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DVD Review

DVD cover

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelganger) (1969)


Starring: Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Patrick Wymark and Ed Bishop
Universal Pictures
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: PG
Available 08 September 2008

European space agency EUROSEC receives pictures from a probe revealing an identical-looking Earth-like planet on the exact opposite side of the sun. Failing in their attempt to raise an expedition, they bring in the Americans. However, the American representative refuses to put forward the huge finances. Only conclusive evidence that top secret data is being smuggled out to a foreign agency convinces them all that expediency is required - on the proviso that the Americans install their own qualified astronaut. When he and an astrophysicist crash on the surface of the planet, they wake up to find themselves back at EUROSEC, with officials demanding to know why they turned back. When his colleague dies of his injuries, the American astronaut is left alone to convince others of his sanity. Countless minor differences tell him he is not where he thinks he is...

Anyone who attempts to explore the difficult subjects of time or parallel/mirrored universes is always going to inadvertently invite an endless flow of paradoxes and “what if?” scenarios. So what we have here is great material for a surreal discussion down the pub. For example, if everything is mirrored or reversed on the other planet then surely all of those people the astronaut thinks he knows would be talking backwards. The bigger question lies with the question of freedom of choice. With everybody in both their professional and private life occupying the exact same roles, it would seem to suggest the citizen’s lives are mapped out for them and each person and his/her doppelganger act in tandem.

All of that aside, from a modern casual audience viewpoint, many will find JTTFSOTS exceedingly slow. By this stage of his career Gerry Anderson was already a household name, with Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons under his belt - to name but a few. But he had always wanted to break into live action films, and this was his big opportunity.

Although things never really went Anderson’s way on that score, JTTFSOTS is of particular interest to me because it is here that the initial style and development began for his next big series, UFO. Personally, I believe UFO to have been the pinnacle of Anderson’s TV achievements. It was an outstanding series of which many teasers are evident in this film. Most notably many of the actors secure regular character roles in the series, including Ed Bishop, George Sewell as well as others - although the big name draw here is Herbert Lom. The futuristic cars, the costumes (including spacesuits), the architecture and the excellent model work (which even holds up to close scrutiny today) are also very similar. Just a word also for the music, composed and performed by Anderson stalwart Barry Gray; it’s as excellent as ever (don’t expect pop songs here).

The DVD has been available in America (under its stateside name of Doppelganger) for some time now, but this is its debut release in the UK. And very welcome it is too. Fans of Gerry Anderson will no doubt lap this up, but I would also recommend any curious newcomer to this film to pick-up the UFO box set. You won’t be disappointed.


Ty Power

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