Monday, 24 August 2009


From the Earth to the Moon
Part Five Spider
Please look here for my thoughts on this episode.

The Last Volunteer
A tribute to Henry Allingham, one of the last survivors of the First World War, who died last month aged 113. Despite his age, he was clearly still young at heart with a twinkle in his eye, attending events and speaking in schools about his experiences in the War, now almost a century ago.

A Poem For Harry
Broadcast at the same time as the Allingham tribute, this documentary (filmed in early 2008) follows then-Poet Laureate Andrew Motion as he tried to write a poem about Harry Patch, the last man living to have fought in the trenches, who also died just one week after Allingham. The film interviews Patch and investigates his life along with Motion, as he gains insight and inspiration for his poem, meaning that when he reads it publicly for the first time (shown at the end of the programme) we know where all the various references and allusions originated. Perhaps it's the fault of the documentary making sure to explain every nuance of the poem, but it seemed a bit too on-the-nose for me.

Taking the Flak
1x02 Black Gold, Code Red
1x03 Cursed is the Country
Hastily catching up on this before it disappears from iPlayer on Wednesday.
[Watch both episodes (again) on iPlayer.]

From the Earth to the Moon - Part 5

The fifth part of HBO's From the Earth to the Moon jumps back in time to the beginnings of the plans to go to the Moon to cover the development of the Lunar Module, the craft that would actually put men on the Moon's surface.

Such a change of pace, structure and -- for most of the episode -- cast continues this series' unusual approach to serial storytelling, where the only constant is Tom Hanks' slightly awkward opening monologues (always a minute or two of apparently-unrelated but actually thematically-relevant anecdotes that convolute themselves to conclude with a sentence ending "...from the Earth to the Moon").

Writer Andy Wolk also manages to inject some levity into the series, the amount of humour bringing a subtly different tone to this episode. It works especially well here, considering the story is essentially about a group of engineers designing a piece of machinery. As for actual space missions, Apollo 9 (the first test of the Module in space, where it went by the call sign "Spider" -- yep, this episode's title) gets a bit of a look-in in the second half, while Apollo 10 is relegated to no more than two minutes at the close.

Of course, the Module's greatest test is still to come. Next stop, the Moon...