I watched it tonight for the first time since I was ten. It's amazing how much of it I remembered.
Altares, possessing a revolutionary new "photon drive" that will allow it to travel at speeds approaching the speed of light, is sent on an exploratory probe to Alpha Centauri, with the choice of continuing past that point left up to the crew. The crew is composed of two families, each with a young child - Captain Harry Masters (Space: 1999's Nick Tate with a faux American accent) and his daughter Jane (Katherine Levy), and Dr. Tom Bowen (Flash Gordon's Brain Blessed, in an uncharacteristically restrained performance), who is accompanied by his wife Anna (Joanna Dunham) and his dour son, David (Martin Lev). Interestingly, both children are full members of the crew - Jane is the co-pilot and David assists his parents with their scientific duties.
More of a "pink giant," actually.
Altares has passed through the singularity and emerged in another universe, and the crew finds themselves facing an unknown future.
Into Infinity does spend a great deal of time explaining stuff like time differentials (which is also used to justify the presence of children on the ship - although it would have been more logical for Earth to simply send childless astronauts) and doppler shifts, but Byrne's story also indulges in plenty of wonky pseudo-science and insanely improbable coincidences, too.
Produced between seasons of Space: 1999, Into Infinity was written by frequent series scribe Johnny Byrne and directed by 1999 vet Charles Crichton. The special effects were by Brian Johnson's 1999 FX team, and the music was by Year Two composer Derek Wadsworth. Every adult cast member had - or would soon - appear on 1999, and UFO's Ed Bishop provided the narration.
The Altares was a new, wonderfully designed and detailed miniature by the great Martin Bower, but the space station it launched from was a portion of the "Ark" model recycled from the episode "Mission of the Darians," while the Altares' interior appeared to be a redressing of the "Ultra Probe" set from "Dragon's Domain" with a few bits and pieces of other old 1999 sets incorporated.
"A whole new universe. Huh."
I really enjoyed watching it again, and - as I said above - it was amazing how much I remembered from my childhood. One thing that struck me this time was how "British" (despite Tate's attempt at a Yankee accent) the characters were, facing each new peril with remarkable calm and "stiff upper lip" stoicism. By the time they're caught in the clutches of the ominous black hole, they're apparently so resigned to being jerked around by the universe that they just hold hands and calmly await their fate.
Seriously - I choked up.
The only character that generally displays any genuine emotion is young Jane, who has to reluctantly leave her pet dog behind at the beginning of the show (if it was me, I'd never leave my dog behind, but I'm a wuss), fears for the safety of her father when he has to repair the ship's engines, and expresses both wonder and fear at the various cosmic situations the crew finds themselves experiencing. By contrast, David might as well be a Vulcan for all the emotion he displays, and the adults maintain a suitably "professional" detachment at all times.
It's kinda like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey... for kids.
That's a black hole, all right.
The effects work is about on a par with the team's usual work on 1999, although the black hole - probably in a nod to the program's "educational" nature - is just a, uh, black hole in space, and not nearly as visually interesting as the phenomena the same team created for the 1999 Year One episode "Black Sun." The actual journey through the hole is very colorful, however, employing techniques that would reappear in 1999's "Space Warp" episode the following year.
The depiction of the crew's passage through the black hole is a bit of a hoot, though; apparently at a loss as to how to visually represent getting sucked through a singularity, Crichton simply had his cast run around the set back and forth with their arms outstretched and shot them in slow motion, then blurred it out in post!
"You do get that we're in space, right, kid?"
Despite the mostly cold and inexpressive characters, lack of dramatic conflict, or really, even much of a narrative, Into Infinity is still entertaining. Tate and Blessed have enough natural charisma and screen presence to hold the attention, and maybe it's just my love for old school miniature effects and 70s sci-fi production design, but I really enjoy just looking at the film. The sets are convincing (if familiar), the design of the Altares is fantastic, and the passage through the black hole is appropriately psychedelic.
Overall, it's a solid little piece of 70s juvenile sci-fi, maybe not quite as "scientifically accurate" as it pretends to be, but fun.