran and end the program as a cost-cutting measure. Due to its crash development and cost overruns, the Buran program has only launched a single unmanned shuttle on one orbital flight after the expenditure of the equivalent of $16,000,000,000.

Daleks to be absent from new Who

DalekThe Daleks are out of the running for the ninth Doctor’s adventures, according to the BBC and Doctor Who‘s new producer, Russell T. Davies. Apparently it’s not just a matter of money either – the estate of Terry Nation (the late creator of the Daleks, Blake’s 7 and other classics of British SF TV) wants editorial input into the Daleks’ use in any new stories. But fear, not, Davies says: “We’re disappointed the Daleks won’t be included but we have a number of new and exciting monsters. And I can confirm we have created a new enemy for the Doctor which will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.”

Doctor Who: Last Of The Time Lords

Doctor WhoThe 739th episode of Doctor Who (the 41st since the series’ revival) airs on BBC1. Guest starring John Barrowman and John Simm (Life On Mars), this is the final part of a three-part season finale reintroducing the Master, the Doctor’s rival Time Lord from the classic series. Freema Agyeman departs the TARDIS as Martha in this episode, returning as a recurring character the following season.

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