The Day After Tomorrow

From Space Station Delta in high orbit above the Earth a momentous mission is about to begin, the lightship Altares setting course for Alpha Centauri to seek out habitable worlds, propelled to 95.5% of the speed of light using the experimental photon drive, allowing the five strong crew composed of two families to make the journey in a fraction of the time which will pass on Earth, they experiencing the passage of only a few days while back home thirty years will elapse.

Captain Harry Masters accompanied by his teenage daughter Jane and Doctors Tom and Anna Bowen travelling with their son David, despite their youth both are full members of the crew, aiding in navigation and the scientific observations made along the journey, the first such voyage which will experience the relativistic effects of such velocities as described by Albert Einstein decades before, though not all they encounter will have been predicted.

A standalone science fiction adventure produced by Gerry Anderson after the first season of Space: 1999 with the hope that it might serve as a pilot episode should that show not be picked up for a second season, it was first broadcast as The Day After Tomorrow as one of a series of educational films aimed at children on the NBC network in America in December 1975 and then as Into Infinity a year later on the BBC, the title of the first episode had the full series been commissioned, now remastered in high definition as a standalone Blu-ray release and serving as a time capsule of the optimism of the decade which saw Skylab launched.

Starring Nick Tate as Harry, Eagle pilot Alan Carter from Space: 1999, Brian Blessed and Joanna Dunham had both made guest appearances on that show, and although Jane Masters and Martin Lev were less experienced in the roles of Jane Masters and David Bowen, only a few years between them but her wonder tempered by his dedication to the mission, she would later star in Children of the Stones while he would move immediately to Bugsy Malone, and the narration is by 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Ed Bishop.

The remit foregrounding what was then farthest limits of science and understanding, The Day After Tomorrow serves as an introduction to astronomy and relativity and its side effects, time dilation and the Doppler shift, Pluto changing from blue to red as the Altares accelerates past it before encountering a meteor shower, a red giant about to explode into a supernova and finally a black hole, crisis after crisis squeezed into less than an hour, the crew seeking a new home yet finding themselves lost within the realm of a dying sun.

Previously only commercially available as part of the Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD, the picture quality is substantially improved over that release but is inherently limited by the original production, though the effects directed by Thunderbirds veteran Brian Johnson and models by Martin Bower who would later work on Blake’s 7 and Outland are magnificent for the modest budget, designed with an eye to functionality and lit to display their layers of intricate detailed to best advantage as would be expected of an Anderson production.

The Altares blasting through coloured veils of plasma and nebulae, The Day After Tomorrow is dramatic but also joyous, the parallels with Space: 1999 going beyond the recycled sets to the new age themes in Johnny Byrne’s script, the sense that the universe wants to be known and understood, that it will welcome and protect those who penetrate the skies to seek enlightenment rather than gain, the project a radical departure for director Charles Crichton who before moving to episodic television had been best known for classic Ealing comedies such as The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt.

The new edition of The Day After Tomorrow including a behind-the-scenes photo gallery which reveals how magic was created from almost nothing with flimsy sets of flyaway walls, there is an archive interview with composer Derek Wadsworth and a new commentary from Katharine Levy and Brian Blessed who joined remotely by Nick Tate for a new documentary, the three fondly recalling their experiences on the rushed shoot and the ethos of exploration and adventure the film promoted, Blessed emphatically stating “I will do anything to encourage space travel… there is no dream that mustn’t be dared.”

The Day After Tomorrow is available exclusively through the Gerry Anderson shop