Since I’ve got two more Gerry Anderson failed pilots on the same DVD as Space Police, I thought I may as well carry on watching them So You Don’t Have To. This episode: The Day After Tomorrow.
The premise: humanity launches a near-light-speed spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. Since 30 years will pass on Earth before it gets back, it’s crewed by “families.” The “families” consist of two children (boy and girl), Brian Blessed, Nick Tate and Johanna Dunham. I think Nick Tate is meant to be a widower, but there is literally nothing in the story to suggest that Blessed, Tate and Dunham aren’t a polyamorous triple.
(side point: I got to wondering why they’d have one of the men be a widower, and hit on the sadly obvious reason that they can then do girlfriend-of-the-week romantic subplots, as with poor old Gareth in The Starlost).
Sadly that’s pretty much the only interesting thing– this story’s main flaw is that it is incredibly boring. It isn’t badly written: Johnny Byrne did the script, and Charles Crichton directed it. The cast, well, I told you the cast, they’re all seasoned actors (oh, and Ed Bishop is also in it as a narrator). It’s also got some of the most beautiful model work I’ve seen in an Anderson series, and that’s a high bar.
However, it was clearly intended to be an educational/somewhat accurate series, so we get boring Fun Facts about red shift and time dilation (along with some not-so-factual things like an asteroid field out beyond Pluto; why they didn’t make it the Oort Cloud is something of a mystery). The characters, beyond their possible romantic arrangements, are flat and one-note, with the little boy sounding like he’s possessed by Chocky most of the time.
The ending of the story (spoilers: the ship flies through a black hole into an alternate universe) suggests they were planning a more WTF follow-up, but I can see why nobody picked them up on it. Apart from everything else, I think a story set in an alternate universe might have had dubious value as an educational programme, but a kids’ educational show would have been unlikely to pick up the sort of viewers who like series set in alternate universes.
It sounds like they were trying to turn the setup of Space: 1999 (humans far from Earth and adrift in a universe where anything is possible) into an educational show. Which could have ben a problem because the main artistic value of Space: 1999 (Season 1, at least, before Fred Freiberger came in and it turned into a peculiar action show with misogynous undertones) is its sheer psychedelic trippiness and the way it laughs in the face of science.
In sum, it’s like watching paint dry on an intricately detailed model.