Unlike most TV pilots that never resulted in a full series production, this Gerry Anderson production did at least wind up on TV – and at least in the U.S. it did so several times, and for some reason memory of this show stuck in my mind. I even had to ask you what it was, with the memory having been corrupted over 30 years. I recently had the opportunity to watch this again – Read More about it, and you can get even more details about this and other Gerry Anderson productions (and DVDs) at the Fanderson web site.
The Day After Tomorrow started off with NBC wanting to produce a short series of educational episodes aimed at kids, each one covering a different topic. One of which would focus on Einstein’s theories of relativity. But they wouldn’t be straight-up lectures – they’d be under the guise of action-adventure stories. NBC approached Anderson to produce the Einstein episode, and rather than do just a one-off, Anderson produced it as a pilot for a new series, called The Day After Tomorrow, naming the episode “Into Infinity”.
Anderson recruited Space: 1999 scribe Johnny Byrne to develop it, and shot it shortly after production of the first season of Space: 1999 ended. In fact, some of the props from “Into Infinity” would find their way into the second season of Space: 1999. The production definitely has a Space: 1999 feel to it, with the style and effects being pretty much the same. Even the space station commander’s uniform looks very similar to that of the Commander Koenig.
For actors, Anderson recruited well known (at least in the U.K.) actor Brian Blessed (I remember him most as Vultan, king of the Hawkmen, in the 1980 Flash Gordon film, but he has appeared in many things) as Dr. Tom Bowen , and Nick Tate (Alan Carter on Space: 1999 as Capt. Harry Masters. It also starred Joanna Dunham as Anna Bowen, Martin Lev as David Bowen, and Katharine Levy as Jane Masters. Ed Bishop, an old Anderson stalwart best known for playing Commander Ed Straker in U.F.O., narrated the episode to establish the situation given the short amount of time.
The story is about the Antares, a new ship with a photon drive, capable of reaching nearly the speed of light, thus experiencing relativistic effects. Because the Earth could change significantly due to relativistic effects, the ship is to be manned by two family units. The crew consists of Capt. Harry Masters and his daughter Jane (no mention is made of a wife/mother), Dr. Bowen, his wife Anne, and their son David. Even the children are trained in operations and serve specific functions on the ship.
The Antares is to use their photon drive to reach Alpha Centauri, and then make a decision – continue on (an untimate destination is not named), or return to Earth. After reaching their first waypoint they decide to continue on.
While traveling through a dense star cluster, they encounter a meteor storm which causes the the photon drive to malfunction, driving them at incredible speeds and into an uncharted area before the drive shuts down. They find themselves in the gravitational pull of an unstable red giant, and the photon drive out of commission. Masters has to enter the drive chamber, which is incredibly hot, to try and make repairs, which he does just in time, and they use the drive to escape just as the star goes nova.
Next, they find themselves in the gravitational field of a black hole, and this time the photon drive isn’t going to help them. They know they have no chance against to escape, but there is another alternative – dive into the black hole and hope that the theory of reaching another universe is right…
Overall, the show is pretty good, especially considering it was a pilot. It feels so much like Space: 1999, it probably could have been reworked to be a spinoff. The show did seem a bit repetitive though – one crisis after the next – but again it was serving two purposes – as an educational program, and as a pilot.
For the educational side, they do discuss a number of aspects of relativity – the doppler shift, relativistic effects, black holes – although in some cases the representations of them weren’t necessarily accurate. I’m also not entirely sure about the explanation of the difference between a rotating and non-rotating black hole as being the key to another universe – I think that was contrived to give an escape and a future plot setting.
Alas, the show never made it past this stage. NBC showed it in December of 1975 as part of the “NBC Special Treat” series (and I believe repeated it a few times – I know I saw it at least 3 times), and aired on the BBC about a year later with a single repeat showing. Since then it became a rarity – I don’t believe it ever screened again on TV, and probably not seen at all until tapes and DVDs were made available (see the Fanderson web site on obtaining them.