Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: The Day After Tomorrow

Created by Gerry Anderson and Johnny Byrne, The Day After Tomorrow (aka Into Infinity) was a TV pilot first shown in December 1975. The show takes place in a future where  human civilisation is increasingly threatened by rising pollution, environmental damage and the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources.

We are introduced, via a narrator (Ed Bishop), to the Space Station Delta and the lightship Altares – the first Earth spacecraft to “harness the limitless power of the photon”, allowing it to travel at the speed of light: “This could create the effects predicted by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – effects that could shrink the very fabric of space, distort time, and perhaps alter the structure of the universe as we understand it.”

As we join the Altares it is due to leave Delta on a mission beyond the Solar System to seek out Earth-like planets for possible colonisation. Due to the effects of time dilation, by which astronauts travelling at near-light speed age far more slowly than people on Earth, the ship will be crewed by two whole “family units”.

The first of these “family units” arrives via a United Nations shuttle. They are , Doctors Tom Bowen (Brian Blessed), his wife Anna Bowen (Joanna Dunham) and their son, David (Martin Lev).

Meanwhile, Captain Harry Masters (Nick Tate), engages Altares‘s “photon drive” and the vessel starts its 4.3-light-year journey to the star Alpha Centauri, its first scheduled stop but not before Captain Masters daughter Jane Masters (Katharine Levy) arranges to leaves her dog, Spring, in the care of station commander Jim Forbes (Don Fellows).

Once on its journey, the Altares approaches the edge of the Solar System, Jane and David observe how Pluto appears to change colour from blue to red due to the shortening and lengthening of light waves caused by the Doppler effect. Arriving at Alpha Centauri, the crew launch a series of satellites to relay data back to Earth. Having completed their primary objective, the Masters and Bowen families then agree to push deeper into space.

When Altares encounters a star cluster, Anna tells Jane of Einstein’s accomplishments in the areas of special relativity and unified field theory. Shortly after, the ship is hit by a meteor shower that damages various systems and causes the photon drive to re-activate, hurling Altares through space at such velocity that the travellers are knocked out. A fail-safe brings the vessel, now powerless, to a halt within the gravitational field of a red giant on the brink of supernova. Donning a heat suit, Captain Masters risks his life by entering the reactor core in a bid to repair the drive. He succeeds, and Anna and Jane pilot the ship outside the blast radius of the star before it explodes.

Detecting a signal from Delta, which has taken the equivalent of 15 Earth years to reach them, the travellers are able to plot their position and lay in a course home. However, disaster strikes when Altares is caught in the gravity of a black hole that has formed from a collapsed star. The photon drive is unable to provide the faster-than-light speeds necessary to break free; nevertheless, Anna urges the crew not to give up hope, for she suspects that the object may be a gateway to another universe.

Luckily, her theory is proven correct when, sustaining the various space-time distortions at the event horizon, Altares safely emerges from the black hole – intact, albeit with no way of returning to Earth. As the vessel and its intrepid crew approach a planet, the narrator concludes, “One thing is sure – this is not the final word. Not the end, but the beginning. A new universe, a new hope? Only time will tell.”

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