Doppleganger (1969) | a.k.a. Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun – Moving Image : Gallery
Travelling through the Solar System in 2069, the unmanned Sun Probe locates a planet that lies on the same orbital path as Earth but is positioned on the opposite side of the Sun. Dr Kurt Hassler (Herbert Lom) of EUROSEC (EUROpean Space Exploration Council) has been transmitting Sun Probe flight data to a rival power in the East, but Security Chief Mark Neuman (George Sewell) uncovers the betrayal and shoots Hassler dead in his laboratory. EUROSEC director Jason Webb (Patrick Wymark) convinces NASA representative David Poulson (Ed Bishop) that the West must launch astronauts to investigate the planet before Hassler’s allies in the East. With EUROSEC member states France and Germany unwilling to offer financial support, Webb obtains majority funding from NASA. American astronaut Colonel Glenn Ross (Roy Thinnes) and British astrophysicist Dr John Kane (Ian Hendry), head of the Sun Probe project, are assigned to the mission.
Launched from the EUROSEC Space Centre in Portugal in the Phoenix spacecraft, Ross and Kane pass the first half of their six-week round trip in stasis, with “Heart Lung Kidney” machines managing their life functions. Three weeks after launch, the astronauts are revived in the orbit of the planet. Scans for the existence of extraterrestrial life prove to be inconclusive, and Ross and Kane decide to make a surface landing. While the astronauts descend through the atmosphere, an electrical storm damages their Dove lander shuttle, which crashes in a mountainous region that is revealed to be Ulan Bator, Mongolia. When an air-sea rescue unit returns Ross and Kane, the latter fighting serious injuries, to the Space Centre in Portugal, it is apparent that the Phoenix mission has been terminated after three weeks and that the astronauts have arrived back on Earth.
Neuman and EUROSEC official Lise Hartman (Loni von Friedl) interrogate Ross, who denies that he aborted the mission. Shortly after, Kane dies from the injuries that he sustained in the crash. Eventually, Ross assembles a series of clues that point him to the conclusion that he is not on Earth, but indeed on the unknown planet – aCounter-Earth that is a mirror image of his. (This has been foreshadowed a number of times; for instance, an oscilloscope is seen scanning from right to left, a tape deck’s reels turn clockwise, and at one point while driving at night Ross almost collides with another vehicle that he believes to be on the wrong side of the road.)
Many, including his wife, Sharon (Lynn Loring), are baffled by his claims that all aspects of life on the planet – from the print in books to the plan of his apartment – are reversed. However, Webb is convinced of the truth when Ross demonstrates the ability to read aloud from a sign, without hesitation, when it is reflected in a mirror. Later, X-rays from Kane’s post-mortem examination reveal that his internal organs are located on the wrong side of his body. Ross conjectures that the two Earths lieparallel, which would mean that the Ross from the Counter-Earth is living through similar experiences on the far side of the Sun.
Webb suggests that Ross recover the flight recorder from Phoenix, and then return to his Earth. EUROSEC constructs a replacement for Dove that is designed to be compatible with the reversed technologies of Phoenix. Modifications include the reverse-polarisation of electric circuits, although neither Ross nor the scientists can be certain that the differences between the two Earths extend to the direction of electric current. The shuttle is re-christened Doppelganger, a term denoting a duplicate of a person or object in the original German. Lifting off and entering orbit, Ross attempts to dock with Phoenix. However, Doppelganger experiences a technical malfunction, indicating that current is constant after all. The shuttle detaches from Phoenix and loses contact with EUROSEC, falling through the atmosphere towards the Space Centre with Ross struggling to disengage automatic landing control. EUROSEC is unable to repair the fault from the ground, and Doppelganger crashes into a parked spacecraft. Ross is incinerated in the collision and a chain reaction obliterates the Space Centre, killing personnel and destroying all records of Ross’s presence on the Counter-Earth.
Decades later, a bitter Jason Webb, long since dismissed from EUROSEC, has been admitted to a nursing home. In his dementia, the old man spies his reflection in a mirror mounted on a window. Rolling forwards in his wheelchair, and reaching out to touch his image, Webb dies when he crashes through the mirror.
For his first contribution to live-action film, Gerry Anderson had directed Crossroads to Crime, a 1960 B movie, for distributor Anglo-Amalgamated. Although talent agent Leslie Grade had since approached Anderson with a proposal for a film starring actor Arthur Haynes, discussions between Grade and Anderson had not resulted in a commission. In the summer of 1967, during the production of Anderson’s Supermarionation television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Universal Pictures executive Jay Kanter arrived in London from the United States. Planning to establish a European production office, Kanter expressed his willingness to provide funding for promising film ideas. Lew Grade, brother to Leslie and Anderson’s financier at his TV distributor ITC Entertainment, arranged a meeting with Kanter for Anderson to pitch a story concept concerning the hypothesis of a “replicated” or “mirror” Earth. According to Anderson, he “thought, rather naïvely, what if there was another planet the other side of the Sun, orbiting at exactly the same speed and the same size as Earth? That idea then developed into the planet being a replicated Earth and that’s how it ended up, a mirrored planet … We were perfectly poised – I was Lew Grade’s golden boy and the [Century 21] studio was a big success story.”
With the assistance of scriptwriter Tony Williamson, Anderson and his wife, Sylvia, had drafted a 194-page treatment long before the initial meeting with Kanter.The Andersons had originally intended to film the script as a one-hour drama for Associated Television; Sylvia has explained that since the concept “was too good for atelevision play, I suggested to Gerry that we try to develop it as a movie.” Responding to claims that Doppelgänger has “dark” scripting, Gerry has stated that he wanted the film to have an interesting premise to entertain audiences. He has also discussed the significance of the title, which was suggested to him by Century 21 co-director John Read: “that’s a German word which means ‘a copy of oneself’, and the legend goes that if you meet your doppelganger, it is the point of your death. Following that legend, clearly, I had to steer the film so that I could end it illustrating the meaning of that word.”
When Kanter expressed dissatisfaction with the draft, Gerry hired Donald James, a novelist whom he considered “a classy writer with a good reputation”, to strengthen the characterisation. Although the setting of the film remained 2069, the scenes set on the Counter-Earth underwent significant changes as James completed his revisions. Fundamentally, the characters of Ross and Kane switched roles: in the Andersons’ draft, it is Ross who is injured in the Dove crash and Kane who is interrogated at the EUROSEC Space Centre. In scenes absent from the completed film, Kane is diagnosed with brain damage as a result of his apparent insanity, while Ross regains consciousness to find that the accident has made him blind. The return mission to Phoenix fails due not to an electrical fault, but to a structural defect in the second Dove module, which disintegrates in the atmosphere of the Counter-Earth with Kane trapped inside. The EUROSEC Headquarters is left intact, and the attendants at Kane’s funeral are his wife (named Susan), the Rosses and Jason Webb.
Although Kanter remained unenthusiastic with the script, he agreed to commission it as a film on the condition that he reserve the right to select a “bankable” (trusted) director. Anderson would have selected David Lane, who had directed the two Thunderbirds films, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968). After a ten-week delay to filming, Robert Parrish, an American director whose latest project had been shelved, accepted the role. An expatriate in the United Kingdom, Parrish’s film career up to 1968 had included co-editing Body and Soul (for which he had received the 1947 Academy Award for Best Film Editing) and co-directing the 1967 James Bond spoof, Casino Royale. Anderson has remembered Parrish as “very ingratiating”, stating that he “told us he loved the script and said it would be an honour to work with us. Jay Kanter gave Bob the thumbs up and we were in business.” Although the box office failure of Casino Royale had prompted Anderson to question Parrish’s ability, he has said that Doppelgänger could not have been made without his recruitment: “It wasn’t a question of, ‘Will we get on with him?’ or, ‘Is he the right man?’ He was a name director, so we signed him up immediately.”