Impact Earth

impact earth
21.00–23.05

There is only one natural disaster that has the potential to destroy all life on Earth: a direct hit by a comet. This spectacular docu-drama envisages the consequences of such an impact. Based on contributions from NASA, the US military and leading scientists, Impact Earth pieces together fact and fiction to show how humans would cope with a catastrophic interstellar event. The film tells the story of two scientists who discover that a comet is on a collision course with Earth. They propose two radically different plans to counter the threat: a nuclear strike to deflect the comet; and an evacuation of the threatened zone.

The drama begins when an unidentified Near Earth Object (NEO) hurtles through Earth’s atmosphere and plunges into the sea off the west coast of Ireland. Air hostess Marcie (Kirsty Mitchell, ‘Monarch of the Glen’) photographs the object on her mobile phone as her plane prepares to land at Shannon airport. Her flight narrowly misses disaster as a huge tsunami engulfs the airport and vast areas of the West Coast. The gigantic wave leaves hundreds of thousands dead, injured and homeless.

Upon hearing news of the Irish tsunami, two leading scientists rush to the scene. Englishman Josh Hayden (James Wilby, ‘Gosford Park’) and American Neil Gant (Cristian Solimeno, ‘Footballer’s Wives’) work for the NEO department of NASA. Arriving in Galway, they link up with resident scientists Brendan Kelly (James Cosmo, ‘Troy’, ‘Braveheart’) and Ly Tam (Teo-Wa Vuong, ‘Trial and Retribution’) to try and establish what happened.

As the team witnesses the devastation wrought, Neil is tormented by guilt that such a deadly object could have slipped through their radar. “Our job is to watch objects in space,” he says. “If it’s not our responsibility, whose is it?” Using evidence from the scene and images from Marcie’s phone, the team realises that the NEO was a comet. It seems that the comet’s approach was such that the sun’s glare hid it from view.

Heading back to America, Josh concludes that they have witnessed an event that occurs once every few thousand years – but Neil is not so sanguine. He becomes obsessed with the idea of another comet heading to Earth, and spends his time scanning data from astronomers around the globe. Before long, he accumulates evidence that another comet is on a collision course with Earth – due to strike almost a year after the Galway disaster. “One year on, Earth could be right back in the firing line again,” Neil tells a sceptical Josh. It would seem that the Irish comet was part of a larger string of objects. “What hit Ireland was a fragment,” Neil says. “What we’re looking at now is the rest of the mass.”

Josh refuses to believe Neil’s conjectures, forcing Neil to go behind his friend’s back to leak the story to the press. Panic spreads like wildfire and, with the Dow Jones plunging, General Harris (Don Warrington, ‘New Street Law’, ‘Rising Damp’) of the US military seeks advice on how to confront the threat. Josh recommends a plan to deflect the comet using controlled nuclear explosions, but Neil believes this plan could end in disaster. If the comet is too fragile, Neil posits, the explosions could shatter it into a thousand deadly pieces that would rain down across the planet. “It would be comparable to a nuclear war,” he says.

Neil’s advice, however, is radical: “America has to take to take the hit,” he says. His plan is to evacuate the population of the impact zone, moving 100 million people from the East to the West Coast of America and away from the predicted impact site around Pennsylvania. But the exact location of the comet’s strike and the extent of the devastation cannot be calculated until the last moment, creating a tense race against time to complete the biggest exodus in history.

With the help of a distinguished cast and CGI effects, this startling film uses the best scientific knowledge available to explore the stark choices facing mankind on the eve of its greatest crisis.

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