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Doppelgänger and Silliness

01/06/2009. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy Doppelgänger in the USA - or Buy Doppelgänger in the UK

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There is, says Mark, an old (well now it's old: from 1969) British science fiction movie called Doppelgänger. At the time it was filmed the makers assumed that that name would mean nothing to most Yanks so for audiences on this side of the pond it was called Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun. A doppelgänger is a thing from German folklore. It is an identical double to its victim and it is or our plane to replace its original.

You might remember a "Twilight Zone" episode, "Mirror Image," with Vera Miles in a bus station being haunted by an identical double who wanted to replace her. That was a doppelgänger. In a sense you could rename Invasion Of The Body Snatchers as Doppelgängers From Outer Space. There are no doppelgängers in Doppelgänger.

Doppelgänger

In a sense, Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun really is a more accurate title. It is just not very exciting on a marquee. How would you like to make a journey to the far side of the sun? To you it may be exciting, I suppose. I should not be so presumptuous. But to tell you the truth it is a trip I have made every six months since I was born. The first time it was exciting, but by now the thrill has worn off.

Anyway, Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun was a film produced and written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who specialised in making TV series with wooden actors like Supercar and Thunderbirds. The Andersons made this film with wooden actors like Roy Thinnes and Ian Hendry.

The idea of Doppelgänger was that a ninth planet (they thought it was a tenth planet, of course) was discovered going around the sun in Earth's exact orbit just on the far side of sun so we never see it. It is always hiding on the far side of the sun in perfect synchronisation. It is the sort of thing you see in a cartoon or a Marx Brothers movie. Only it isn't just one person or mouse but a whole dang planet. It is not just a twin planet.

It is exactly like Earth with all the same people saying the same things. Apparently the idea is that a space probe got to look at the other planet sitting on the far side and smirking at how clever it is. But it is kind of an intriguing idea, is it not? Well, forget it. We would see perturbations in Mars's orbit if there were such a thing. But it seemed feasible, so you sort of want to forget you know that the idea doesn't work.

So once the planet is discovered the European Space Exploration Council decides to send astronauts to explore the other planet. This being 1969 of course the Europeans send an American, Colonel Glenn Ross (played by Roy Thinnes). There was also a good Englishman going, but he just barely survives the alien landing and is packed off to a hospital. The American has a marriage on the rocks at home and it could be because he is apparently the world's densest astronaut. But I am getting ahead of myself. (Oh, also because it was 1969 there is a quick half-hearted spy subplot that does not effect much, but it brought in the James Bond fans.)

Actually, Ross was a Solarnaut as they called him (there was even an ad that said smugly the Solarnauts salute the American astronauts who had recently done their level best just to land on the Moon). Here the Solarnauts had made it to different planet. But, surprise, they had not. Ross finds that he has landed back on Earth and cannot figure out how that happened. After all Hasslein curves would explain it, but those were locked up in the Planet Of The Apes franchise and 20th Century Fox would not let them out.

Ross is back where he took off from with the space agency asking him all sort of questions about how did he get back. It is a complete mystery to Ross who somehow fails to notice things like his car now has the steering wheel on the other side.

It takes Ross a long time to notice his car is backwards and his shirts are harder to button because the right side is over the left. After an excruciating long time he realises that he is not Earth at all but on a sort of counter-Earth that is exactly like his home planet, but everything is reversed left to right. So he did get to the new planet after all. He was really on a mirror image of our own planet with all the same people saying all the same things at the same time.

Here again the plot does not bear close scrutiny. Suppose someone on our Earth says (as they did in the movie The War Of The Worlds), "Mars is at its nearest point right now." We would have to assume that the mirror image of the person who said that is on the other Earth saying, "Mars is at its nearest point right now." They cannot both be right. So just like before Mars gets in the way of accepting the story. Also his own Earth must think that he had returned but in fact got the mirror image person who left his second planet when he left his first.

Well, that is the premise. Now I have discussed all the silly stuff in this film. Oddly enough, there are some interesting scientific and mathematical ideas that come out of the film. Next week I will talk about the more interesting ideas that come from the film.

Mark R. Leeper

© Mark R. Leeper 2009

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This movie has 8 votes in the SFcrowsnest.com sci-fi charts


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