The Day After Tomorrow, also known as Into Infinity, first aired on NBC in 1975, and then the BBC the following year. In this one off 50 minute television special, the crew of the lightship Altares consisting of pilots Captain Harry Masters and his daughter Jane, plus scientists Tom and Anna Bowen and their son David, make history as they travel to Alpha Centauri, before choosing to push forward into deep space. In true Anderson fashion disaster follows as an accident with the ship’s photon drive sends the Altares out of control, beyond all known reference points. With a return to Earth no longer an option, the Altares is now lost in space and in surprisingly frequent danger from a variety of space phenomena.
Soon after production came to an end of the first season of Space:1999 Gerry Anderson was commissioned to produce The Day After Tomorrow at the request of George Heinemann, then controller of childrens programming at NBC. Heinemann was preparing a series of one hour television specials aimed at a teenage audience under the umbrella title of Special Treat. This series would include a variety of documentaries, animated versions of classic literary stories, and action adventure shows with an educational theme. Looking for someone to create a special that would explain Einstein’s special theory of relativity and other notable space phenomena in an exciting way, Heinemann pitched the idea to Anderson, who then set to work with Space:1999 script editor Johnny Byrne creating the story.
Filmed at Pinewood Studios over ten days between the first and second season of Space:1999, the special does feel very much like its set in an alternate universe of that show – albeit one where the Moon never left orbit. The special’s tone and visual style is very similar to 1999‘s, thanks in part to using many of the same production personnel including director Charles Crichton, and several of the show’s actors. Nick Tate was of course best known as Space:1999’s Captain Alan Carter, while Brian Blessed, Joanna Dunham and Don Fellows had all appeared in guest roles. Child actors Martin Lev and Katharine Levy were new to the Anderson universe, while rounding out the cast was Captain Blue and Commander Straker himself Ed Bishop as the narrator, and Johnny Byrne’s own dog Bones as Jane’s dog Spring.
The Altares itself was designed and built by Space:1999 model maker Martin Bower, who had been under the impression that the craft was actually intended to be used in that series. As a result the ship looks very similar to the many equally ill-fated Meta Probe and Ultra Probe from that series, while its launching point, Space Station Delta was (appropriately enough) cannibalised from the spaceship Daria model seen in Mission of the Darians. Throughout the special various other familiar pieces of art design and set can also be seen, such as Voyager 1’s control console and Moonbase Alpha’s nuclear generator door.
Despite being aimed at a slightly younger audience than Space:1999’s, The Day After Tomorrow managed to balance its goals of scientific education and entertaining adventure with admirable skill. Its science, although not 100% accurate, is certainly close enough to retain the viewer’s interest, and is delivered in a way that doesn’t feel like a lecture. The small cast are also rather likeable, and the fact that the Altares crew is made up of two family units rather than a group of highly trained special agents give the episode a rather endearing quality at times. The episode also retains something of Space:1999’s pessimistic attitude to the future, with the Altares mission to Alpha Centauri being something of a test to see if humanity can reach other star systems before the overpopulated and overexploited Earth becomes uninhabitable. The adventure element of the special is largely up to Space:1999 standards too, although long time Anderson fans may spot some similarities between this episode’s story and that of Fireball XL5’s Faster Than Light. There’s also a rather trippy journey through a black hole at the story’s conclusion that plays a little like Space:1999’s Black Sun on acid, but the episode remains a visual treat throughout.
Although he had only been commissioned to produce a single episode Anderson held out hope that The Day After Tomorrow might become a full series, hence the episode title Into Infinity. However, that never happened, although Special Treat would continue running on NBC for nine seasons until 1985. However, Anderson would soon receive the news that Space:1999 would be returning for an all new second season, which would make further use of many sections of props and models seen in The Day After Tomorrow. Many of the Altares computer banks would turn up in Moonbase Alpha’s new Command Center, while the main control console would be seen in the Weapons Section and the fire suit would return in The Bringers of Wonder. Nick Tate and Brian Blessed would also be returning for the new season, while composer Derek Wadsworth would take over from Barry Gray thanks to his work scoring The Day After Tomorrow.
The Day After Tomorrow is now available on DVD, and of all the Gerry Anderson television pilots that never went to a full series this is the one that seems to have had the most potential – especially since the episode concludes on an open-ended note that does leave you wondering where a mini-series might have taken the Altares next. Although the original novelisation written to accompany the special back in the 1970s was never released, a brand new novelisation by Gregory Norris was publised by Anderson Entertainment in October 2017, with a sequel novel to finally continue the story being released in 2019 and accompanying audiobook versions of both stories now available to download.
45 years after the Altares was first launched, The Day After Tomorrow is still an enjoyable watch, particularly for Space:1999 fans. Although we’d never see any further adventures from the Altares crew on television their one mission still holds up to repeat viewings, and The Day After Tomorrow’s recent reincarnation of the printed page and audio proves that there are always more stories to tell in almost every corner of the Anderson universe.