It is perhaps unsurprising that Channel 4 should be the first to produce a TV show in space, given its track record of filming the dangerously absurd. It seems there’s very little left on earth to satisfy the demands of its viewers. Yet this series does not disappoint. Channel 4’s collaboration with NASA is an unusual partnership, and a welcome edition.
The first episode features astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Mike Hopkins and world renowned Koichi Wakata. We see them skyping their families (upside down, of course), and tucking into dehydrated hot dogs and fruit crumbles lovingly prepared by their wives. Mastracchio also gives us an insight into their living spaces, including stand-up sleeping bags and spacecraft laundry chutes. The reality of living in space is beautifully humanised, and everyday banalities are quite literally turned upside down.
The next episode ‘Houston we have a problem’ is altogether more intense. The narrator recounts flight engineer Luca Parmitano’s near death experience during a space walk, and the suspense is cranked up with dramatic monologues and tense exchanges between NASA staff and the cosmonauts. Needless to say, this series is very much American in terms of its style and presentation.
Drama aside, this series is slightly wanting in terms of technicalities. Where and when the missions take place is made clear; but why the astronauts are in space at all is blithely left to the viewer’s imagination. It seems nonsensical that a series about space would not elaborate on the necessity of NASA missions. The shots taken by the Hubble telescope, for instance, merit much more attention than their allocated 20 seconds.
It is equally disappointing to see Dermot O’Leary as presenter, with his upsettingly tight trousers and his misplaced self-assurance; what he has to offer to the sphere of science is beyond me, and his patchy interviews leave much to be desired.
This being said, the final episode proved promising, with a full orbit of the Earth gracing our screens, and it really was something quite out of this world.
Catch the Live in Space series on Channel 4OD now
Read our LSi review of Chris Hadfield’s An astronaut’s guide to life on earth here