Amazon.ca is having a sale on DVDs right now, and I notice that one of my favourite TV miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, is now on sale for a paltry $30. (In the U.S., it’s even cheaper: it’s only $13 on Amazon.com.) If you have any interest in NASA, the Apollo program, or manned spaceflight in general, and you haven’t seen this thing, you owe it to yourself to remedy that forthwith. (Preferably via one of these links, because then I get an affiliate-program kickback. Maybe even a whole dollar! But lay hands on it one way or another.)
From the Earth to the Moon isn’t without its flaws: the near-ubiquity of Frank Borman (played by David Andrews), who appears in five episodes but flew only one Apollo mission (not for nothing do I jokingly call this series The Frank Borman Show); the near-invisibility of John Young (played by John Posey), reduced to bit parts on the sidelines despite flying two Apollo missions; a couple of overly sentimental episodes; and a tendency to omit some of the touchier points of the Apollo astronauts’ biographies (e.g., the Apollo 7 crew’s backtalk, the Apollo 15 stamp incident).
But the production values and writing are excellent. Each episode focuses not only on a specific Apollo mission, but also on one aspect of the Apollo program: the development of the lunar module for Apollo 9, the return of Alan Shepard to flight status for Apollo 14. Apollo 8’s episode places it in the context of the very bad year of 1968; Apollo 15’s episode (our favourite) dramatizes the training of astronauts as field geologists. It doesn’t hurt that the spacecraft dialogue is often taken verbatim from the actual missions. There’s plenty to gush about.
From the Earth to the Moon basically takes us from The Right Stuff to Apollo 13 and beyond, and fills in the blanks for the rest of the Apollo program. With all the recent hubbub about the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, it’s worth pointing out that the Apollo 11 mission does not serve as the series’s climax; in fact, it’s only dramatized in the sixth episode — halfway through. From the Earth to the Moon dramatizes the whole picture — not just the triumph of 11 and the near-tragedy of 13 — and makes it all interesting.