Saturday, August 22

Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets and Beyond (BBC 2004)

Space Ship Pegasus at Europa
Directed by Joseph Ahearne

Even though it never made it into my "currently-reading" sidebar, and I haven't blogged about it yet, I just got finished reading Andy Weir's The Martian, soon to be a major motion-picture starring Matt Damon. In case I don't get around to blogging it soon or ever, it is amazing! Really good, essentially contemporary hard-science fiction is so rare; I enjoyed the hell out of it, and the trailers for the movie look like they are going to follow the story almost slavishly. (There's one thing I spotted in the trailer that leads me to think they're going to change something about the main character's background to up the emotional ante, so to speak.) Anyway, when I finished it, I was wanting more, and I thought about an old faux-documentary I saw about a decade ago about a "Grand Tour" of the Solar System, and a few minutes' research found it, the subject two-part faux-documentary from BBC. I downloaded it from Youtube, put it on my portable hard drive, and USB'd it to the BluRay player, and voila!, it plays just like a DVD!

Watching it was an interesting experience. It was not quite what I remembered from PBS ... I didn’t realize there were two different versions, one aired in the UK, and one aired in the US. They are the same up until one of the crew dies of solar-radiation induced cancer at Saturn, whereupon in the American version that I originally saw the crew decides to return to Earth; in this UK version, they continue on to Pluto and then rendezvous with a comet on the way home. It was reportedly changed for considerations of time, but I think it very well reflects a certain "reality" – the stereotypical British stiff upper lip vs. the fact that America has all but killed the space program in the real world. I don’t think that in any way was what they were intending to comment on, but it’s there. Another seeming difference: I remember being a bit incensed when I originally saw it that for all of its scientific verisimilitude there was no account made for the increasing time-lateness of light-speed communications … except that in this version there is. It’s actually quite subtle unless you’re paying attention, due to the way it’s edited (mainly, for all of the cutting back and forth from the mission to mission control, they don’t actually interact in real time), and I’m not absolutely sure I didn’t misinterpret what I was seeing when I first saw it ten years or so ago – but it could also be that they thought US audiences would not understand the concept, which is a sad commentary, or just wouldn’t notice. 

Anyway, it’s an amazingly good little two-hour hard-science mockumentary of something we need to get off our collective butts and get about doing! Ad Astra!

In the meantime, I may pull out my set of the first (and regrettably only) season of Defying Gravity....

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!

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