The lightship Altares leaves Space Station Delta on the first stage of a mission of scientific discovery beyond the solar system, a journey to Alpha Centauri, four light years from Earth. On board are two complete family units: Dr. Tom Bowen with his wife Anna and son David, and Captain Harry Masters with his daughter Jane.
Their work at Alpha Centauri completed, the two families elect to continue deeper into space but the computer guidance system malfunctions and the Altares is hit by a meteorite shower. When the ship’s photon drive accidentally cuts in, the Altares hurtles out of control at near light speed – leaving the crew with no way to return to Earth!
Gerry Anderson Productions
First UK broadcast: 11th December 1976
1 episode x 50 minutes
Screenplay by Johnny Byrne
Directed by Charles Crichton
Original UK Airdate: 11th December 1976 (BBC1)
Original US Airdate: 9th December 1975 (NBC)
Producer: Gerry Anderson
Production Supervisor: F. Sherwin Green
Director: Charles Crichton
Director of Photography: Frank Watts BSC
Production Designer: Reg Hill
Special Effects: Brian Johnson
Music: Derek Wadsworth and Steve Coe
The crew of the lightship Altares board their craft at Space Station Delta. They consist of two complete family units; Captain Harry Masters and his daughter Jane, and Doctors Tom and Anna Bowen with their son David. Only one family member must be left behind – Jane must leave her dog, Spring, in the care of station commander Jim Forbes.
The Altares departs on the first stage of its mission, a journey to Alpha Centauri, four light years away from Earth. Harry activates the photon drive, boosting the ship to 178,141 miles per second. Jane and David observe the effects of travelling at near light speed, witnessing the Doppler Shift as they pass Pluto and head out of the solar system – as the Altares approaches Pluto at near light speed, the light waves are bunched up in the short end of the spectrum, so the planet appears blue; as the ship passes and moves away from the planet, the light waves become stretched out, so Pluto appears red.
The ship arrives at Alpha Centauri and the crew complete their research, launching satellites which will transmit data back to Earth. Now the crew must decide their next course of action – one dissenting voice, and they will return home. The Bowens all vote to go deeper into space. For Jane, it is a difficult decision, but she eventually agrees, as does her father.
The Altares nears a star cluster and encounters gravitational turbulence. The stars in the cluster appear small, but this is the effect of their relative velocity – as predicted by Einstein. Anne tells Jane of Einstein’s later life in America, working on the Unified Field Theory, an even more fantastic project than his Theory of Relativity. Unfortunately, he died before completing the work.
Suddenly, the computer guidance system malfunctions, and as Tom switches to the backup systems, the ship is hit by a meteorite shower. The photon drive cuts in and Harry is unable to power it down. The fail safe also fails, and the ship hurtles deep into space at a constant acceleration of near light speed. Battered by the terrific acceleration forces, the crew pass out.
They regain consciousness to find that the fail safe has finally cut in and the ship is now suspended in space near to a red giant star. However, the ship now has no power – the acceleration has burnt out some of the drive units. The space/time co-ordinates have gone too, so the crew have no idea how long they have been unconscious or how far they have travelled. The Altares is lost in space!
Tom reports that the ship is caught in the gravitational pull of the sun, so Harry has no choice but to enter the photon drive chamber to replace the damaged systems. Inside the chamber, the temperature is like a furnace, so Harry must wear a heatsuit – even then, Anna tells him that he can only remain inside for 15 minutes, at which time Tom will take over. While Harry works inside the chamber, Anna discovers that the red giant is unstable and could go supernova at any time. Then, the computer alerts them to massive neutrino emissions from the sun – the star is about to explode! Jane pleads with Tom and Anna not to tell her father of the danger, as he will stay in the chamber past the safety point to complete the repairs. Anna points out that unless Harry does complete the work, they will all be caught in the supernova. Harry manages to repair the photon drive, risking his life in the chamber to do so. Anne and Jane pilot the ship out of danger as the star explodes.
David picks up a signal which the computer confirms as originating from Delta Beacon. The signal was transmitted 15 years after they left Earth – with it, they can now work out their position relative to Earth and so find their way home. Tom plots a course and the Altares heads back to Earth.
Suddenly, the ship comes under an intense gravitational pull and is drawn off course. Anna activates the forward laser beam and the crew are horrified to see the beam pulled in a tight curve, into a black hole – the result of the collapse of a massive star, from which not even light can escape.
New Universe The ship is caught in the hole’s gravitational field and cannot break free. Anna’s instruments tell her that the hole may be rotating – if so, they may have a chance to pass through the hole and enter a new universe. If not, they will be crushed out of existence.
Altares passes the event horizon and enters the hole. Each crew member experiences mind-bending hallucinations with distortions of space and time, but by pulling together they are able to overcome the effects and arrive unharmed on the other side of the hole, in a new universe where space itself is alight with cosmic radiance.
“They have survived their journey through the black hole and crossed the frontiers of human knowledge. They know it is impossible to return to Earth and to their own space and time. They must now come to terms with their existence on the other side of a black hole. 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.”
As filming was being completed on the first series of Space:1999, Gerry Anderson was approached by George Heinemann, then vice-president of specialised children’s programming for the American NBC Television Network. Heinemann had the idea of a series of seven one-hour educational specials, of which one would forward the premises and effects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, in the format of an action-adventure show that would appeal to younger viewers.
Anderson got together with Space:1999 writer and script editor Johnny Byrne to devise the concept of what became The Day After Tomorrow, with a format that had the potential for a long-running series if the initial film, Into Infinity, proved successful. At a cost of £120,000 ($225,000), principal photography on the 52 minute pilot was filmed at Pinewood Studios in ten days during July 1975, with a further six weeks spent shooting the numerous special effects sequences at Bray Studios. The programme was completed in September 1975 and Anderson embarked on the production of Space:1999‘s second season, re-using some of the props and set panels from The Day After Tomorrow for economy.
The finished episode premiered in the US as the third programme in NBC’s Special Treat series on 9th December 1975, and was first screened in the UK by the BBC almost exactly a year later – on 11th December 1976. The BBC made minor edits to the programme, primarily removing the “The Day After Tomorrow” title caption, as it was felt that viewers would be confused by the appearance of an episode title (“Into Infinity”) on what was, to all intents and purposes, a one-off film – the “The Day After Tomorrow” caption was the easier of the two captions to remove, so the programme was billed and broadcast simply as “Into Infinity”. A copy of the edited episode is retained by the BBC in their archive, although the BBC’s master tape of the complete programme was wiped early in 1997.
Anderson was unable to sell the series concept of The Day After Tomorrow so, in the event, only the pilot film was produced. The programme has remained something of a rarity amongst the Gerry Anderson productions – its only broadcast on British television since the single repeat showing in 1977 was in revised form by BBC Four in 2014. It was released on home video by Fanderson, and subsequently Network.
Cast and Crew
In casting the leading characters in The Day After Tomorrow, Anderson turned to two charismatic and popular actors who had recently appeared in the first season of Space:1999. The first of these was Brian Blessed, who took the role of Dr. Tom Bowen. Blessed had made a powerful guest appearance in Space:1999‘s Death’s Other Dominion although he is better known in the UK for his regular role as PC Fancy Smith in the long-running police drama Z Cars. With guest roles in series such as Randall And Hopkirk Deceased, The Avengers, Blakes 7, Doctor Who, Survivors and The Sweeney, as well as leading roles in Arthur Of The Britons, The Aphrodite Inheritance, My Family And Other Animals, The Black Adder and John Silver’s Return To Treasure Island, Blessed is one of the UK’s leading character actors. Immediately after The Day After Tomorrow, Anderson cast Blessed again in Space:1999, appearing in the second season opener, The Metamorph, as Maya’s father Mentor.
The role of Captain Harry Masters went to Nick Tate, Space:1999‘s Chief Eagle pilot Alan Carter. Recognising Tate’s ‘leading man’ potential, Anderson had made various attempts to beef-up Tate’s role in 1999, although these were largely hindered by contractual obligations to series star Martin Landau. However, there were no such obligations in The Day After Tomorrow, so Tate was given full reign as lead actor – although for other contractual reasons he was given third billing on the credits. Tate has gone on to forge a successful career for himself in the US, most recently with appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Murder She Wrote, Steven Bochco’s Civil Wars, Steven Spielberg’s Hook and as a voice-over artist on theatrical trailers.
Narrator of the episode was Ed Bishop, then recently returned from a sojourn in the US where he had provided a character voice for the animated Star Trek episode, The Magicks Of Megas-Tu. Bishop’s history with Gerry Anderson goes right back to Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons – providing the voice for Captain Blue – and then to a leading role in the feature film Doppelgänger before starring as Commander Ed Straker in the live-action series UFO. Bishop’s most recent work for Gerry Anderson had been in a guest role in an episode of The Protectors – The First Circle – made prior to his American stopover. Bishop continues to work extensively in theatre, radio and television in the UK.
The remaining cast members are less well-known. Dr. Anna Bowen was played by Joanna Dunham, who had been seen in the regular role of Arlette in the third season of Van Der Valk, and had also made a guest appearance in Space:1999 – as Vana, the daughter of Raan (Peter Cushing) in Missing Link. Jane Masters was played by Katherine Levy in her first screen role – she appeared shortly afterwards as one of the leading characters in the science-fiction serial Children Of The Stones, and later made a guest appearance in the Robin Of Sherwood episode The Children Of Israel. David Masters was played by the late Martin Lev, who won acclaim in 1976 for his role as the gangster Dandy Dan in Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone, appearing alongside the young Scott Baio and Jodie Foster. Don Fellows (Jim Forbes) had also been seen in Space:1999, in an uncredited role as the GTV Newsreader in the series’ premiere Breakaway.
For his crew on The Day After Tomorrow, Anderson re-hired many of the production staff from his previous television series, most of whom had just completed two years’ work on Space:1999‘s first season. Among these were special effects designer Brian Johnson, production designer Reg Hill, director of photography Frank Watts and editor David Lane. The episode was helmed by highly acclaimed film director Charles Crichton, who had just directed a third of the episodes of Space:1999‘s first season and went on to direct a further six episodes for the second season.
Uncredited model-maker Martin Bower, who had joined the staff of Space:1999 with Alpha Child, designed and built the Altares model in a style compatible with the Earth spaceships used in Space:1999 – simply because he was under the impression that the Altares was actually for use in 1999. Two versions of the Altares were constructed: a six-foot-long model for close up shots and a smaller three-foot model for long shots. The larger model was equipped with rocket nozzles that could be loaded from gas jets and a high intensity light for the photon drive. Bower also constructed a two-and-a-half-foot space shuttle model to ferry the crew from Earth and to create the massive ten-foot-wide Space Station Delta model, Bower re-dressed a section of his model of the S.S. Daria from the Space:1999 episode Mission Of The Darians.
One newcomer to the Anderson fold with The Day After Tomorrow was musician Derek Wadsworth, who, in the absence of regular Anderson series composer Barry Gray, composed a rousing and memorable theme tune for the show, and went on, with Steve Coe, to compose all the incidental music. Wadsworth was retained for the second season of Space:1999.
The primary function of The Day After Tomorrow was to expand upon the theories proposed by Albert Einstein in his seminal Theory Of Special Relativity. This suggests that light (reflected or emitted) from an object travels at the same velocity whether the object is moving or stationary – the speed of light is an absolute and nothing can travel faster.
The most famous consequence of relativity theory is the knowledge that mass can be converted into energy, the amount of energy (E) which can be derived from a given mass (M) of any type of material, being derived by the equation E=MC2. However, when applied to space, time and lightspeed (or near lightspeed) travel, other, more fantastic consequences can be explored, and are explored in Into infinity.
One such is the Time Dilation effect, whereby time effectively slows down for the crew of the Altares relative to those they have left behind on Earth. The Masters and the Bowens have only been in space a few years, as they perceive it, but back on Earth, decades have passed. However, this does not explain why Jane and David do not appear to age at all during their four year flight to Alpha Centauri – this must be put down to dramatic licence.
The programme touches on many of these theoretical effects, without lingering too long for detailed scientific explanation, so the viewer is encouraged to investigate further for him/herself.
|Dr. Tom Bowen||Brian Blessed|
|Dr. Anna Bowen||Joanna Dunham|
|Captain Harry Masters||Nick Tate|
|Jane Masters||Katherine Levy|
|David Bowen||Martin Lev|
|Jim Forbes||Don Fellows|