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Doppelgänger

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1969

‘…It’s a shame so much time is spent on the tedious build-up to launch…but the idea of a mirror world, later explored in Another Earth, is a fascinating one when we finally get there.

Elon Musk’s latest ill-fated space exploration may have blown up in his face faster than his bogus attempts to monetise social media, but it’s just another public sh*tshow on brand for Musk and Tesla. His latest set of debacles put this critic in mind to review a movie that came up while fielding comments about last week’s Backwards Faces, a low-budget indie in which different universes were ingeniously suggested by reversing, or flopping over, the image around a central point. Something similar may or may not have happened with Robert Parish’s rather weird 1969 sci-fi movie Doppelgänger,, but the truth is even more complicated than it sounds…

The late 1960’s saw the Twilight Zone twists featured in the popular tv show translated to the big screen; high concept sci-fi, from Kubrick’s 2001 to Planet of the Apes was a big deal, and Gerry and Sylvia Anderson made their pitch for immortality with Doppelgänger, also known in the UK as Journey To The Far Side of the Sun. The central idea is great; what looks like a mirror image of Earth is discovered hidden on the other side of the sun, and astronaut Colonel Glenn Ross (Roy Thinnes) is dispatched by the European Space Exploration Council (or Eurosec) at a cost of three thousand million pounds to investigate. Ross realises on arrival that in the mirror image world, the other Colonel Glenn Ross has just left, and proposes a ‘complete duplication of matter’ in order to build a new ship to return to Earth despite the risk of a ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’…

Doppelgänger is an odd fish indeed, getting futuristic things like cardiac wrist bands and video-phones right, even if the computers are the size of hangers and jammed with whirling Scotch tape. The views from the windows at Eurosec are pretty impressive, as is their swanko silver-space shuttle which lands on a dime like a Harrier jump jet; it looks like a prototype for an Eagle from Space 1999. We’re assured that the dopplegangers have their internal organs on the wrong side, but the mirror world looks identical to our own; only the writing, decals and cologne bottle labels (above)  appear reversed. It’s a shame so much time is spent on the tedious build-up to launch, bogged down in Eurosec’s financial issues, but the idea of a mirror world, later explored in Another Earth, is a fascinating one when we finally get there.

Spoiler alert, Doppelgänger has an incredibly downbeat ending in which literally everyone is blown to bits in two dimensions simultaneously as prelude to a brief coda of mirror-induced madness and suicide, but it’s a actually lot of fun getting to that point, especially when Ross wakes up in the world where everything is exactly a mirror image. When shown on UK TV, some enterprising talent decided that the mirror image scenes must have been wrongly processed in the lab and reversed them for broadcast, meaning that Ross seems to have gone completely mad. Most viewers assumed that they were now watching the mirror Ross rather than the original one in space, making Robert Parish’s film something of a mental conundrum for the unwary. But somehow this happy accident works for rather than against the success of the film; if the illusion was to create the idea of two separate identical worlds, they somehow got exactly what they were hoping for thanks to an accidental assist from an unfortunate editor.

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  1. I think you have to look at this with your cult hat on. Remember seeing it back in those more innocent times and having been fed a bunch of sci-fi baloney was very much up for anything out-there it had to offer. Though I much preferred The Man Who Haunted Himself.

  2. You know I’ve never seen an episode of the Twilight Zone. Seems like a miss on my part.

    Musk is a strange bird, isn’t he? I still can’t understand why he wants to spend so much time playing on Twitter instead of focusing on electric cars and space travel.

    Does make me feel better when I blow off work to play on the internet though.

    • Oh, the best of Twilight Zone is very good indeed. Used to have a boxed set.

      It’s a baffling look, flaunting your fascist credentials while hammering every business you have into the ground. Maybe Musk’s rando online sex violence fantasies about Paul Pelosi please Tesla shareholders, but I doubt it. Like his pal Trump, he’s just a rich idiot that’s about to be humiliated daily and we’ll all enjoy his downfall. The End.

  3. The psychiatric term for seeing one’s body double at a distance is Heautoscopy. Experienced by folks with epilepsy or schizophrenia. What a fabulous concept, body double, twin, clone, fetch, ka, shapeshifter, alter ego posers, and Multiverse! Great commentary on Musk!

    • I’d complain about the second by second commentary on Musk if it wasn’t for the fact that everything he touches explodes. His decline is news.

      We be researching heautoscopy, am very into doppelgängers, but didn’t know the science bit.

  4. It’s like Thunderbirds meets Space 1999 meets Star Trek (Shatner years). Made me smile but think I’m a bit beyond it so a soft nope.

    • It feels like it’s dubbed, wait till you revisit this dialogue! Straight from Google translate…

  5. There is only ONE Bookstooge. I am a unique phenomena that the Universe will never again be able to duplicate.

    They should have sent me to that mirror world. I would have smashed it up good without going mad. Then I could have taken all their water and brought back here and put it on the moon. Then Musk could build luxury resorts on the moon.

  6. Sounds like it might actually be worth a look sometime.

    Interesting your use of Scotch tape for what’s in the computers. Scotch tape is actually a brand name and is usually used (at least over here) as sticky tape and not magnetic recording tape. From Wikipedia:

    The use of the term Scotch in the name was a pejorative meaning “parsimonious” in the 1920s and 1930s. The brand name Scotch came about around 1925 while Richard Drew was testing his first masking tape to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!” The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.

    • So the computers have the big wheels that spin, and the branding says Scotch. I didn’t know they made computer tape, and wanted to see if that made sense….

      • I think their computer tape was sold under the Scotch brand so that makes sense. At least according to Wiki. I just think of Scotch tape as the clear tape I keep a roll of on my desk.

        • So do I, which was why I was surprised to see it in this new and unfamiliar context. But I guess it makes sense…

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