Peter Snow gave us a broad look at the first manned spaceflight. It’s fifty years tomorrow since Yuri Gagarin took those honours, and this programme portrayed his public persona, and the significence of the event.

Frequent mention was made to the programme’s key device – looking at an event through one single report in one single newspaper. That thought may strike fear into the heart so it’s a relief to learn they do far more than that. Archive and great interviewees: The cosmonaut’s daughter, Yelena Gagarin, Sir Bernard Lovell (of Space Telescope fame), and Sir Patrick Moore were the big names. Experts: one on space, one on being in the Soviet Union at the time, added richly.

Some of the interviews did drag on a bit, and had scope for some gentle sound design as they were being carried out. This could have alleviated some drift and too-slow passages in the flow. This combined with a few audible edits suggests there wasn’t enough time to produce the full programme. Perhaps understandable given the cast of people with lots to say.

The programme gave hind-sight context, referring to the moon-race and the Cuban missile crisis, though seemed to bypass how the USSR had unmanned craft on the moon before the US. Perhaps a judgement by omission, rather than anything intentional. The audio of Gagarin being welcomed to a Union in Manchester certainly broadened the (domestic) horizons in a pleasantly surprising way.

The host, Peter Snow, did a fine job. A bit unnervingly excited at first, he kept the information rate up and the programme relatively engaging.

On the BBC Website here.