Something - FunScience FICTION Reviews
In recent months we have had a focus on various Gerry and Sylvia Anderson productions, with the Eagle Transporter beating Thunderbirds 2 in the recent final for the vote off, for the best Anderson production vehicle. Thunderbirds turned, 55 this year, UFO 50 and Space 1999 45 years old, however despite the success of those shows not everything the Anderson’s produced were winners, welcome to ‘The Day after Tomorrow’.
Envisioned as an action adventure science fiction show with a focus on education (what could go wrong with that combination), 7 episodes were planned, with the pilot given a slot on ‘Special Treat’. ‘Special Treat’ was an ABC After School special aimed at teenagers from 1975 through to 1985, with ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ given third slot and broadcast 45 years ago, before a limited UK broadcast on the 11th. NBC decided not to continue with the show, critical response was mixed, but there has never been anything official from NBC on their decision.
So, what is ‘The Day after Tomorrow’? The episode is focused on the spaceship Altares and it’s exploration of deep space, humanities first ship to contain a Photon Drive that allows the ship to access the energy and speed of a photon, meaning they can travel almost at the speed of light, imagine the 99.999% of light, with the 9’s reoccurring to basically for sake of description to be at the speed of light.
This show takes a different approach to light speed than almost every other show in they take account of relativity, knowing that travelling near the speed of light will mean the crew can get to Alpha Centauri in a ‘short’ amount of time, but back on Earth the round trip could take thousands of years (we’ll circle back to that). In fact the educational focus on this episode is E=MC^2 and Einstein’s theory of relativity. In addition they cover the Doppler effect, red shifting when moving away from an object and blue shifting when approaching.
The Altares was designed by Martin J. Bower, who was working on Space 1999 at the time, since his instructions only contained the mission parameters and did not detail that it was for a separate show, Bower made the assumption that it was for a Space 1999 episode. Due to this the Altares could easily function in that universe and shares the Eagle Transporters detachable command module, which could act as a lifeboat if there were critical problems with the ships main drive. This is ‘shares’ as in design philosophy not as in size. As to the size there are no official sources, but based on the internal and external cockpit views the ship is between 40m and 50m long and 16m to 20m wide. That width is taken up by the photon collectors which power the main photon drive, meaning the ship collects fuel while traveling and presumably store it, so it can refuel anytime it is close enough to a star. The photon drive is not the only propulsion on board, the ship has traditional chemical rockets, with four thrusters arranged around the central photon drive, how this fuel is maintained is not detailed. Beyond the Altares we get to see an Earth Space station, which is actually a portion of the Darian City Ship (Space 1999) up-side-down (https://www.facebook.com/groups/fleetyards/permalink/1297272240610271).
As a fictional ship it works well, although the majority of the ship appears to be the mechanics of the two drives with little evidence within this single episode of crew quarters, we get to see a single bunk once and no niceties like a mess hall, just a single image of someone eating at a desk, all action is based in the cockpit and other working areas. Which leads to the major disconnect, having a basis of a show being significantly science based, not only in ideas but in direct on screen conversations, means that when reality isn’t followed through I’m less forgiving. Alpha Centauri is 4.4 light years away, meaning it takes light 4.4 years to reach us, meaning that it should take slightly more than 4.4 years for them to reach it and that’s from their prospective. Now the show doesn’t say that it doesn’t take 4 years, instead we get a short montage of ship activities, but no one noticeably ages or changes clothes, it’s not a montage showing the ship aging, I would even have took a ship garden becoming overgrown as a sign of 4 years, (by the way there is no ship garden), instead it looks like a few days, maybe a few months at most. In addition dispite thousands of years round trip indicated by the narrator the characters suggest that if they returned to earth directly after reaching Alpha Centauri the relative time on Earth would be 30 years.
Eventually they turn up at a star about to go nova with more educational dialogue, which mostly works and some nice visuals (for 1970 television) of a star on the verge of a supernova, then this is undone with a journey through a black hole. Two reasons why this doesn’t work, one this was just recently an episode on Space 1999 with the exact same outcome, with that particular Space 1999 episode erring on the side of fantasy, which works for Space 1999 but doesn’t in a setting where we just got educated on red super giants. The second is that they state that rotating black holes allow you to travel between dimensions, they say this with the same tone they use when accurately discussing the Theory of Relativity, or the properties of a Red Super Giant, you can’t educate people on accepted facts and theories, while not differentiating between observable proofs and non-observable theories.
My final disconnect is actor Nick Tate, whom played Alan Carter on Space 1999 primarily as a lead pilot of the Eagle Transporters, (note that if you’re watching an episode of Space 1999 and he isn’t the pilot that Eagle is probably going to blow up, only get in the ones he pilots, yes they occasionally crash but he always survives). Here he plays Captain Harry Masters and change things up he pilots the Altares but this time with an American accent instead of his native Australian he uses when piloting Eagles. Despite his excellent acting while in the driving seat it’s very hard not to just see Alan sitting at the controls.
This was an interesting experiment, had all 7 episodes been made, maybe some of these disconnects would have been solved, many shows become something beyond the pilot when they find the right focus, this show wasn’t given that opportunity. I believe had it gone on it would have been a Lost in Space premise (two family’s lost in space) guided by more science based stories, something which I would like to have explored.