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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun
Screenplay by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and Donald James
Based on the story by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
Directed by Robert Parrish
Released in August 1969


A mirror image of Earth is discovered orbiting at the far side of the sun.


Read the movie summary at Wikipedia




Journey to the Far Side of the Sun is not set in the UFO universe. It was Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's first live action movie as producers, released in 1969. Many props, vehicles, costumes, and music cues (and even actors!) were reused when UFO began production later that year, so I've decided to include a side-bar analysis of the similarities. The film has much of the look and feel of UFO. Although not a great film in and of itself, I highly recommend fans of UFO watch it for the many similarities to the series.


The film's original title when first released in Europe was Doppelgänger, a German word meaning a double of a person. In the context of the movie, it represents the entire mirror-image of Earth found on the opposite side of the sun.


Much of the UFO-look of the movie comes from the fact that both used Bob Bell as art director and Derek Meddings as visual effects director.


The main character of Colonel Ross is portrayed by Roy Thinnes. He is best known for his previous portrayal of David Vincent on the 1967-1968 TV series The Invaders, about a secret alien invasion of Earth. Thinnes' wife at the time, Lynn Loring, also plays his wife in the film.


Herbert Lom plays Dr. Hassler in the film. He is probably best known as Police Commissioner Dreyfus in Blake Edwards' Pink Panther films.




As the film opens, a bombastic music cue is quite similar to the one used at the end of the teaser acts of episodes of UFO. Afterward, a high-pitched cue sounds nearly identical to that used as the Century 21 production cue at the beginning of most episodes. (The music score of the film was composed by Barry Gray, who also did UFO, and most all of the Andersons' productions.)
opening cue
UFO teaser cue

high-pitch cue
Century 21 cue


The font of the opening credits looks very similar to that used on the Andersons' later TV series Space: 1999.


The central space agency seen in the film is EUROSEC, the EUROpean Space Exploration Council. This is a fictional institution. Notice that the sign for the complex at 0:19 on the DVD indicates it is located in Portugal (the sign actually refers to European Space Exploration Complex rather than Council). The printed documents seen shortly after refer to the European Space Exploration Centre. It's hard to gauge whether these are continuity errors within the film or simply excusable variations in divisions of the European Space Exploration agency.


Notice that the EUROSEC complex has red laser fences around it and a blue laser fence at the gateway.


Entering the EUROSEC building at 0:49 on the DVD, Dr. Hassler and Colonel Ross are required to empty their pockets and persons of metallic objects. One of them sets down an eyeglass case with the Polaroid brand name on it.


Also at 0:49 above, some people's names are seen on plastic squares set into the console. Who are they? What is their significance? One is Colonel Ross, but who are the others?

names on EUROSEC console


At 0:53 on the DVD, notice a phone behind the sergeant at the EUROSEC reception desk is nearly identical to the design used in a number of episodes of UFO. These phones are seen throughout the film.


Dr. Hassler is revealed to be a spy who was wearing a fake eye that took photographs of the EUROSEC sun probe documents. He later removes his eye and attaches it to a power screwdriver like device and dips the spinning ocular module in three separate baths of solution before drying it over a compressed air vent. It seems he was developing the film inside the eye, though there seems to be a missing bath from the traditional developing process of developer (to bring out the images on the film), stop bath (to stop further development), fixer (to fix the images permanently onto the film and make it light resistant), and a bath to rinse off the remaining chemicals. Of course, given that the year is supposed to be 2069, he should have used simple digital photography! (Digital photography was not widely even considered as a possibility back when the movie was made in 1969.)


At 5:37 on the DVD, a data tape spool has the Scotch logo on it. Scotch is a brand name used by the 3M Company for various products manufactured by them; this once included Scotch audio and data tape, but these lines were discontinued in the 1990s.


At 5:51 on the DVD, a typewriter ball is seen with the letters ASA OCR on it and the number 10. The "10" means it has 10-point characters on it, i.e. it types 10 characters per inch. "ASA" stands for American Standards Association, which determined specifications for carriage control characters used in printing from computer mainframe printers, largely determining line spacing on the printed page. "OCR" stands for "optical character recognition", in this case a type of font readable by a computer.


The electrical device at 7:22 on the DVD appears to be an oscilloscope with a time base control. An oscilloscope is used for measuring an electrical signal over time, as would be used for receiving and interpreting signals from a space probe. A Tektronix oscilloscope is seen at 25:45.


A folder title at 7:56 on the DVD suggests that the EUROSEC sun probe mission was referred to as Operation Sun Probe.


At 8:22 on the DVD, notice that the EUROSEC secretary is played by Norma Ronald, who played Straker's secretary Ms. Ealand in UFO. In this same scene, also note that the desktop microphones are the same props later used in UFO.


At 8:27 on the DVD, NASA liaison David Poulson is played by Ed Bishop, who would go on to play Commander Straker in UFO. Upon hearing about a proposed manned probe to the newly-discovered planet, Poulson later remarks, "How much is it going to cost us this time?", ironic considering Bishop's character of Straker is the one frequently facing criticism for his funding requests for SHADO throughout the course of UFO!


The director of EUROSEC addresses six national members of EUROSEC via a video teleconference. The attendees are labeled as being from Bonn (West Germany), Rome (Italy), Paris (France), the Hague (Netherlands), London (England), and Brussels (Belgium). It seems odd that other European countries are not represented as well.


The far side of the sun is said to be over 100 million miles from Earth. This is more-or-less true; the distance between Earth and the Sun varies as Earth moves from perihelion (closest approach) to aphelion (farthest approach) through the course of a year.


In the movie, it takes until 2069 for an Earth probe to discover that there is a planet orbiting around the sun, opposite Earth. In our time, we already know from our own space probes and telescopes that there is no planet in an opposing orbit to Earth around the Sun.


At 12:34 on the DVD, notice that the painting in the background appears to be a representation of a rocket launch from Earth to the planet on the far side of the sun. Later in the movie, it depicts the position and path traveled by the mission capsule.


The video communicator on Webb's desk at 12:53 on the DVD is very similar to ones seen in UFO on Straker's desk.


At 16:46 on the DVD, notice that the character of Mark Neumann is played by George Sewell, who played Colonel Alec Freeman on UFO.


SHADOcar and SHADO Jeep designs were first seen in this film.


At 26:18 on the DVD, Ross holds up a case of his wife's Femina contraceptive pills. This is an actual brand of birth control pills, but I've been unable to determine if it existed when the film was made or was meant to be fictitious.


At 29:16 on the DVD, the EUROSEC administration building is actually one of the buildings at Elstree Studios in England, the same building used as SHADO headquarters (Harlington-Straker Studios) in UFO. The flags flying in front of the building are all of European nations (presumably the members of EUROSEC): from left to right: Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany. Oddly, Great Britain's flag is not seen even though a EUROSEC council member from London is seen earlier in the film.


At 29:30 on the DVD, notice that the dress and boots worn by Lise Hartman are the same ones later worn by Jo Fraser in the UFO episode "The Responsibility Seat".


At 33:10 on the DVD, notice that Ross is carrying a large wicker bottle behind his back as he and Kane approach the EUROSEC gate after their training exercise. It's probably some kind of liquor obtained from the wagon driver who gave them a lift (note that the same or similar bottle is dangling from the wagon less than a minute earlier). 


The EUROSEC mission control room seen at 34:40 on the DVD is later used as a SHADO mission control room in the UFO episode "The Man Who Came Back".
EUROSEC mission control SHADO mission control


At 34:42 on the DVD, actor Keith Alexander is seen as one of the men in mission control. He goes on to play Lt. Keith Ford in UFO


At 35:18 on the DVD, the same rocket appears here as is later seen in the UFO episode "The Man Who Came Back". The launch pad area is slightly altered.
Launch pad in Journey to the Far Side of the Sun Launch pad in "The Man Who Came Back"


The spacesuits worn by Ross and Kane are nearly identical to those worn by astronauts in UFO.


At 38:04 on the DVD, Kane is seen approaching the right-hand doorway and seat of the Phoenix, while Ross is already being loaded into the left-hand seat. Just seconds later, they are seen being loaded into the opposite seats! But after this, they are back in the original seats again.


The dream sequence and swirling lights during the two astronauts' three week sleep in their journey to the sun may have been intended as a touchback to the psychedelic trip through the stargate near the end of 1968's Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Arriving at the unknown planet after their three week sleep, the capsule's sensors detect atmosphere and oxygen, and even a suitable landing spot, on the planet, but no signs of life thus far. But since the world is later revealed to be a mirror-image of Earth, they should have detected radio signals and even satellites in orbit. And shouldn't a mirror-image of Earth also have a mirror-identical Moon? The environment of Earth would be very different without the effects of its moon.


At about 1:01:21 on the DVD, as the two astronauts are discovered by the inhabitants of the mirror-Earth, the music becomes that which is heard at the end of the closing credits of each episode of UFO, as the sinister planet comes into view.


Starting at 1:03:01 on the DVD, notice that labels on control panels, devices, and uniforms are seen in mirror-image, an early indication of the mirror nature of this new planet.


At 1:03:04 on the DVD, a mirror image of a Cambridge reel-to-reel audio device is seen.


Some viewers of the film remark that there is a continuity error at 1:03:24 on the DVD, in that the input ports for the heart-lung-kidney machine on Ross have changed from the left wrist (seen earlier in the film) to the right, allegedly caused by the reversal of the film for the mirror-Earth scenes (used to make writing, labels, props, sets, etc. appear backward). But earlier, at 33:23, we can see that there are input ports on both of Kane's wrists; it's logical to assume that his fellow astronaut also had them on each wrist.


At 1:08:11 on the DVD, notice that Webb's office is mirrored as well.


At 1:08:19 on the DVD, the continents on the image of mirror-Earth on the painting/display do not really look like the mirror continents of our Earth.


At 1:12:03 on the DVD, Ross spots a bottle of Fresh Appeal cologne in the bathroom mirror. Seconds later, Glacial cologne is seen on the shelf. These appear to be fictional brands.


The remnants of a bottle of Solari lotion are seen at 1:15:12 on the DVD. This appears to be a fictional brand.


At 1:16:06 on the DVD, Dr. Beauville is played by Vladek Sheybal, who will go on to play Dr. Jackson in UFO.


At 1:25:57 on the DVD, notice that the denizens of mirror-Earth shake hands with the left arm rather than the right.


At 1:28:19 on the DVD, notice that the new ship piloted by Ross from the mirror-Earth is called Doppelganger.


At 1:28:33 on the DVD, why aren't the connections on Ross' spacesuit mirrored like the rest of the planet?


At 1:32:16 on the DVD, the designation of Doppelganger on the side of Ross' craft is missing!


At 1:33:39 on the DVD, an E.S.V. reactor on the Phoenix is seen to have been manufactured by Rolls-Royce. I've been unable to determine what "E.S.V." stands for.


At 1:37:04 on the DVD, one of the EUROSEC buildings at the launch complex is seen to descend into the ground for protection against the out of control descent of the Doppelganger. In UFO, Straker's office at Harlington-Straker Studios also descended into the ground to deliver its occupants to the secret SHADO base underneath.




How is Ross able to understand and speak the "English" language of the mirror Earth? Shouldn't it sound like backwards gibberish to him?


Why does Ross' communications gear aboard the Doppelganger go out as it docks with the Phoenix near the end of the movie? It's not explained outright, but would seem to be the result of the Doppelganger having been wired for reverse polarity of electrical circuits expected aboard the "real" Earth's Phoenix craft, but which turns out to not be reversed despite the mirror imaging of most other aspects of the two worlds.


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