I've been watching the recently released ‘The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson which I bought principally for the 1975 TV special, ‘The Day After Tomorrow – Into Infinity’.
A video and DVD of this special was originally released as a Fanderson exclusive in 1997 and 2002 respectively, but for one reason or another I never bothered to pick up a copy.
I remember watching The Day After Tomorrow when it originally aired using just the ‘ Into Infinity’ title on BBC TV in 1976, and thinking the whole thing wasn’t that far removed from Space 1999, using props and actors who’d featured in the first series.
The models used in the special were excellent; however some of the effects weren’t up to Anderson’s usual standards. Considering this was to be a pilot for a series explaining science topics to children the plot is fairly pedestrian with few moments of tension. But in spite of its shortcomings I find it an interesting point in Gerry Anderson’s career when things seemed to work against him but he still managed to win through.
One example is after Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had completed the first season of Space 1999, Lew Grade had cancelled the series due to low ratings in America. Gerry didn't give up and proceeded, along with new producer, Fred Freiberger to pitch a new revamped second series which ultimately did get the go ahead.
Although Gerry's perseverance and ideas don't always work out. Another pilot that is on the DVD is The Investigator. A 1973 mixture of puppets and live action that is even odder than The Secret Service which used a similar idea but appeared in 1969. The Secret Service was unceremoniously cancelled by Lew Grade after only 13 episodes.
Filmed entirely on the island of Malta, The Investigator plot features two puppets called John and Julie being directed by a disembodied alien voice that lives in a cave, who describes himself as the Investigator. The Investigator wants to use his ‘alien powers’ to fight international crime, and uses John and Julie, whom he’s miniaturised, on the odd assumption it will give them an advantage ( unsurprisingly, both puppets never appear ‘normal size’ in the pilot) .
The Investigator provides John and Julie with an eight wheeled road vehicle (which sounds like a Formula 1 racing car) and turbo powered boat to help with their crime fighting.
The whole premise is completely daft to me. The willing suspension of disbelief is ruined. The puppets look ridiculous in normal settings, and the incidental music, which is lifted from Gerry Anderson’s,’ The Protectors’ crime series, just adds to my confusion! One piece of trivia about this pilot is some of the pre- production art was done by none other than Mike Noble.
The 1986 pilot for ‘Space Police’, which would ultimately become Space Precinct nearly ten years later, is also on the disc.It's sub title is 'Star Laws, ' but 'Hill Street Blues in Space ' would have described it better. I remember watching this film year’s ago at a convention. To be honest I found it pretty dull. How Gerry ever got this to a series is another credit to his perseverance. Shane Rimmer played Brogan, a New York cop who is reassigned to the Space Police on a planet which looks a lot like New York but is full of a variety of different Alien species, who sound and act like New York gangsters.
As it’s a pilot the effects sometimes leave a little to be desired. Some work , some don’t, and because it looks like it’s filmed using 16mm it does have a cheap grainy look. There’s some stop motion work too, which doesn’t sit well alongside the normal effects. There’s unsurprisingly, a lot of reminders to Gerry’s previous series, Terrahawks, particularly with some of the hand puppet characters. Personally, I find it an uneasy mish-mash of different filming techniques.
Ultimately though, it’s interesting for anyone familiar with Space Precinct to see how things started out and what finally made it to the eventual series.
For Dick Spanner fans (are there any?) there’s an unaired pilot which features the voice of Jeremy Hitchens ('Tiger' Ninestein in Terrahawks) as Dick rather than the usual Shane Rimmer. I have to admit I never really got into stop-motion Dick Spanner and found the visual humour and puns a bit of a drag!
Some of the other features are pure curiosities being documentaries and travelogues, produced in the mid-fifties by Gerry’s companies, Pentagon and A.P. Films. There's a full colour documentary from Blue Cars Travel showing a young Nicholas Parsons touring Europe. We also see Gerry’s directorial debut from 1955 in a film about sand paintings, a cyclist who can pedal up to 109 mph and a Belgian who’s eight feet tall. There’s also a children’s puppet show called Here Comes Kandy from 1956 on the second disc.
Other highlights on the second disc is a surfeit of Space Police test footage, and the well-known Blue Cars advert produced and directed by Gerry Anderson and featuring Nicholas Parsons and Denise Bryer , as well as the usual photo galleries.
Ultimately, most of the content on this DVD is definitely for the hard core Anderson fan who has some prior knowledge of most of what’s on offer. I was intrigued to see some of the more obscure films charting Gerry's early career, however I can't see myself revisiting them any-time soon. But, that being said, having a new DVD of The Day After Tomorrow is the plus point for me, and for that it is well worth the reasonable cover price.