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.